We arrived in Baguio at around 3.00 a.m. on Saturday morning. We missed a turn going to the hotel and we ended up traversing Loakan Road. In the darkness, I spotted a sign that said Chef’s Home A Taste of Asia and I immediately commented that we must go there. I had never heard of it before but, no matter where I go, I always look out for Asian restaurants. Bias, I suppose. But who wouldn’t be? Asian food is simply spectacular.
On Sunday, at a brunch just outside Baguio, Jonathan, one of the guests mentioned having gone to Chef’s Home and was raving about the food. I remarked that we had passed it and we wanted to go. He warned me that it was really more of a carinderia than a restaurant but I said didn’t mind. I’ve never been one for ambience or presentation. It’s the food that matters and if it’s good, I’m happy.
Not having taken stock of the exact location where I spotted Chef’s Home, we had trouble locating it on Monday. But we managed and we were seated before the lunch crowd started to fill up the place. Jonathan was right. It was definitely more carinderia than restaurant. But when you’ve gone around Asia and eaten in similar carinderia-looking establishments, you know where food is good and the decor doesn’t matter.
We looked over the menu, a hand-written affair on paper pasted on the wall, and asked for beef rendang. Unfortunately, they were out of rendang so I chose roti with curry and noodles. For our drinks, I chose grass jelly while Speedy had longan. Both were deliciously refreshing.
The roti arrived.
And it came with an array of pickled vegetables. The serving girl recommended that we include some pickles with every mouthful of roti and curry. And she was so right with her recommendation. The roti experience was nothing short of sublime.
I was wary about eating all the seafood in the noodle dish (allergy!) so I gave them all to Speedy. I attacked the noodles with vegetables and sauce, and I was smacking my lips, real Asian-style, in appreciation. The sauce, unthickened and dark, was rich with a kaleidoscope of flavors and sensations.
We were done and happily digesting our meal when the owners came over and introduced themselves, and we chatted for a while. Chef Alvin Emuang was a chef at a five-star hotel in Thailand when he met the charming Gina, a Filipina working in Thailand. They married and eventually moved to the Philippines due to the unstable political situation in Thailand. They never regretted the decision. Chef Alvin said he earned more as a hotel chef but he hardly ever saw his family. He left for work before his daughter was up and he rarely made it home before she had gone to bed. Apparently, they have happily settled down in Baguio and Chef’s Home is a family affair.
Chef Alvin explained his cooking philosophy, how the menu changes every few weeks depending on seasonal produce. Freshness, he said, was the key. That’s why there is no permanent printed menu, he said, pointing to the handwritten poster on the wall. Lucky Baguio to count this warm-hearted family among its residents. Lucky us for finding Chef’s Home, and meeting Chef Alvin and Gina. It was a real pleasure.
I ordered a jar of pickled onions to take home, got the bill, we said our goodbyes and went on our way. I used the pickled onions to garnish yesterday’s vegetarian burger.
For Manila folks who can’t make it to Baguio any time soon to enjoy Chef Alvin Emuang’s fantastic dishes, there’s good news. A branch called Truly Asia will open at the still-under-construction Fisher Mall along Quezon Avenue in Quezon City. Chef Alvin himself will be in charge of the kitchen.
For those who want to experience Chef’s Home in Baguio, I’m still not sure about the address, but you can contact Chef Alvin and Gina through these mobile numbers: 0916-444-5756 and 0999-774-6624.