Images by the author
Just to get out of the city on lockdown, what could be more fun than a food trip?
The price of gasoline kept going up, but since the little car had not been in use for weeks, what the heck? Just board, turn the ignition, and go . . .!
Merienda time when we hit Nuvali, Sta. Rosa, Laguna. What better place than Vista Mall, high-ceilinged with lots of space and no big crowds? Passenger A said he’d be satisfied with a croissant at Bake My Day. Passenger B said, “We’ve come all this way, might as well tour a bit and see what’s new.” I found it, a new restaurant, a pretty spot with clusters of native baskets hanging from the ceiling. But I was in the mood for Italian, so when we found Amore in the food court, we—meaning I—decided on pizza and pasta.
The spaghetti decorated with the tiniest pink shrimps, cooked in olive oil and drizzled with cheese, tasted better than it looked, grazie. After washing down the meal with plain water, it was time to head for Silang, Cavite and its Acienda outlet stores, but especially Sonny Lua’s Caviteño restaurant.
Silang, Tagaytay’s next-door neighbor, is the home of Asiong’s Caviteño Restaurant, owned by and starring Sonny Lua, whose father Asiong was his mentor and inspiration. The restaurant has gained a cult following of sorts, from bikers to out-of-town tourists and foodies from Metro Manila forever on the lookout for “a nice new place to eat and unwind.”
Asiong is cook, manager, gardener, and interior designer, among other things (he concocts beauty oil and insect repellent cologne under his own label, with a tiny sticker to say “Thank you”). For faithful clients who have been advertising his restaurant, Sonny will also accept landscaping jobs and party catering, including mood lighting.
Who has the time to cook morcon nowadays? Sonny Lua has, and he does it beautifully.
His Asiong menu is a delightful trip through Cavite’s carousel of flavors—with a bonus: Sonny puts colors into the service. His garden salad is a refreshing bouquet of fern, herbs, little pink flowers and purple buds of clitorea ternatea. The art of cooking and tantalizing the palate, Sonny seems to say, begins with tempting the eyes.
Asiong’s/Sonny’s menu is a point of pride for him, specially after the restaurant earned a Department of Tourism accreditation, i.e., it’s good for locals, therefore good for tourists. When you’re in Silang, where many streets are not named, find its location through Waze or Google. And be amazed at Sonny’s farmer’s breakfast consisting of two pieces of galunggong and an omelet hiding its secret of pickled mustard leaves; “red” adobo; seafood soup in tomato minus the sourness of sinigang; pancit pusit; good old-fashioned morcon—who has the time to cook morcon nowadays? Sonny Lua has, and he does it beautifully.
What does Sonny eat when all his dinner clients have finished their meals and gone? He’s happy to feast on rice with dried (daeng) galunggong that he splits to look like a butterfly, with a relish that’s as simple but rare as fermented (buro) radish. A peasant’s reward to end a fulfilling day!