Alex was in U.P. for a theater rehearsal and I was doing my writing furiously at home when I received a text message from her asking if I wanted to have dinner on U.P. Maginhawa. I wasn’t sure what to think at first — did she want to be picked up from the rehearsal venue rather than commuting and, hence, the suggestion that she knew I would be unable to resist?
As it turned out, she simply wanted to dine out and she wanted her sister (who wasn’t with us the first time we went there) to experience U.P. Maginhawa too. I checked online if there were establishments on U.P. Maginhawa that served vegetarian food and found two — Good Burgers and Friuli Trattoria. I called up both establishments to confirm that they would still be open by the time Alex was through with her rehearsal. We met the girls at McDonald’s on Katipunan then drove to U.P. Maginhawa. We did not eat at Good Burgers nor at Friuli Trattoria, however. We passed by a place called Felicidad, Alex saw “Mexitalian” on the signage and, despite knowing nothing about the place, we decided to have our dinner there. It was a fortunate decision.
Felicidad, the Mexitalian place, is actually the front garden of a house. Al fresco and homey with a feeling of spaciousness that was surprising for its rather smallish size. We ordered all the vegetarian items in the menu for Sam and a few other dishes for us omnivores.
While waiting for our food, Sam noticed the jar on the table labeled #KAPALARAN. She and Alex took turns picking out pieces of paper and reading their “kapalaran” (fortune) for the night. I did too thinking all the while how witty the idea was — fortune cookies in reverse because one could read one’s fortune before the meal started.
The food we ordered started to arrive. First came the plate of quesadillas.
When ordering quesadillas at Felicidad, there is a choice between meaty and vegetarian, or a mix of both. I asked for the latter to keep everyone happy. Both meaty and vegetarian quesadillas were good but I liked the vegetarian version better — creamier and the flavor of the cheese was more pronounced.
Then came the chimichangas, nacho fries, chicken wings, eggplant parmigiana, vegetarian pasta and, as an afterthought, onion rings. And they were all good. Alex and Speedy enjoyed the beef-and-bean chimichangas to the hilt and I thought to myself that they should have their fill because I am not making chimichangas at home. Wrapping spring rolls is easy but flour tortillas are thicker and not as pliable, and making sure that the filled and rolled tortillas won’t unroll while deep frying is no mean feat.
The nacho fries went fast with Sam avoiding the meat that came with the potatoes. I had only a couple of forkfuls — I was too busy attacking the chicken wings to really notice but I had the impression that Sam and Alex finished the nacho fries between them.
And the chicken wings that I was attacking with ferocity? Ahhh, they were spicy buttered chicken wings…
Subtly spicy, lightly floured and deep-fried to a perfect crisp that nevertheless left the inner meat moist. My goodness, I was eating the chicken with my hands, a mixture of oil and butter was dripping down my forearm and I wasn’t even aware of it until Sam pointed out that there was a drop on my shirt and she joked that it made me look like a lactating mother. So engrossed I was at savoring every morsel, I dismissed the opportunity to take photos of the onion rings with light-as-a-cloud crust.
Sam let all three of us sample the eggplant parmigiana — I liked it, Speedy preferred more cheese in it and Alex who doesn’t eat eggplants cut that large ate a piece too.
The pasta… okay, I would have been happier if it had been more generously salted but there was salt on the table and it was easy enough to adjust the level of saltiness.
So, the individual dishes were good. But it’s more than that. The food at Felicidad has a character that goes beyond the merits of the individual dishes. The food at Felicidad speaks a philosophy about how, in the hands of a good cook, simple and inexpensive ingredients can be transformed into delectable dishes that will make one come back for more. None of the dishes had fancy ingredients. They were all basic. But the manner in which they were brought together and cooked made them so special.
And just how much did our meal cost? Here’s the shocker.
Just PHP940.00. See how little good food costs when there is no franchise fee and no rent to pay for a small space in a mall or some swanky location like Bonifacio Global City?
Happy with my meal, I stepped out on the sidewalk for my after-dinner smoke (Felicidad is a smoke-free establishment). I scanned the vicinity, admired the huge house with capiz windows across the street (wishing the owner would sell so we could grab it — after winning the lotto) and thought how nice it would be to live in such a neighborhood within walking distance of all those quaint restaurants which won’t charge an arm and a leg for a meal.
Felicidad is at #38 Maginhawa Street, U.P. Village, Diliman, Quezon City.