Consider me a member… I am a huge rice eater. When traveling abroad, I can barely go a week without a rice fix, and risotto barely qualifies. If there was a profession I could have been in a previous life, it would be a truck or household driver, and my lunch plate would be described by my amo or fellow bus stop diners as having “driver rice…” :) And I mean that in the nicest way. So when Mon Eugenio of Myron’s mentioned that there was this restaurant at the Paseo de Santa Rosa in Laguna called the Kanin Club, you just knew I was going to check this one out. Set up by the same folks who own Cafe Breton, it is located just a few steps behind Cafe Breton at the Paseo de Santa Rosa mall. If you are headed to Tagaytay or Batangas using the Santa Rosa Road, you can’t miss this mall that also houses several outlet stores… The week after Mon mentioned the Kanin Club, I happened to be headed out to the beach with several of our family’s Cebu office crew that were in Manila for a summer trip. We decided to stop and have lunch at the Kanin Club, and with 11 people at the table, we ordered nearly as many dishes! I rarely do a post on a restaurant unless I have visited it several times, but I think we tried enough dishes on this one visit to equal 2-3 visits of 2-3 diners… the quick verdict? Very good value for money… but read on for some of the highs and the lows of our meal. With a name like Kanin Club, we had to order at least 4 kinds of rice, and the photo up top is a bowl of “Aligue Rice” – rice sauteed with crab roe/fat. Hmmm, things were looking pretty promising…
Several orders of beef tadyang sinigang were delivered to the table, and they were very good indeed. Beef ribs are incredibly flavorful and these had been stewed long enough so that the meat was falling off the bone, and the broth was both substantial and appropriately sour. One of our favorite picks of the meal.
The green mango and red egg salad was not memorable. Possibly the mangoes were just simply too unripe and therefore not just sour, but actually painful to the taste buds. The bagoong wasn’t salty enough to temper the unripe mangoes. Some might like it this way, but the folks at our table unanimously agreed they could have passed on this dish as served.
The next type of rice was the daing fried rice, a nice mixture of shredded dried fish with lots of crisp garlic bits. Overall the flavored rices were good, though I would have voted for much more flavor… but I suspect that is a price thing and they were trying to keep prices quite reasonable.
The beefsteak tagalog was tough and not one of the better examples of the dish I have tasted. A couple of huge undercooked slices of onion were in the small dish, probably to fluff up the contents and there is something about biting into a semi-raw onion in bistek tagalog that sets off Marketman alarm bells. This could have been improved significantly. Hopefully, the next time they get their beef from a cow that wasn’t the bovine equivalent of Manny Pacquiao at the tail end of training, i.e., tough, stringy and virtually fat free… :)
An unqualified hit was a bizarre sounding dish, but I am glad I went out on a limb and ordered it anyway. Dinuguan with a twist. Actually, crisp fried lechon kawali with a blood sauce ladled over it. Very good. Unusual, creative, a bit of an aha! dish. Bravo to the person who dreamed this one up. I am not a big fan of dinuguan with all the innards, but this version prompted me to order a lot of additional plain rice…
We had a dyed in the wool Bicolano as one of the diners, so her take on the laing was listened to by everyone present. Made from dried gabi leaves, she said, definitely (as opposed to slightly wilted fresh leaves), but it still got a nod as being okay… A finer chop of the leaves might have helped the texture and absorption of coconut milk, I think.
Another surprise hit was this seafood kare-kare. Very good. Again, a slight twist on pinoy favorites and this one worked, in the same manner that the dinuguang lechon kawali was a hit. This platter was completely wiped out.
Perhaps the worst dish of the lunch? A watery pinakbet that could have qualified as a soup. It was swimming in a less than tasty liquid and the intense artificial color of the bagoong was unappealing, to say the least. I love pinakbet, and I know it is easy to make, so this dish was a real letdown, if you ask me. But one or two flops out of 11 or 12 dishes isn’t bad.
The sizzling squid was pretty good and the small order was polished off in no time.
The lechon kawali with a sweet and sour sauce was liked by many, but some found it too much of a clone of say a mediocre sweet and sour pork dish at a Chinese restaurant.
With several softdrinks, this massive meal came to PHP3,333.33 or roughly PHP300 per person. I clearly recall the exact amount as I have never had a restaurant bill with all of the same digits, ever. Overall, I thought it was very good value for the money and I am glad there is a place to eat reasonably priced Filipino food on the way to Batangas without having to battle it out at the crowded restaurants in Tagaytay. On the way back from the beach, we ate equally heartily at the original LZM Bangus place (another Marketman favorite) and that meal there ran us roughly PHP230 per person in less comfortable surroundings. Everyone agreed that both places were definitely worth returning to in the future… Kanin Club, Paseo de Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa Laguna, just after the Laguna Technopark, along the Santa Rosa road that leads up to Tagaytay.