How would you like this for breakfast? Tinapang Salinas; estrelladong itlog with burong mustasa, kamatis, bawang, sibuyas; and sinangag. Served with Amadeo coffee.
Or you may prefer, instead of garlic fried rice, a slice of pan de troso (a 1950s recipe) with a hint of rosemary and garlic, served with kesong puti in olive oil and herbs, plus longganisang Cavite.
If the menu sounds like a dream—in reality, it’s called a farmer’s breakfast—dream no more, crave no more. Not if you can jump into your car or get away on your motorcycle and race to Bgy. Bucal in Silang (most streets are notoriously nameless) to catch Sonny Lua at his Asiong’s Caviteño Restaurant named after his father. Last night, just to allow you to catch your breath, Sonny’s dinner, by his own admission, consisted of daeng na galunggong—not bangus but galunggong, butterfly-spliced and marinated in vinegar and salt—and eaten with pickled radish.
Sonny is 63 years old, he does not call himself a chef but a cook with a carinderia background nurtured by his parents from the time he was three, so technically he’s been cooking and serving for 60 years. In the last four years, since he moved the carinderia from Cavite City to Silang, his Asiong’s Caviteño Restaurant has gained a cult-like following among food trippers, locals and out-of-towners, and the bikers groups that drop in at all hours.
What do they look for? A taste of home cooking with a whiff of tradition and the good old days, served with a pinch of innovation in a setting—garden, terrace, dining room all rolled into one—that’s at once nostalgic, familiar, yet charmingly unique. Sonny is an interior designer who completed a course in interior design. “But I didn’t go to culinary school,” he confesses with what sounds like pride in his voice.
He grows his own vegetables in the garden that has a casual beauty about it. His salad of French fiddlehead ferns (pako in the vernacular) tossed in a dressing of “homemade vinaigrette” is the queen, the perfect introduction to appetizers like sizzling gambas, calamares fritos, tamales de Cavite, and chicharon bulaklak. If there’s room for your main course, choose from the now rarely served morcon, or red adobo, or pancit pusit, or pancit Canton.
Desserts are as sensual as they come—leche flan, sapin-sapin, cheesecake—which a postprandial walk around the vegetable garden might succeed in taking away a few calories.
A tip for Valentine’s Day couples and other lovers planning their date this coming weekend: Dinner under the trees and stars, surrounded by soft outdoor lights, will be more romantic than a meal at lunchtime.