Kafe Batwan – Batwan with a Twist

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Batwan is a sour fruit that is widely known in the Western Visayas region as an essential ingredient for kansi (beef broth), tinola, sinigang and other dishes that need tartness or a certain spike in soupy dishes.

There was a time I had difficulty describing what it was to my friends in Manila, but that was then. It’s great to know that batwan is finally becoming more popular among the non-Ilonggos in the metropolis, especially now that Chef JPs Anglo of the Sarsa Group calls his brand of new food venture Kafé Batwan, in partnership with his sister Tracie Anglo Dizon. This contemporary café-cum-restaurant let stands proudly at the Joya Lofts and Towers in Rockwell Center, Makati City.

My husband and I both hail from the Visayas region, and so Kafé Batwan already captured our palates even before our first walk-in for lunch time.

Browsing through the menu, the line-ups  showed familiar dishes but with a twist, in the sense that they were mostly fusions of two or more dishes that we didn’t know could go together well.  For instance, wouldn’t you wonder how something soupy, for instance, can be fried or saucy, when you read an item called Sinigang Fried Chicken ? We also never thought that an unlikely tandem such asCrispy Tawilis with Queso de Bola would blend just as well apparently.

For this lunchtime, we dared to choose the familiar dishes, yet those that offer a creatively different take.

Batchoy Beef Ribs in Muscovado Sauce

Batchoy Beef Ribs in Muscovado Sauce

No, there is no pork soup at all. This dish will be a delight to fans of the beef ribs. It has that beef barbecue coming out of the smokey grill aroma, with the taste of melted beef fat smacking your lips. To the taste buds, saltiness is met with the sweetness of muscovado sauce and that was enough to raise my thumbs up. One has to taste it in order to understand why it is considered a bestseller in Kafé Batwan, according to the waitress whose recommendation we considered as we were initially torn between lamb adobo and this one.

Garlic Coconut Fried Rice

Garlic Coconut Fried Rice

What lifted garlic fried rice to a higher plane was when we tasted white latik (coconut latik) garnished all over a cupful of fried rice. One bit and we were sure we had to order one more extra cup.

Sizzling Budbod

Sizzling Budbod

For dessert, we choose this sticky rice with coconut cream, plus purple yam, butter and coconut pandan coffee cream. I’m glad that fresh gata (coconut cream) taste I was expecting was there. The bitterness of coffee cream serves to balance the sweetness that budbod is typically known to be.

Chef JP’s more playful rendition of familiar comfort food as described in its menu makes Kafé Batwan an irresistible magnet for both Filipinos and foreign nationals who are seeking to sample our food in a setting that they can resonate with.

Chef JP in an interview during our visit

More Photos of Kape Batwan here

Compared to Sarsa restaurant which we also patronize, Kafé Batwan’s offerings are an attempt to utilize popular ingredients in the Visayas, but unlike in Sarsa, the dish renditions are not necessarily Ilonggo. Even the way it’s contemporary interiors are set-up carries this message.


Kafe Batwan

Address: Joya Lofts, Rockwell Makati

Contact Numbers: 625-5166 | 0917 529 6351

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Denice Christine Garcia-Pilla is a freelance published writer and editor in between her profession as a market research professional. Her works have appeared in numerous print and online publications in Asia and the United States including the Asia Pacific Business Guide, Launch Asia, Quantum Spirit, Men Zone, The Philippine Star and Lifestyle Asia. She has profiled a number of CEOs, Presidents, entrepreneurs and tycoons of top corporations in the Philippines, as well as renowned international authors such as Mark Victor Hansen of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and Philip Kotler. After a decade of hiatus from the writing scene with motherhood taking center stage of her schedule, Denice is once again picking up from where she left off via the Side Tripper, where she shares her travel adventures and side trips through the lens of photographer Kit Elton Pilla, also known as her husband and father to her son Kyle David.

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