Julie Yap-Daza wrote an article in Panorama about my dad and my cousin's resto-bar, Guilbert's Place Restobar. For those who haven't been there and haven't tried the food, you don't know what you're missing! The article also has pictures of the place and the food, so better buy the magazine na lang instead of reading it online. I even asked my mom to send me a copy here in Singapore.
IN the heat of summer, at the height of the mercury’s goal to break records at 38 Celsius (Tuesday, April 8, ‘08), I found it!
I found a restaurant that’s not part of a chain, not a fastfood joint, not an expensive ambience-conscious five-star location for four-star wallets. Just a friendly place with a menu of the usual dishes with unusual twists, a place where you can eat under the stars and be away from the gridlock of Metro Manila.
The food may not be strictly gourmet quality, but read on. The tofu with kinchay is not extraordinary; it comes with ordinary tausi (black soy beans) and an uncommon touch, in the form of button mushrooms and, surprise, squid.
The secret of their pomelo salad is not in the required ingredients of chunks of pink pomelo, curlicues of boiled pink shrimp, a sprinkling of chopped green and red pepper and slices of cucumber. The secret is in the celery — cool, crunchy, as crisp as it is freshly green.
Every Filipino who loves green mango and brown bagoong will like the way that combination is served here. The mango is halfway between ripe (yellow) and unripe (green); the bagoong is homemade; the unexpected touch is a drizzle of crispy hito flakes. Sounds Thai? Maybe, but this version comes without the mandatory spiciness.
If the foregoing list of aperitifs and salads has whetted your appetite, blame it on George and Guilbert Vistan, uncle and nephew, whose restaurant, called Guilbert’s Place, is one summery excuse to drive out at sunset without encountering traffic jams and be back in Manila on time to catch your favorite prime-time show on cable TV.
The restaurant is simple in its intentions, a place for families to eat out, and pleasant in its design — trees and flowering shrubs surround the three ex-container vans that are now connected into a U shape, a series of bahay kubo carries a roof garden on top for sunset-viewing, moon-gazing or star-counting, or all of the above, depending on how much time you have.
If you have time to go over the menu, it’s got plenty of curious items for which there is not enough space here. But as a lady doctor from Pampanga who is a return customer put it, there’s always a next time to try another set of dishes, with another set of cousins, friends, balikbayans, expats, future in-laws, etc.
Guilbert’s place is a few minutes from the Sta. Rita, Bulacan exit from the North Luzon Expressway. Don’t let that address intimidate you. Believe me, it’s easier and faster to get there — 38 km. after the Balintawak entry point — than driving through exasperating traffic to Makati from Quezon City, 15 km.
And by the way, the restaurant is open only at 4 p.m., closing at midnight. If ever there’s a summer place, this is it.