In the quiet neighborhood of Villa Carmen Subdivision in Antipolo, a portion of an artist’s house was converted into a cafe. The artist is the late Elsie “Inday” Cadapan; the cafe is Cafe Inday.
Inday Cadapan had no formal training in painting and sculpture. Until the mid-80s, she was a passionate antique dealer. Art critic Alice Guillermo once wrote: “To this love of art was combined the ingredients of research: as an antique dealer, she was both fascinated and challenged to get to the original provenance of the work and the social and artistic circumstances in which it was produced.” The artist was born.
Then came the political turmoil that eventually toppled Ferdinand Marcos which, to Ms. Guillermo’s mind, fueled Inday’s artistry and she became a full-time artist. Eventually, artists would gather for workshops at her home. Inday passed away in January 7, 2004 but her art lives on in the very room where she used to hold those workshops. It is now called Cafe Inday, a large room two stories high, walls and floor lined with Inday Cadapan’s art. An artist’s lair, if there ever was one. And the food is art by itself.
It wasn’t by accident that I first heard of Cafe Inday. Inday Cadapan’s grandson, Samuel Vitug, was a high school classmate and one of the closest friends of my older daughter, Samantha. Samuel naturally talked about Cafe Inday, managed by his mother Magel, to his friends. My daughter told me about it and, about year ago, we went there for dinner one Saturday evening. The chef, Jeo Espina, was the older brother of another schoolmate of Samuel’s and Samantha’s. I remember dreamy pasta, wonderful panini and, to cap the meal, espresso in a shot glass to which a scoop of ice cream was dropped. I drooled, I exclaimed happily, my husband wanted me to replicate it at home. The bill was about a thousand pesos and it was well worth it.
Last Saturday evening, we were back at Cafe Inday. There’s a new chef, Liz Monteallegre, and new items on the menu, but one thing stays the same — lots of herby cooking which I absolutely adore. Chef Liz welcomed us and brought us to our table. I couldn’t decide what to order so I let her surprise us in much the same way that we let Chef Jeo did a year ago.
First came the appetizer. Nachos and burritos that could have been a complete meal. Despite the juicy bits of meat, the platter, with its clever blend of just enough chili sauce and sour cream, stayed dry enough for the next 15 minutes so that the nachos didn’t get soaked and turn soggy. Then, I fell in love with the mango salsa with the first spoonful. Yes, I was eating it off my spoon — it was that good. I liked how the very sweet mangoes balanced the acidity of the tomatoes, and how the scant amount of cilantro gave just the right piquancy to the salsa.
There was salad with a luscious dressing that was a much milder version of ranch dressing. I’m thinking lime juice instead of lemon juice or vinegar. And I don’t know what Chef Liz does with the cucumber but the slices were crunchier than what we get at home.
Then, came the lasagna with soft, but not mushy, red beans and ultra creamy cheesy sauce. My husband sighed with relief when he saw the modest serving; the previous dish, the appetizer, was good for five and there were only four of us, so there was just enough space in our stomach for lasagna that would tease and satisfy rather than a plateful to pig out on.
Later, towards the end of the meal, Chef Liz would tell us that she roasts all the vegetables that go into the salsa — including the unpeeled mango to coax it to release its juices. That’s how they do things in Cafe Inday, the chef comes out of the kitchen and talks about the food with the customers with the passion worthy of an artist. Chef Jeo did the same a year ago.
Somewhere between the appetizer and the lasagna, Samuel, now a music major at the University of Sto. Tomas, played the guitar. No formal entertainment there, really, just a friendly jam. I dared him to play “The Bohemian Rhapsody,” he couldn’t (could anyone with one guitar?) but I loved his whimsical rendition of “The Girl from Ipanema.”
Appetizer platter, burritos, salad, lasagna and drinks came to P1315 pesos. The quality of the meal was worth every peso.
Cafe Inday is located at General Luna St., Villa Carmen Subdivision, Antipolo City. By appointments and prior reservations only. You may call 6649075, 0917-6691900 or 0917-7929020 for details. For more on Inday Cadapan, click here and here.