Wednesday, July 22, 2015

DINING | A convergence of design, art, and food at Patis Tito Garden Cafe

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Patis Tito Garden Cafe is a place rich in design.

Sometime last month (or was it last May?) I read through a feature on Patis Tesoro from BusinessWorld's High Life magazine. Known for her creative takes on classic Filipiniana fashion and her predilection for indigenous materials like abaca and piƱa, Patis is regarded as the "Grand Dame of Philippine Fashion."

Several days later we found ourselves planning a Viaje del Sol and Patis Tito Garden Cafe entered our consciousness. With such a name attached to this restaurant, we sure made it part of our itinerary. After checking out at Sulyap Gallery Cafe, we dropped by for lunch before checking in at our next B&B, Sitio de Amor. Now here's a rundown of our experience.

Design and interiors
Tucked away several hundred meters from the highway and accessed through a narrow driveway shaded by trees and other greenery, Patis Tito Garden Cafe is a place that suggests a stress-free dining experience.

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The entrance to the cafe.

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That undeniable Filipino atmosphere permeating the cafe comes as no surprise with Patis Tesor attached to this place.

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Large floor area with tables positioned far apart from one another.

The cafe is housed under a very open structure with nary any walls and with its galvanized iron roof exposed. The bare ceiling is compensated for by its height, which, along with a few sheets of corrugated plastic thrown in to welcome natural light, afford the place a sense of openness, especially with the garden in full view. The floor area is quite large, complemented by a layout of varying dining sets that affords each table its own sense of space. There's also a mezzanine dining area that I suppose can play host to small functions.

Patis's love for Filipino design is evident throughout the cafe. We see it in the wood panels and latticework, the fabrics used on the seats, and in the art that adorn this establishment -- from huge paintings to colorful dioramas. Guests are most welcome to walk around and appreciate all these, as I predictably did.

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What a lovely collection of chandeliers! These are hung together in a cluster at the cafe's very center.

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Here's a closeup of one.

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One of my favorite spots at the cafe, where I once sat for one of my outfit shots. It allows for really great framing for photographs.

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The small set of stairs to the restaurant's mezzanine dining area and restrooms. Nothing here appears boring at all.

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The mezzanine dining area.

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If you feel like dining, or having coffee at least, at this small balcony, feel free to do so. It's perfect for "emote" moments, too.

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Even the floor is touched by art. This is at the cafe's designated smoking area.

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They have quite a few large paintings here. On the left is a portrait of Patis and her husband; on the right is but a testament to Patis's love for fabrics.

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Dioramas given that uniquely Patis touch. I mean, the fabrics are a giveaway.

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More art.

The garden
Lush, rustic, and devoid of any strict, polished landscaping, the garden is a hub of many different ornamental plants and herbs, along with a few bird species kept in cages. It isn't a sprawling garden but to me it's always nice to just be in the midst of various flora.

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Welcome to the garden!

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Even in the middle of the garden there's still art. That lady has surely shed all inhibitions and has simply surrendered to the lure of pure relaxation amidst all the greenery.

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He seems like an old bird already, with most of his colorful feathers gone. He's kept right next to one of the restaurant's tables.

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More birdies.

The food
Consistent with its interiors, Patis Tito serves Filipino food from appetizers and snack items to full meals and desserts. There's not a lot on the colorful and artistic menu but I guess this allows them to manage things better given the restaurant's rather small scale.

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I like the menu's design; very cute and consistent with the cafe's aesthetic.

The food's fine but not something that will drive me crazy with gastronomic delight. We tried their San Pablo Kulawo, a grilled eggplant dish with coconut milk, onions, and grated coconut. The eggplant left a slight itch on my tongue but then it was nice to try something new, especially one that's a local specialty, just like the pinayti we had at Sulyap Gallery Cafe the day before.

We also tried their Petit Lumpiang Ubod (much like spring rolls but with young palm heart in it), Pininyahang Adobo (chicken and pork adobo with pineapple chunks and quail eggs), and Suman Croquettas ala Mode (think lumpia or spring rolls but with sticky rice in it and served with mango slices and ice cream). That last one I did enjoy.

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Top: Petit Lumpiang Ubod; bottom: San Pablo Kulawo.

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Pininyahang Adobo and Suman Croquettas ala Mode.

For a closer look at the menu, click here.

Service
In spite of appearing undermanned relative to the number of tables waited, the staff were generally attentive. They did look a bit harassed, though. Nevertheless, they delivered a fairly good job from setting the table (they use cloth napkins!) to processing our payment. Our food also didn't take very long.

There was no one at the shop, however. But then I said they seemed understaffed, so a little understanding helps. Anyway, they were quick to provide assistance once we approached one of them.

Other facilities
Patis Tito has a shop right next to its restaurant area and a bed and breakfast upstairs. The shop sells all sorts of wares from food items to slippers, rugs, lamps, and art pieces. The B&B, on the other hand, offers a hostel-type accommodation with common areas (living room, bathroom, and vanity) but with a very traditional Filipino setting. Guests are charged on a per head basis.

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The shop. Can I just say that the doors are really nice?

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Flower pots for sale by the parking area.

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The house where the shop is located. The B&B is upstairs.

There's parking space available for a few vehicles and where clay pots for plants are laid out for sale.

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In hindsight
The food may not have been spectacularly good for me but Patis Tito Garden Cafe offers a host of other things that altogether still make for a really good experience, enough for me to want to come back (As a matter of fact I already did as of writing this post!).

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Patis Tito Garden Cafe is located at 285 Brgy Sta Cruz in San Pablo City, Laguna. It's right towards the end of a small street lovingly called "Putol." If coming from San Pablo, it's a left from the Maharlika (Pan-Philippine) Highway. Your cue is a gasoline station and a Patis-Tito sign.

Operating hours are from 8am to 6pm only, unless you've made a dinner reservation.

For more information, visit patistito.com.

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