Friday, August 12, 2016

First Bite: Papa Loa

I get so giddy whenever I see new restaurants opening soon and I go crazy when these restaurants invite me to sample their dishes. However, there are times when I had to painfully decline these generous offers because of the grumpy weather, my unpredictable tummy or other plans that were set earlier. Having to turn down Papa Loa’s private dinner invite was so hard especially after reading its mouthwatering list of dishes. I kept on dreaming about salmon aburi and the talked about eggplant skewer. And seeing all the posts of the other attendees made me regret not going. But it was just not meant to be as I already had dinner plan that same night. But food gods love me as Papa Loa got in touch with me again and invited me to its grand opening last night! I was feeling feverish that night but I didn't want to miss another opportunity to try their salmon aburi and eggplant!

Hello, Papa Loa!
It’s hard to miss this new tiki bar with its bright orange signage. Located at the old Distillery (or half of the old Distillery to be exact), this new drinking place also has two floors for dining.
The bright and warm interiors further emphasize the tiki bar feel. 
I was mesmerized by the adorable wall paintings on the second floor. 
We were immediately given menu and we were told that it is best to order the dishes one at a time just like in most izakaya restaurants. We were also warned that the serving sizes are small but are guaranteed to be delectable in each bite. 
However, we were famished and ended up ordering four dishes in one go— Aburi (PHP260), Tempura (PHP185), Eggplant (PHP75) and Beef (PHP115). For drinks, we ordered Little Grass Skirt (PHP250) and Kooky Coconut Margarita (PHP290).
First served were our drinks. 
I absolutely loved my Little Grass Skirt; a blend of Tito’s gluten-free vodka, apple cider, sesame oil, orange and cucumber. It was quite light and had a pronounced taste of cucumber making it perfect with any cold dish on the menu. If you are iffy by the fact that it has sesame oil, fret not as the drink’s not oily or taste odd in any way. 
R’s drink was a unique blend of tequila, coconut milk and triple sec with the rim of the margarita glass covered in sweet coconut jam. 

It sounded sweet but you could definitely taste the alcohol in every sip. The trick here though is to lick some coco jam off the rim while taking small gulps. 
The dishes were soon served and everything looked spectacular. 

The Aburi or torched salmon ceviche topped with crispy corn, coriander and coconut dressing was delightful. I loved the slightly salty flavor of the soft salmon and its contrast against the crunchiness of the corn. The coriander added a refreshing taste to the dish diversifying the dish’s flavors.
The Beef or soy glazed U.S. beef belly with plantain mash and crispy rice was also good but not as good as aburi. The beef cubes were not as succulent though still flavorful. I enjoyed it with the banana base adding a bit of sweetness to the meat. 
I have been seeing a handful of posts raving about the eggplant which is basically Stella-battered with miso dressing and topped with sesame seeds. I couldn’t understand why it was the crowd favorite till I took my first bite. It was indeed great as the crispy and sweet batter complemented the fresh eggplant really well. R and I enjoyed it so much that we had to order another one! 
Tempura was another hit that night. It was another lovely play of textures among the soft-shell crab, mango salsa and bun. The harmonious blend of sweet and salty flavors of the fillings were beautifully balanced by the bun. 

We tried our best to dine izakaya style but we just keep on failing when we ordered Poke (PHP220), Noodles (PHP180) and Beignet (PHP190) in one go. I guess we simply could not resist ordering more than one dish at a time. Service though was impeccable as our dishes were served in less than 5 minutes!
The poke (fresh tuna with avocado and crispy wontons drizzled with sesame dressing and topped with chili) was delicious! The tuna and avocado were absolutely fresh and it had a lovely light flavor making it a divine appetizer. The crispy wontons were just a tad too thin to scoop the tuna and avocado. We had to use our forks for that. 
Just when I was getting used to the izakaya serving, the plate of noodles was served. Unlike the other dishes served that night, this one was definitely for sharing. The heavy rice noodles topped with cabbage, pickled ginger, pork belly and katsuboshi was something I would call bang for the buck. 
You’d get a full tummy with just one order of this. Taste-wise, it was sweet and reminded me a bit of phad thai minus the nuts. It wasn’t my favorite dish that night though. (I’m still all for eggplant skewers!)

Our dessert was the perfect dish to end our late dinner. 
The combination of don papa caramelized bananas, chocolate, green tea ice cream and puffed rice (or karioka) was a winner! 
The caramelized bananas were very sweet especially with shaved chocolate but it was balanced by the strong matcha ice cream and puffed rice. I would definitely go back here for more of this one! 
Overall, I had a wonderful time dining at Papa Loa. Food was awesome and service was great. Despite the dim lights, servers were alert and kept refilling our glasses with water. The only downside for “titas of Manila” would be the size of the place. It is a bit cramped and you could easily overhear the next table’s conversation. 
But if want good drinks and awesome food, then this is the place for you. 

Papa Loa is located at 109 Forbeswood Heights, Rizal Drive, Bonifacio Globla City. It is on the same side as Stacy’s and right across The Mind Museum.

Papa Loa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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