After hitting two markets and meeting up with the rest of the group that I was traveling with in Legazpi, we were, of course, famished and decided to try the Small Talk CafÃ© for lunch. My first impression was quite good, a charming cafÃ© with a bit of character located in an old house off of a main street. It had shades of those early restaurants in Malate that might be described as being quaint. There was a huge reservation for 20 or more for lunch so they had trouble seating our party of 8 but after some adjustments they got us squeezed in. The first hint of trouble was with the arrival of the menu. It screamed Western and Pinoy favorites and Bicolano food was relegated to a small segment of the menu. I realize most Bicolanos have fabulous food at home and have no desire to go out and pay for it in a neighborhood restaurant so I decided to straddle the menu and order an assortment of Filipino-ish dishes and hope for the best. We ordered Sinigang, Caldereta, Spare Ribs, Pinangat, Bicol Express, Fried Chicken, etc.
The food was mediocre at best, and I will cover the bicol express in another post. There was no heat, no sharp flavors, nothing to scream about positively or negatively. When I asked the server for some siling labuyo to add heat to my pinangat she actually answered that they didnâ€™t have any sili, which nearly set me off madly dashing to the street with my arms flailing like a lunaticâ€¦ our local hosts rushed to the kitchen to explain (thinking it was my baluktot language skills that caused a misunderstanding) and 4 measly labuyos appeared and I chopped some of them up and mixed them in with my pinangat as the Bicolanos watched in amazement…this odd addition/consumption of raw chilliesâ€¦how bizarre is that? At any rate, I have to hope that it was an off day for Small Talk CafÃ©â€¦ the only consuelo was that the entire meal was just over PHP1,200 for 8 people or PHP150 a head!
Despite the experience at lunch, and because we were counseled against hitting Wawayâ€™s at dinner time when the selection might less extensive, we decided to check out Gasthofâ€™s Deli/Restaurant. An outpost of a German owned restaurant that has apparently achieved some kudos on the resort island of Boracay, and they opened a branch Legazpi which also features more Western style dishes though they had a promising section of Bicolano favorites (Gasthof’s wife is Bicolana, I gather)â€¦ we ordered some kinilaw na malasugi, pinalasing na hipon and some mussels baked with mozzarella as starters. All of these dishes were quite good and a perfect match with a couple of beers. For the main courses, we ordered a cocido which in Bicol is actually a soup more akin to a sinigangâ€¦ and it arrived with lapu-lapu heads, a broth soured with kalamansi, tomatoes, green onions, some coconut meat and kamote tops. It was very tasty and something I would like to try and replicate at home. We also got some spare ribs, bicol express, lechon kawali, and a few other dishes. The famous ribs lived up to their vaunted reputation and all the other food was quite tasty. Overall, it was a good meal and at PHP 2,200 with several beers for 7 people it was very reasonably priced. Stay tuned for more local bicolano fare…coming up soon.