Saturday, October 13, 2018

Concha's Garden Cafe

''Good Food gives you Good Mood...."   
                                                                                                - Alden Richards, Co-Owner

Indeed Alden Richards  (GMA star) hit the nail on the head when he said good food  puts you in a good mood.

Personally speaking from his own experience as a regular patron initially and a co-owner eventually, Alden recalled Concha Garden Cafe's earlier days in 2014, when he and his dad used to  frequent the restaurant when the craving for delicious, home-cooked, traditional Pinoy food  hits.

Their favorites were the Laoya, Okoy, Gambas, bangus sardines, to name a few.


Ms. Gemma Sembrano (co-owner with Alden ) relates how it all started. She grew up in Binan Laguna enjoying Lola's cooking. Lola Caridad  a whiz at the kitchen, is Ms. Gemma's maternal grandmother.

Concha  is the maiden surname of  Lola Caridad. Ms. Gemma's family was able to preserve all of Lola Caridad's recipes. As a tribute to her and to pay homage to an outstanding and loving Lola, they decided to create a restaurant in her honor.

The first branch of Concha's Garden Cafe opened  in Silang Cavite in 2014 and was demolished to pave way for a new and bigger structure.. The branch in Tagaytay and this one in QC simultaneously followed in December 2016 

The Ambiance

This branch in Tomas Morato is a sprawling area  composed of  a  huge parking space in front  and a spacious restaurant inside. From the moment you alight from your vehicle, it takes approximately 20 steps of walking on the covered red brick way to the main door. It felt like arriving on the doorstep of your grandparents' house.

The theme inside is Spanish Colonial . Think big  houses during the Spanish period  with dark wood tables and chairs

The  white, voluminous and  diaphanous ceiling drapes and  crystal chandeliers lent a celebratory feel to the place. It felt like I was about to attend a wedding reception.

But the initial impression was immediately balanced by the  whimsical and colorful  faux wood wall and  vibrantly hued paintings lending an almost festive and fiesta like tenor to the whole place.

I loved the capiz accent and the huge picture windows reminiscent of Cafe Ysabel.

I noted the simple plates, glass and cutlery. The word "payak" comes to mind.

The Food

The food pays homage to Lola Caridad's mastery of cooking. The items on the menu are basically Pinoy with small inserts of  other  cuisines the family loves. Ms. Gemma was proud to say that everything is mostly made from scratch and that they refrain from using vetsin or msg.

There were actually only 10 of us invited for the event but the table was groaning with the number of dishes served.

I started of course with the much lauded   Laoya....


I was  pleasantly surprised that a restaurant was serving this dish. I have long concluded that surely my Lola Juana's signature dish with the same name is unique to the town of La Huerta where my father grew up. I have never encountered a restaurant serving Laoya, until today.

Per Panlasang Pinoy, Laoya or Lauya is Ilokano for nilaga.

It does look like a version of nilaga, even bulalo if you use beef shank like they did here in Concha's. It is also similar to pochero minus the tomato paste or tomato sauce.

Concha's version is sweet just like my Lola's.  Concha's also added annatto oil or atchuete oil for color. I remember my lola serving the dish with  grilled and mashed paste of  talong-suka-garlic-sugar. Concha's served their Lauya with a mashed paste of sweet yam, egg plant and garlic.

A spoonful of the broth and the melt in your mouth shank transported me almost immediately to a precious memory of  home cooked meals crafted by my lola.

Now Im raring to replicate it at home to share with the piggery . I can not wait to let them try it with a serving of   some  bit of a history about their paternal lola

Home-made Okoy P190

Made of the tiniest shrimps, this okoy was rich in flavor and was delightful with its crunchy texture. The dish draws the eye with its vibrant orange color . Caveat - addicting.

Kare Kare P450

Now this is kare-kare made from scratch. The sauce was thick not with peanut butter but with ground peanuts and toasted rice.  It was seasoned just so. You taste  the peanut and the nutty flavor of the toasted rice.The tripe and the ox tail were melt in your mouth. This is Kare Kare your mom or your lola used to make. So yummy! Rice please

Chicharon Bulaklak P280

I normally stay away from Chicharon Bulaklak. I tasted one before from another resto which tasted really "gamey" for want of a better word so I vowed never to taste this again. Concha's version though smelled so wonderful, so unlike the rancid one I had the misfortune to munch on. One bite of Concha's chicharon and Im hooked again huhu.  An order can be an appetizer or a main dish. Up to you really. The piggery would order extra rice for this.

 Crispy Pata P790
This was one really crunchy and tender crispy pata. That crackling was really addicting. You can either dip in the vinegar or take it with the mango salsa

Crispy Hito P350
This was one humongous cat fish. I loved the mango salsa which went with an order of this dish.

Pinakbet with Lechon kawali P290

All in one ulam by itself. All you need are cups of rice
Home made Bangus Sardines in Tomato Sauce or Olive Oil P330

Whatever sauce it is in, I love sardines per se. This version of Concha's was more than generous for one. I would take this with sinangag (fried rice) , egg and coffee.I will be one happy camper :)

Breakfast Platter P1300 for 4 people

Yes, Concha's is open as early as 7 am daily. You can have biya, danggit, daing na bangus, longganisa lucban, longganisa vigan, tapa, tocino, adobo flakes, 4 cups garlic rice  4 eggs and 4 cups of brewed coffee.

They also have plated meals from upwards of P270


Home-made, quality ingredients, lola's recipes,  delicious food, reasonable pricing, top notch service 

I would not mind travelling all the way here from  Mandaluyong just to satisfy my craving for good  and delicious Pinoy food.

Indeed Alden was right. If any of your friends are somewhat cranky or out of sorts ,  just bring them to Concha's for plates of home-made scrumptiousness. Nothing brings in the good mood quite speedily than a plate of piping hot made-from-scratch delicious food just like lola used to make.

CONCHA'S GARDEN CAFE  is located at 34 Scout Madrinan Street cor Tomas Morato Avenue Extension, South Triangle Quezon City

Thank you for having us Ms. Gemma and Alden. Thank you for the invite @gmaartistcenter @gmanetwork

Concha's Garden Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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