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
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
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.
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.
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.
Address: Joya Lofts, Rockwell Makati
Contact Numbers: 625-5166 | 0917 529 6351