Monday, March 20, 2017

DINING | LōLa Cafe+Bar: An underwhelming experience

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To drive all the way to Quezon City from Makati is a big deal for me, let alone to try out a restaurant there. But sometime during the Christmas holidays, I purposely did just that.

Tucked away in a nice, quiet spot of Scout Lozano, LōLa Cafe+Bar isn't anything new. It's been around for several years now, an old house that's been converted into a restaurant. I know it's been quite a while since trying it but I felt I still had to write about it, so here goes.

Interiors and ambiance
LōLa is located along a mainly residential area, marked by fences of white concrete and gray iron. The house-turned-restaurant itself is also painted as such but beautifully nestled amid old trees and bamboo. A parking space that can probably fit a dozen cars tops sits next to it.

LõLa certainly has a nice and homey ambiance. Well, it was a house after all, and they did a good job at keeping its integrity and charm. A spacious porch for al fresco dining welcomes you as you make your way to the restaurant's entrance. Inside, white walls, wood-framed glass windows, concrete tile and wooden flooring, warm lighting, and home-style decor characterize the space.

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Al fresco dining at the porch.

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Indoor seating. Just don't mind the waiter fixing the wobbly table there.

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There's a second door that opens up to a bar and more indoor seating.

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Keeping up with the resto's homey vibe.

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More seating upstairs. Careful of the overhead lamps, though, because the ceiling's quite low.

The waitstaff were generally fine except for a few who weren't quite as attentive. What I must commend, however, is the serving time. Our orders were served really fast. Just a caveat, there weren't a lot of people yet when we came, so I can't say if they're as efficient when the place is packed.

The food
For two people, we sure ordered a lot. I don't know if it was sheer hunger but we felt that we should make the most out of this trip and try as much as we can. Besides, we took home what we weren't able to finish.

LōLa serves (mostly) traditional Filipino and Filipino-inspired dishes, which only makes sense because it's an old Filipino house. There's typical Pinoy fare like crispy tawilis (freshwater sardines), bulalo (beef shank and bone marrow soup), bistek Tagalog (Filipino-style beef steak), and laing (taro leaves in coconut milk), to name a few. But then there's also grilled caesar salad, pasta, and s'mores, which are not Pinoy at all.

Here's a rundown of what we had.

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Keso De Bola Fries (Php 190)

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Chipirones (Php 235)

Keso De Bola Fries
They're french fries topped with a mix of edam cheese and salted egg sauce. The fries turned soggy from the sauce soon enough, but which was sort of expected after seeing that yellow dollop on top. My real disappointment lay with the sauce, though. It was lacking in cheese and I just couldn't taste the salted egg at all. And they named this dish Keso De Bola Fries? A misnomer, in my opinion.

Deep-fried beer-battered baby squid, this one fared a little better than the fries. The squid was nice and tender but was a tad too oily for me. Not bad, but I've had better.

Sinigang sa Pula
Sinigang is a popular Filipino soup with a sour flavor. Although usually made with tamarind, the sourness can also be derived from kamias, guava, or watermelon. LōLa's version here is a seafood dish of manila clams and mussels with a slew of veggies thrown in, and uses a mix of tamarind paste and watermelon (according to the menu). The soup sports a reddish hue, hence the name (pula is Filipino for red).

With just the right balance of sweet, sour, and spicy (from chilies), this one I liked. Slurped my way through this. The serving's quite huge, by the way, so it's good for sharing.

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Sinigang sa Pula (Php 280)

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Escabeche (Php 355)

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Roasted Belly Tocino (Php 475)

Fried battered fish in a sweet and sour sauce, I haven't had this in a long time. This was a fairly common dish in our province, so I ordered it out of nostalgia. It was just okay but had they used a whole fish instead of fillet, I reckon it would have been heaps better. Slightly disappointed with this one.

Roasted Belly Tocino
It's a hefty half a kilo of slow-roasted pork belly with an anisado glaze and burong mangga (fermented/pickled mango). The meat was tender and juicy but was easily overpowered by the glaze. It was way too strong that I had to scrape off all the glaze so I could taste the pork. Too bad. But at least it tasted good when we repurposed the leftover at home.

Saba Con Macapuno
What a way to end our meal - the wrong way! What was described in the menu as sweetened saba (plantain), mantekato ice cream, and dulce de leche turned out to be uninspired plantain slices with a gross lack of sweetness, not-so-crushed ice that are only slightly smaller than ice cubes, and three scoops of ice cream. I don't even know where the dulce de leche was. An absolute letdown, this so-called dessert turned into a watery mess bereft of any decent flavor or sweetness. And all the ice was still intact!

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Saba Con Macapuno (Php 160)

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A watery mess bereft of any flavor - with all the ice still intact.

In hindsight
LōLa Cafe+Bar may be a nice and homey place to dine but it ends there. The food, while not too expensive, was largely underwhelming. However good the sinigang was sadly wasn't enough to make up for all the other dishes's weaknesses and shortcomings. I wouldn't mind dining here again (like, if by some chance I find myself in the area or if someone drags me here) but I just don't think it was worth the drive from Makati.

LōLa Cafe+Bar is located at 99 Scout Lozano in Quezon City. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 11am to 11pm (2am on weekends).

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