… And it’s called Minced Manila. I will never forget that I came across it on my birthday.
In our family, tradition dictates that the birthday celebrator is exempt from chores on his or her special day. That meant no cooking for me. Despite having gone out to dinner the night before, we went out to dinner again on the evening of my birthday. Because we were still reeling from the horrendous traffic going to Lugang Cafe in Greenhills 24 hours earlier, I chose a restaurant that won’t require us to drive down to the city again. I came across Minced Cafe on Facebook and I got wide-eyed over the photo of the bagnet-style humba. After checking that there were vegetarian-friendly items in the menu for Sam, I told Speedy I wanted that humba for dinner.
We drove to Minced Manila and ordered. I had already checked the menu online and I suggested heartily to Sam that we get the ensaladang pakwan at kesong puti (watermelon and white cheese salad). I was as good as it looked. Better, even. The cold watermelon cubes and the hot fried kesong puti were just the perfect companions for the heap of lettuce and alfalfa sprouts.
We ordered another starter, the dish called sinuglaw, which consisted of grilled slices of pork belly topped with sashimi-style tuna, pickled cucumber slices and alfalfa sprouts. An interesting combination, no doubt, and the way the dish was assembled made it truly mouth-watering. Because Sam exempts herself from her self-imposed vegetarian diet when there’s a birthday in the family, she had a piece of tuna with the cucumber and alfalfa sprouts. Speedy, Alex and I happily ate the rest.
For Sam’s main dish, there was mushroom salpicao which, naturally, we all got to try. This was the only dish that I was not too happy about because canned mushrooms were used. Canned mushrooms is okay for pantry cooking at home but, in a restaurant, I find that undesirable. Canned mushrooms was one of my biggest objections to our overpriced dinner at Amici a while back and, well… mushrooms salpicao doesn’t really taste all that great unless cooked with fresh mushrooms (see my homecooked version).
We also had sautéed kangkong with garlic which, like the mushrooms salpicao, was ordered primarily for Sam. The kangkong was perfectly cooked but was underseasoned because it was meant to be eaten with the salty bagoong. It’s not a difficult dish to execute, it’s not anything original (in fact, it’s a dish that ubiquitous in Southeast Asia) so I won’t rave about it.
What I will rave about is the star dish of the evening.
The bagnet-style humba was one for the books. Humba is a pork stew that traces its origin in the Visayan region in central Philippines. Bagnet is deep fried pork belly from the northern region of Ilocos. Combining the two in a single dish was truly inspired. The rich sauce, the crispy pork, the generous amount of fried garlic and the subtle crunch of the onion leaves with every spoonful of rice was an experience that I know I will crave again in the future.
And that’s how our table looked after the meal — a caption would be superfluous so I won’t bother.
Minced Manila is on the second floor of EM Gems Building on L. Sumulong (Circumferential) Road, Antipolo, almost directly across Unciano Hospital.