Cafe Lidia in Calumpang, Marikina
In a town known for its fiercely regionalistic attitude toward food, a restaurant that boasts of a very foreign menu is thriving. Quite surprising. Marikeños rarely talk about food that that did not originate in Marikina. They pride themselves with dishes like pakalog, everlasting, their version of escabeche and pininyahang manok. If they’re not talking about specific dishes, they talk about eateries and fool stalls that have been there for as long as they can remember. And they will assure you that this eatery or that food stall serves the best puto or sells the best barbecue.
Endearing and amusing, and probably a good way to keep regional food traditions alive, but not exactly adventurous. So when Speedy told me about Cafe Lidia, its very non-Marikeño menu and how the restaurant was packed with Marikeños, I had to smile. Finally, Marikeños are opening their arms, welcoming new food adventures and enjoying variety. Lovely. Bravo!
So, it was Speedy who first sampled the food at Cafe Lidia. He was invited by Raffy Malabonga, a PPSA buddy whose wife, Grace, manages the restaurant. Speedy enjoyed the food and the ambience so much and, about two weeks later, he brought me and the girls there. We had salad, beef salpicao, chicken cordon bleu, pasta and pizza. After the meal, coffee and dessert. The bill was something like P1,200.00. Not bad at all.
Grace chatted with us, told us they have four chefs who are each in charge of specific parts of the menu. The cakes are supplied by the same people who supply the cakes at a popular coffee chain. I was impressed. Speedy and I decided we’d go back on a weekday, on a dead hour, so I could take photos. And try other dishes on the menu, of course.
We did that yesterday. We had a late breakfast after a trip to the market, purposely skipped lunch so we could have a late lunch at Cafe Lidia. We got there just before 2.00 p.m., Grace was nowhere in sight since her shift didn’t begin until 3.00 p.m., but the waiters were attentive despite not knowing that we were friends with the manager. Nice. We were seeing the way things were actually done, sans special treatment.
Our meal started with buffalo wings. Beautifully glazed, not too spicy and the price kept low by serving them with sour cream, instead of the traditional bleu cheese, on the side.
Speedy ordered Caesar’s salad and intended to have just that. But I had other ideas.
I ordered Pasta Alfredo for myself…
… And another pasta dish for Speedy — pasta tossed with the classic olive oil and garlic sauce, topped with fried breaded chicken breast fillets.
As usual, we shared everything we ordered so we could sample every dish. I loved my Pasta Alfredo but found Speedy’s pasta a bit bland. Perhaps, if there was grated Parmesan cheese on the side, it would have been perfect.
Speedy looks happy and satisfied in the photo, doesn’t he? Well, he looks like that when he just had a good meal. “Are we in a hurry?” I asked him. “No,” he replied. Great. Because I intended to enjoy my coffee and dessert leisurely.
Between the pasta and the dessert, Grace walked in and chatted with us occasionally — there were other patrons who, just like us, were all paying customers. Equal treatment.
The mocha sans rival was glorious — light and crisp as sans rival should be.
The chocolate dream deserved its name as it was truly dreamy — moist and dark inside, nutty and fudgy outside.
With our cakes gone, we dawdled over our coffee. Grace came over and asked if we wanted to see the function rooms upstairs. There was group of college students doing their thesis, she was giving them a tour of the place, and did we want to go too? Sure, we did.
Neither Speedy nor I knew about the function rooms on the second floor. They were spacious. I suppose they ought to be — the building itself used to be a shoe factory before it was a restaurant.
The first of the two functions rooms was really a party place. It has a bar…
… Oversized chairs and couches…
… And a stage.
The price? P10,000.00 for four hours.
The second function room was smaller and furnished sparely as it is designed for meetings, workshops and conferences. P7,500.00 — consumable with food ordered from the restaurant — for four hours.
We went back to the restaurant and finished our coffee. We paid the bill (total bill — P910.00), I packed my photo gear and we were ready to go. We said goodbye to Grace who was chatting with whom we thought to be customers like us but who turned out to be the owner. We were introduced (he is a shooter and sportsman, hence, the sporty photos lining the restaurant walls), we swapped a few jokes and we were off. Tummies full and feeling relaxed.
Cafe Lidia is located at 64 Calderon St., Calumpang, Marikina. Parking can be a headache during peak hours so I really suggest you drop by between lunch and dinner when the crowd is thinner.