Even though Lola Café has been around enough time to turn into a real crowd favorite, I have no qualms about admitting I’ve never been. Though I call myself a food blogger, I don’t really care about being the first person to try a new restaurant. I will go when I’m ready. But that doesn’t mean I am hearing about Lola Café for the first time. They’re a restaurant popular for their modern interpretations of Filipino dishes after all.
Lola Café has a lot of rave reviews, and after a meal there I would say that a lot of the comments are well founded. But the restaurant did not exactly give me a purely great experience to bring home. It started out really well though. I called in a reservation and found that we would be running late, so I called to move the reservation to a slightly later time and they were very accommodating.
Upon arriving, the place was jam-packed. I was nervous at first that my reservation change got lost in all the hubbub and that our table might’ve been given away, but thankfully our table was still available. We were told it was upstairs, and were haphazardly pointed to the table. We sat there for about 5 minutes, ignored, not even being given menus to look at.
Now truth be told, I am the type of person who can be understanding in these types of situations. I saw how the restaurant was really incredibly busy, and sometimes the staff can be a bit daunted by it. Some may argue it’s not an excuse, since these people have been in this business for a while and should therefore be professionals no matter the situation. However they are still people, so I try to empathize with them.
But you know what? Rudeness in a restaurant setting isn’t just something you visibly perceive from the face of someone working there. Rudeness also comes in the form of having the staff ignore a customer, repeatedly. I asked for the menu twice from two passing servers, and my brother even stood and went downstairs to ask for a menu from the staff down there. Nothing. During my fourth time asking for a menu, I had a bit of edge to my voice already. We’d been sitting there for nearly 10 minutes, so I told my family that we should just eat elsewhere if they’re going to continue ignoring us. Thankfully, the menu arrived before a potential walk-out happened.
I’m not writing this to put down Lola Cafe or fish for sympathy or whatever. I’m simply telling it as it is, because frankly it was not a good way to start a restaurant experience AT ALL.
Despite my annoyance, I kept my voice even as I talked to the waiter. I didn’t want to return the rudeness I received because then there would’ve been no end to it. And then I hoped very fervently as I waited for our orders to arrive that the food would at least carry away the thoughts of me not wanting to come here to eat again. (Not that it would matter to them. I am just one among their thousands of loyal paying customers, after all.)
The appetizers we ordered couldn’t have been more different from each other. Fries and salad, two dishes on the opposite sides of the spectrum. The Keso de Bola Fries, topped with a rich sauce made with keso de bola and salted egg, was more like a potato casserole. The potatoes were soggy under the sauce, but understandably so. The egg yolk melted into the spaces between the potatoes and created this savory well of stickiness. The Alugbati & Kesong Puti Salad meanwhile was more up my alley. It was a lot less one-note than the fries. The zesty flavors of the garlic-balsamic dressing played around the palate, and the freshness took away the greasy feeling the fries gave me.
Speaking of fresh, that was the best part about Lola’s Diningding. There’s nothing new about the fish sauce-forward flavor of this dish, but the mixed fresh veggies and the way they were cooked made me enjoy this dish a lot. Overcooked, malabsa veggies are not my jam. Talking about meat this time, Lola’s reinterpretation of Bicol Express was quite enjoyable. You’ve got generous slices of pork belly, flavored with a coconut cream sauce and some bagoong plus fresh chilis.
Since I am biased towards spicy coconut cream-infused dishes, I enjoyed this dish a lot. The meat isn’t as melt in the mouth as I anticipated, but it was tender and enjoyable. This had a less oily mouth-feel than most normal Bicol Express dishes, and it was one of the more memorable parts of this meal for me. The price is fair I suppose.
Meanwhile, I thought the Truffle Lengua was quite expensive for the serving size, but at least the truffle cream sauce was done well. It was neither overpowering nor too understated, which is a valuable thing when cooking with truffle. The texture of the slow-cooked ox tongue was also perfect, and I thought this was a great way to change up a traditional mushroom sauce lengua.
Up to this point, I though the dishes were good, but none of them left a lasting impression on me until we got to the pasta dishes. The Spicy Tinapa Pasta, was incredibly tasty, with some really good smoked bangus flakes littered everywhere in the dish. I actually really like spicy tinapa and eat them anywhere, but to me they are especially good in pasta. And this was perfectly done. I loved the kick, and the smokiness, and the fact that adding the calamansi into the pasta takes the flavors up a notch. It wasn’t dry nor too oily neither.
The unexpected star of the night was the Pasta Negra. I will admit it was one of the best Pasta Negras I have eaten so far, and we do order this dish every chance we get. I loved the creaminess of the squid ink sauce. It had a very buttery quality to it in terms of texture and even taste, adding some richness to balance out the salty squid ink. IT WAS SO GOOD. You’d be too busy eating to even think about smiling with your black teeth.
Oh, and before I forget to mention: We ordered some drinks, but unless your planning to drink a particular favorite brand of liquor, I think you should just skip them. This carafe of Red Sangria was good but it was so small I didn’t feel like it was good value for money.
That said, I was very happy that Lola Café did not make me regret my decision to stay and eat. I had been telling my family to come and eat here for some time now, so even though the bad experience at the start was technically not my fault, if the food did not deliver after all that, it would’ve been my fault by default for suggesting this place lol. I was pretty happy with the food, but mostly I was relieved. Despite my own experience, the hype for this place wasn’t entirely unfounded.
I highly recommend a reservation when you come here as it can literally be packed during meal hours. I imagine you’d be waiting a long time if you decide to be a walk-in customer. Parking is a bit difficult, but on a weekend it’s manageable. The price can be a bit high for certain dishes, but it’s actually within the same range as most hip restaurants around the metro these days. Clearly the patrons don’t find it much of an issue.
As for me, I can’t even answer the question of whether I’d come back here or not. Maybe during a non-peak hour, but definitely it would be for the pasta.
99 Scout Lozano St, Diliman, Quezon City
Hours: Mondays to Thursdays: 11:30AM to 10PM / Fridays & Saturdays: 11:30AM to 11PM / Sundays: 10:30AM to 9PM / Friday, Saturday: 7AM to 2AM
Contact No.: 0917 817 6045
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Full disclosure: This post is NOT sponsored in any way. I paid for this meal on my own and received no compensation for writing this post. All opinions stated above are my own.