At home,  Great Eats

Homey Mediterranean Fare at Socrates’ Secret + snaps from my Halloween weekend

See that charming little place above? Well before I get to that I wanted to talk a little about how I spent my Halloween weekend this year. My life lately has pretty much consisted of work from Mondays to Saturdays. Admittedly it kind of sucks the life out of me, but that’s how it is right? You have to work to earn your keep. The good thing about working six times a week all-year long is that whenever I get any break from that routine, I find myself appreciating those “stolen moments” tenfold. This feeling did not come naturally to me before.

When you’re young you’re very idealistic. It’s not wrong to have big dreams, but sometimes it’s all you focus on until everything else becomes a blur of insufficiency. It’s hard to fall into that kind of hole; one where you think that nothing else except the things you want can make you happy. I was stuck in that hole for a while some time ago, but I’m glad that I’m slowly climbing out. Now, there are a lot of small random good moments that feel magnified to me no matter how simple they look from the outside. These small things suddenly feel “worthy” of holding on to, and bit by bit I am beginning to understand what the words ‘gratitude’ and ‘blessed’ mean. I think I’m even beginning to realize that finding happiness doesn’t have to be so hard. Or extravagant. The words I just wrote are perhaps what people might call cliche, but I bet most don’t even truly grasp what they mean.

My weekend was well-spent with my family down in the countryside. It’s funny because at first I wasn’t supposed to go with them but I changed my mind at the last minute. We were on the road for hours so it gave me ample time to edit my travel videos that have been on my to-do list for literally eight months. (EIGHT. OMG. If that’s not slacking off, I don’t know what is!) I am really really glad I finally finished it.

When we got to our destination, we spent a good deal of time just generally frolicking outdoors. I generally enjoy being outside, just not in the city. Not only is it dirty and polluted, but it is less safe too. Down here on the countryside, I get to freely run around and appreciate nature right outside our house. The fact that we are not Wi-Fi wired definitely helps in my spend-more-time-breathing-fresh-air campaign too. The positive energy was all around and it’s hard not to get caught up in it. Add to that the golden hour was exquisite that day. Thanks to the brief rain a few hours earlier the droplets of water made everything sparkle as if bathed in gold glitter.

As the sun was setting I remember thinking, ‘It’s the first sunset of November. How time flies!’ It’s almost Christmas, you guys! Seems only yesterday when it was the new year!

Soon enough, it was time to head back to regular life in the city. On our way back we stopped by the Greenfield-developed compound Paseo de Sta. Rosa. I had received an e-mail (how very timely as well) inviting me to try out this baby restaurant in the area called Socrates’ Secret. It’s barely a month old I think, so there hasn’t been much written about it on the Internet yet. All I know is that it serves Mediterranean food. This cuisine is totally my family’s style.

First things first: I adoooore the interior of the restaurant. The colours inside are vibrant, giving off a feel-good vibe upon walking in. I love the carefully-placed decor against the wooden shelves and walls; the white curtains that attract the light and make the area a lot brighter. I love the patterned tiles on the front counter. The restaurant has a very cozy Mediterranean-style ambiance that draws you in and makes you want to stay a long while. I feel like if you remove all the dining tables, this would be a nice living space.

Right off the bat we are seated and offered menus to order from. I let my Dad and brothers order because I was positively enthralled by the place and so I wandered off to snap photos. I wanted to literally take home that whole shelf with everything on it at the end of our table. 🙂

There is a small play area (the Imagination Corner) for kids in one corner of the restaurant, in case the adults want to stay and chitchat and the kids need to find something to do. I love that the placemats double as a colouring page, and that the kids’ works of art are posted on the wall. I think it adds to the homey feeling of the restaurant because this is a sight you would typically find in a house. There is a real effort in making the restaurant a family-friendly one, and I admire that.

The restaurant also sells some trinkets, bracelets, and earrings that are mostly owl-themed. There are a lot of owl-things here and it makes me realize that I actually am developing a liking for them. If you’ve been paying attention to your Greek history lessons, you probably know that the owl is the animal that the goddess Athena always has on her shoulder. Many of the philosophers and scholars during the olden days consider Athena’s owl as the symbol of wisdom, and Socrates is no exception. 

Alongside those trinkets, you can also take home some of their flavoured sea salts. The owls on the labels are so cute! These would make great finishing salts for fish and any other meat really. 

As we were waiting for our food we were given a bowl of trail mix to snack on. I love me some sweet and salty trail mix!

First up for our appetizers, we ordered some hummus and tzatziki served with pita bread. The way they make hummus (Php 150) here is a bit dry so if you’re like me and prefer a smoother type of hummus, just ask for more olive oil and it should solve the problem. Meanwhile, the tzatziki (Php 150) is your typical yoghurt-based dip that is light and refreshing thanks to its mild flavour. 

Next up we had two salads, and I found both of them a bit underwhelming. We are a family who loves our Mediterranean salad probably more than any other type to be honest. We love it with lettuce and tangy sauces, with figs and walnuts, and because we have eaten some very good salads in places like Cyma and Greeka Kouzina, this Rustic Salad (Php 370 to share) falls a little short. However the ingredients are incredibly fresh and flavourful, and the salad is generously topped with feta cheese. In the salad you get olives, bell peppers, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, and my favourite: capers. 

Next we have the Couscous Tabbouleh Salad (Php 190), which is simply couscous tossed with some chopped up herbs and veggies. I feel like this could use a little bit more punch, maybe a bit more tang here and there.

My brother Jason has a thing for creamy soups so he ordered this Creamy Potato Carrot Yoghurt Soup (Php 195) for himself. I had a little taste and quite liked the thick and rich texture of the soup. It tastes more potato than carrot, and the yoghurt tang isn’t at all strong. 

When the next dish was laid down I was a little excited. I really like Falafels (Php 190), fried patties made from a seasoned garbanzo mix and served with tzatziki as a dip. I have to say the falafels were very nicely seasoned. I liked them a whole lot better than the fluffy but mild-tasting Potato Cakes (Php 250). The potato cakes have cheese and herbs and lemons in it, but I love even more how the falafel bursts with flavour and really grabs your attention. I want more please!

Moving on to the main dishes, without a doubt the best-dressed dish of the meal was this Moussaka Pasta Bake (Php 295). This is the restaurant’s own take on the layered Greek classic. They added a layer of lasagna noodles before pouring in the bechamel sauce and cheeses. I had some really high expectations for this beautiful-looking dish, and even though I feel like the texture of that browned ring around the moussaka was quite off, I actually liked it a lot. I know, it’s a little weird.

I’m not sure if this was intentional (I doubt it), but that looks like burnt bechamel and cheese right there. You know how sometimes when you order pizza and it would have some brown spots of crunchy burnt cheese on top? That is kind of what this tastes like, and strangely enough it works for me. Maybe the dish is a little hard to slice into but it is like biting into crunchy moussaka, if that makes sense. This moussaka bakes into a more solid form than usual, so it’s not something you can dip pita bread into. I think this recipe could use a bit more perfecting.

Up next, we ordered their Tuna, Olives, and Capers Pasta (Php 295). While all those things are undoubtedly Mediterranean flavours, I felt like this pasta is something I could find almost anywhere that serves this type of cuisine. It’s a little ordinary.

But then they bring out the game-changer– the Ground Lamb Pizza With Arugula (Php 275). This is hands-down my favourite dish of the whole meal. The savoury ground lamb contrasts well with the marinated sweet onions, and then eat it all up with the arugula and you really have yourself a winner right here. The crumbled feta and chopped green chilli also help the flavour wagon along. This is the type of thing they should develop more! I love when a dish can tickle several spots on my tastebud.

The onions are a bit redder than usual because they were marinated in a Grenadine, vinegar, and sugar solution to give them a bit of a sweet lift. They look like strawberries, don’t they? This dish is a must-try, and I need a fix of this pizza pronto.

Finally we were down to our last dish. The Lamb Chops with Ratatouille and Rice Pilaf (Php 590) is a complete meal in itself, but as is our typical practice when eating out at a new restaurant, we order dishes and split it among us so we can get a taste of as much of the menu items as we can. I enjoyed this dish a lot.

The lamb is seasoned well and the ratatouille is nice and tangy. It’s not a dish that I would call groundbreaking, but it’s still quite delicious. The lamb is amazing with mint jelly of course. My brothers commented that you could come in here and order this dish and leave satisfied already. It’s a generous piece of yummy lamb with a good amount of ratatouille on the side after all.

Being opened for less than a month, it’s understandable why this baby restaurant is still struggling a little bit to find its footing, but that doesn’t really mean they don’t serve good food. On the contrary, if I were to describe the food here in one word, homey comes to mind. I feel like the offerings here give a bit more home-style feel rather than commercial appeal. This restaurant has an abundance of potential to be something great, and I think that in time they will find a good mix of things for their menu as they continue to build and develop it. I hope by then they will invite me to drop by again. 😉

I can say that all in all the experience was still an enjoyable one even though the restaurant is still at its infancy stage. I’m still dreaming of that pizza a day later so obviously they’ve done some dishes excellently. There are also some menu items I’m thinking of trying, such as my ever favourite souvlakis, and the baba ganoush because I enjoy eggplant dips a whole lot. I definitely will when I get the chance to come back! Also, the owners are very hands on and personally walk around the tables to chat.

If anyone is in the area it’s worth giving this place a go! Oh and since it was a day after Halloween when we went there they gave us little loot envelops filled with Halloween candy too!

So how did everyone else spend their Halloween weekends? 🙂


Socrates’ Secret

Units 9 & 10G Laguna Central Building, Greenfield
(right across National Bookstore Paseo de Sta. Rosa)
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