After spending less than 24 hours in Vigan, we got back into the car and drove leisurely up to Laoag, which took roughly 2 hours, if I recall correctly. We passed the self-proclaimed garlic capital of the Philippines in one of the towns along the way and the roadside vendors had thousands of cloves of garlic and red shallots on offer. When we got to Laoag, a quick drive around town confirmed why nearly all the guide books irreverently suggest skipping it entirely, but we did want grab some lunch, and several sources suggested we should try a restuarant called La Preciosa, on Rizal Street, though I have to admit I was a bit worried after the disappointing lunch we had the previous dayat Cafe Leona in Vigan…
La Preciosa is located in a converted residential home that must have dated back to the 1960’s or 50’s and as you enter you have a choice of dining downstairs or in the upstairs area where all the room partititions seem to have been removed. We chose a table upstairs and it was bright and airy, but the restaurant was absolutely jam-packed with people. There were a mixture of locals and drive-by tourists like us. The menu was extensive and ordered more than we could consume. First up was an unusually named dish called “poqui-poqui” or tortang talong with sliced tomatoes and onions. When it arrived it looked like wet scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions and eggplants and did not immediately endear itself. But the taste was surprisingly good… the familiar tastes and textures of a tortang talong, but without the whole overlay of being fried. Instead, the eggplant was more eggplanty, and the eggs just helped to bind it all together a bit more. The use of patis and or salt also made this surprisingly salty, yet delicious. Definitely a surprise hit for all of the adults at the table.
We also ordered an Inabraw or Dinengdeng, a soup with a stunning selection of fresh vegetables and some fish, in this case, slices of tanguigue. The surprise element in this broth was the addition of lots of ginger, that gave the soup a refreshing and soothing flavor. The veggies in this particular version included sitaw (long beans), okra, sigarilyas (winged bean), ampalaya, squash flowers, tomatoes, gabi (taro root), malunggay pod (horseradish tree pods), etc. Similar to other staple vegetable soups across the archipelago, reminiscent of a Cebuano utan for example, but this version was really thick with a wonderful selection of vegetables. The fish was an afterthought in this particular example, and it barely impacted the rest of the soup.
We also ordered another soupy dish, Lauya, I think it was called. Steamed Pork Ribs served pochero style with pechay greens. The broth was also made thicker by the addition of gabi or taro root, and there was a slight sourness to the soup, but I couldn’t figure out from what. This was a nice soup on its own, and a bit of an overkill when viewed in the context of the entire meal we ordered. I would definitely order this again, actually I would order everything mentioned so far again…
We also ordered some Laoag longganisa and as you can see from the photo, it was filled with incredibly disturbing, large solid pieces of fat. It was only day two of the trip but this was our fourth hit of longganisa, and frankly, I wasn’t thrilled with the ones we had had so far. These were a bit hard, but not rock hard, and I couldn’t quite figure out the difference between Loaogian longganisa and the Vigan ones… does it have something to do with the vinegar? sugar? salt content? What?
The Kid was already overdosing on new dishes so we tried to order a few familiar dishes and the bistek tagalog was competent but nothing to write home about. The chicken and pork adobo was delicious and flavorful but oddly with fried potatoes. We also had to get bagnet and KBL (tomatoes, bagoong and onions). Overall it was a very good meal and at PHP930 for 4, very reasonably priced as well. I think was the second best meal of the trip to Ilocos, the first being the dinner at Grandpa’s Inn in Vigan the night before.
La Preciosa Restaurant
Laoag, Ilocos Norte