Although we were not able to spend three days exploring Laguna and Rizal as planned, we did manage to take a lot of photos including a few of a carabao feeding by the roadside, beautiful wood carvings in Paete and we were able to have lunch at Exotik Restaurant in the town of Kalayaan. It was crowded, we thought we wouldn’t find a parking slot, but all’s well that ends well. We even managed to take photos of some of the pets kept on the restaurant grounds.
Exotik Restaurant is made up of several pavilions built around large trees. The pavilions are set up like large huts to exude a rustic setting. A team of attendants is assigned to each hut so it’s no problem flagging a waiter to take your order or even if you want to place additional orders. It was a sweltering Maundy Thursday so the first item on the agenda was cold drinks.
I ordered a glass of iced gulaman (agar-agar) and sago (tapioca balls) but I had to wait until everyone had taken photos before I could quench my thirst. The layering — beige sago at the bottom, then layers of red and green gulaman topped with crushed ice — was so pretty that my daughters and my husband positioned the glass this way and that to take photos. So did I, actually.
As its name suggests, Exotik Restaurant specializes in exotic food. Like dishes with crocodile meat, for instance. But we’re not as adventurous as the likes of Andrew Zimmern. We skipped the crocodile meat and ordered frogs. But they weren’t available. To make a long story short, none of the items in the exotic list that we were willing to try were available so we ended up ordering not-too-exotic dishes.
Sinigang sa miso with fish belly. Delicious.
We also had pinakbet — that famous Ilocano dish of vegetables and pork sautéed with bagoong (shrimp paste). Having suffered from shrimp allergy for decades, I decided to bite the bullet, so to speak, and ate my heart out. And I ended up eating more than I intended because no one else in my family eats okra so I ate all the okra in the pinakbet (as an aside, the next day, I was too sick to get out of bed).
Then, there was the grilled chicken. Sweet as most Filipinos prefer. Well done but very juicy.
We probably would have enjoyed the food better if we had a chance to eat a leisurely meal on a less hot and humid day. But I’ve no complaints. The bill, less than a thousand pesos, was a bit steep considering the rather small servings but then there were another amenities to enjoy. Despite the large crowds that came and went like mad, the tables and even the floors were kept clean. And it didn’t take forever for the food to arrive. Little things that diners ought to appreciate especially since good service is so rare these days. Then, there were the exotic pets. And the panoramic view of Laguna de Bay. All things considered, it was a satisfactory experience.