Dining Out

After midnight at Banchetto

For the past couple of months, Sam had been talking about Banchetto and how much variety of food there is — from dumplings to pizza to grilled meat and everything in between. She had gone there with her friends and, obviously, she liked the food and the experience. I’ve been wanting to go there since I first heard her mention the place but Banchetto is only open once a week — from midnight of Friday until 11.00 a.m. of the following day.

What kind of restaurant operates like that? Well, Banchetto isn’t a restaurant. It’s a street food gallery. Tents are put up along Emerald Avenue at the Ortigas Center and restaurants, eateries and food sellers bring and sell their stuff there.

But Friday evenings are toxic — after picking up the girls from the condo, all we really want to do is go home, lie down and sleep. And no one gets up early on Saturday morning. So, we never got to try Banchetto.

Then, I discovered that the Banchetto organizers have the same set-up at different locations on different days of the week. On Monday and Tuesday evenings, Banchetto operates at the parking lot of Shopwise Libis.

Last night, close to midnight, just on a whim, Speedy and I went to the Shopwise Libis Banchetto.

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Sadly, it is nowhere near the size described by Sam. There were only a few stalls, less than ten, in fact, and most were selling the same stuff — grilled skewered meat or ulam and rice in styrofoam boxes. There were very few visitors too.

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I didn’t care for the sausages, obviously — we have four different kinds in the freezer already.

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But a nameless stall (the owner’s name is Myra, according to the stall minders) caught my eye — grilled isaw! Okay, pork intestines for you, non-Filipino speakers and readers. And pork ears!

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We ordered and waited…

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… while our pork intestines and ears were grilled.

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And how were they? Speedy would have been happier if the intestines were crisper. And he didn’t like that the meat was tinged with red food color. The pork ears were pretty good though. Twenty-five pesos per stick, if I heard Speedy correctly.

We finished the grilled pork, then, asked one another what else we wanted. The stall owned by the mysterious Myra was also selling lechon kawali but what we saw — leftovers from the look of it — we didn’t find appetizing. We did a second inspection of the other stalls. Still, nothing interesting. We walked back to the mysterious Myra’s stall and was about to go back to the pick-up when Speedy noticed a frying pan and what looked like…

“Ano yun (What’s that)?”

Lechon kawali, sir…”

“Bago (New)?”

“Yes, sir, bagong luto, mainit pa po (newly looked, still hot).”

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And so we ordered lechon kawali, sans rice, with a vinegar dipping and the more traditional liver sauce. Seventy pesos. And we were in pork heaven. The pork was nicely crisp outside but the fat was like butter that melted in our mouths. Delicious!

After all that meat, we wanted coffee and something sweet. Donuts, Speedy suggested. But there were no donut vendors at the Shopwise Libis Banchetta. We drove to Katipunan Avenue hoping for a 24-hour donut place but found none. Well, we could live without the donuts. I suggested that we just go back home. We have great brewed coffee at home and homemade pistachio ice cream. And they were more than enough to conclude our after-midnight food tripping.

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