From experience, it rarely happens that an establishment that caters mainly to the drinking crowd also happens to serve good food. At best, the pica-pica would be good but the meals would be lousy. So when we eat out with our two teenaged girls, we skip such places. We made an exception last Sunday and, boy, were we glad we did. But let me tell you the whole story.
Sometime last week, my husband and I were cruising around Antipolo looking for Crescent Moon Cafe which had been recommended by at least three different people. We tried looking for it a couple of years back, got lost and never tried again. Finally, last week, we located it. But before we did, we also passed a relatively new arcade right across the Antipolo Doctors Hospital and I saw the signs of a restaurant serving Middle Eastern food. The name is Baba Ghannouj. We already noticed that the adjacent establishments looked like drinking places but Baba Ghannouj looked more like a place to eat rather than drink.
On Sunday, we went there for lunch. As soon as the girls saw the place, their faces fell. No air-conditioning and, on a sweltering summer day, they were expecting something more comfortable.
They refused to order so I did all the ordering. Ox brain for the appetizer, kabob platter with pita bread and chicken biryani for the main dishes. To lessen the tension, I told them we could have dessert at a nearby cafe.
As I expected, the girls didn’t touch the ox brain. They weren’t talking and they really looked mutinous. Too bad for them because the ox brain was simply delicious. Sauteed with garlic, onion and tomatoes, there was no trace of “lansa” whatsoever.
Then came the kabob platter and the biryani. The girls started to dig in and, a few minutes later, they were talking animatedly, throwing jokes and dissing one another good-naturedly. In short, they were back to normal. I didn’t hear any further complaints about the lack of air-conditioning nor the not too classy set-up. The food was good and that made up for any real or imagined lack. The lesson? Never judge an eating place by the lack of airconditioning.
The kabob platter consisted of chicken, beef tenderloin and pork kabobs, kefta (ground meat mixed with spices, shaped into patties or cylinders and grilled just like kabobs), grilled vegetables, pita and two dipping sauces. The chicken biryani was tasty but not too spicy and, more importantly, cumin was used sparingly so that the biryani did not taste nor smell overwhelmingly of pungent spices. Considering the quality of the food, our total bill was quite reasonable at P1,100.00.
Admittedly, Baba Ghannouj is primarily a place for drinkers. The piped in music was rather loud when we walked in but since we were the only customers, I asked the attendant to turn down the volume (too bad that the adjacent establishment, despite being bereft of any customers, decided to turn on their music full blast). I don’t know how boisterous the crowd gets during its peak hours (the attendant said they’re usually packed on Friday and Saturday evenings) but at mid-day on Sunday, there was just us so we were able to enjoy the food sans the irritation that huge noisy crowds usually bring.
By the time we were through eating, no one was interested in dessert. We were happily full. My husband and I agreed that we would go back to Baba Ghannouj, just him and me on a weekday when the girls are in school, try other items on the menu and maybe even try the hookah too.
For city folk visiting Antipolo on a Sunday in May, I suggest lunch at Baba Ghannouj. And if you’re a fan of ox brain, don’t miss the ox brain appetizer.
Baba Ghannouj is located at the Palm Square Arcade along M. L. Quezon Avenue in Antipolo, almost directly across the Antipolo Doctors Hospital.