Gosh, it’s been ages since I last visited Baguio. 15 years to be exact :). So when my good friend M invited us to join her for a weekend getaway to the City of Pines, the H and I (along with my cousin A, and her husband, D) didn’t really have to think twice :).
I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about the gastronomic adventures one can look forward to in Baguio. While the sights have not really changed much in the last 15 years (except to look a bit older), the dining scene apparently, is alive and kicking.
This got me really, really excited! I mean, who doesn’t love eating, right? Hahaha! Well, I obviously do :). So before our journey, I did a little research, and listed down all the places I wanted to try :). Thankfully, we had enough number of days, and enough number of meals to do so. Hahaha!
Here is a run-down of our favorite Baguio eats :
1. Cafe by the Ruins
Photo courtesy of pasahera.com
The first stop on our culinary escapade was Cafe by the Ruins. I guess a trip to Baguio is not complete without stopping by here. This oldie but goodie is located on Shuntung Road. While it is one of the city’s must-try’s, can you believe I’ve never even set foot in it? As in ever? Where have I been, right? Hahaha!
So the minute we arrived in the city, we pretty much made a beeline for the restaurant (we were also quite hungry na!). We chose to have their various specialties such as the Baguio bagnet, duck, crispy tapa, and some chicken sotanghon soup for the little girl. We also tried their Rizal’s Tsokolate-e, which was surprisingly a bit different from what I was expecting. I was hoping for a thick, creamy, and steaming cup of hot chocolate to warm my belly. This version, although good, was a bit runny and not as milky as I would have wanted.
Our food, however, was both yummy and satisfying. I love that it was served with healthy mountain rice, a side of tomato relish, and a generous serving of ulam.
For our first meal in Baguio, I’d say Cafe by the Ruins set the tone just right. Even in terms of ambience, I thought it was very charming–with the “old”, antique-ish looking wooden furniture, the work of local artists that were on display, the light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, and the walls or ruins, ofcourse, that inspired the restaurant’s name. I also loved how open and maaliwalas the place felt :).
Photo courtesy of ourawesomeplanet.com
Needless to say, we enjoyed our experience there very much :).
2. Hill Station
Dinner that evening was spent at another Baguio must, Hill Station. Located right underneath SM Baguio on Upper Session Road, Hill Station is recognized as a Miele Best Restaurant in Asia. Impressive, right? It’s offerings are influenced by the chef’s travels throughout Europe, America, and Asia, so it has quite an interesting and varied menu selection.
Both the H and I decided to try their recommended pasta dishes–the seafood carbonara, and the spinach and mushroom ravioli. Both were equally good, but I have to say the carbonara was my favorite of the two :). There was a spice in the ravioli that I couldn’t quite identify, but that made the flavor very unique and unlike other ravioli’s I’ve tried. You could totally tell how fresh the pasta was, too, made from scratch in Hill Station’s own kitchen.
I would definitely love to come back to try some of the other dishes, such as the Cambodian coriander and garlic chicken, as well as the Moroccan-spiced ribs that my cousin-in-law, D, had (he said it was yummers, by the way :)). We decided to go a bit “light” with dinner that night and didn’t order too much so as to save our tummies for our last course–dessert!
But before I move on to the next restaurant, I have to give special mention to the ambience at Hill Station. I loved it for its elegant simplicity, for its homey, easy vibe. I loved the huge windows that surrounded the entire dining area, and the two staircases leading to the second floor. I actually felt like I was eating in someone’s living room! Hahaha! The dimmed lights also made it feel quite romantic, but at the same time, it is conducive for family dining as well :). Too bad it didn’t have a fireplace. That would have sealed the deal for me :).
Hill Station is also right next to Mt. Cloud Bookstore, by the way, another must-visit in Baguio :).
3. Choco-late de Batirol
For dessert, we decided to try another one of Baguio’s classic restaurants–Choco-late de Batirol in Camp John Hay.
I was surprised to see that it literally looked like a shack in the middle of a forest! Hahaha! Granted, however, it was hard to miss since it was pretty much the only establishment on the road :).
What I loved about this place was how rustic it looked. It had so much personality! Tables were either made out of wood in a local design, or made out of bamboo slats. Each table had a woven runner, obviously made by the native artisans. I love how they made use of and are proud of their indigenous accessories and tableware. It definitely added so much charm and uniqueness to the interiors of the restaurant :).
Their choco-late was also very good, although similarly runny like the one we had earlier at Cafe by the Ruins. It made me conclude that Baguio tsokolate probably really has that consistency :).
4. Ketchup Community
On Day 2 of our Baguio getaway, we did a lot of sightseeing. We decided to take the little one to see all the places we used to frequent when we were younger. At around lunch time, we found ourselves at Wright Park, so we decided to try an interesting place just across the street called Ketchup Community.
Ketchup Community is precisely a community of restaurants enclosed within one location. Each establishment there serves a different type of cuisine such as American, Thai, Filipino, Italian, etc. If you find yourself without a particular craving, that’s not a problem at Ketchup Community because you are welcome to cross-order from the other restaurants, just as long as 50% of your meal comes from the restaurant where you are sitting. Cool, right?
That afternoon, we decided to try Canto. I was sold when I saw how mouth-wateringly yummy their burgers looked…and their ribs, too! I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve had a burger! Hahaha! Because the H isn’t particularly fond of eating them, I find myself craving for a bite, every so often. This was one of them times! Hahaha! And thankfully, Canto’s burger was very flavorful and soooo gooood! It hit the spot! I have to admit I enjoyed the bun a little too much too :(. Ayayayay! With the side of fries that I devoured almost entirely, this meal unfortunately turned into a carb-fest as well. Tsk, tsk!!!!
Aside from the burger, I was also attracted to the open seating of Canto, which allowed us to take advantage of the pleasant weather. Coming from a stormy and foggy first day, the sunny but cool climate we enjoyed that day was precisely the Baguio weather we were looking forward to :).
5. Mama’s Table by Chef Vicky Tinio-Clemente
I’d been hearing a lot about this private dining experience in Baguio, and I’m glad we were actually able to take part in it during this trip. My friend M’s mom, Tita L, happens to be a good friend of Chef Vicky, so she arranged for a special 5-course meal for a group of us (we were 26 in all!) at her residence.
The fog was already quite thick as we made our way up the mountains, and it seemed like we were driving to a very secluded destination. When we finally arrived at the home of Chef Vicky, it was so dark, save for the light that illuminated her front porch.
It definitely didn’t prepare me for the what greeted us, as we entered the front door…
What a sight to behold right? From the grand fireplace, to the high ceilings, from the huge floor to ceiling windows, to the very large, cozy sofas at the center of the room, Chef Vicky’s weekend family residence is one of those places that instantly make you feel at home. Aside from the beautiful interiors, I love how homey and intimate it felt, despite the size of the room. I immediately felt so comfortable, and at ease, like I’d been there a million times already. Chef Vicky’s home provided such a wonderful venue to enjoy amazing food, and equally amazing company!
Unfortunately, my iPhone crashed that same night so pictures of the first part of the meal–the appetizer spread–are gone forever :(. Huhuhu :(. I am so bummed because the appetizers were not just good, but were also so prettily presented on the table. We had a variety of spreads to choose from such as an artichoke dip, kani spread, chili, and a selection of cured meats, crisp breads, and even chicharon! Everything tasted soooo good! I actually had to discipline myself just to try a little of each, so I wouldn’t ruin my appetite. I couldn’t wait for the rest of the evening’s meal :)!
Luckily, though, I was able to take pictures of the four other courses using my camera. This is what we feasted on that evening :)…
Everything from the soup to the dessert was cooked to perfection! I kid you not! The mushroom soup was creamy, and I loved that it was laced with truffle oil. YUM!!! The salmon was cooked just right, and was nicely complemented by the roasted squash. The roast beef was very tender and soft, simple yet satisfying. I loved the salad with its fresh greens, crunchy nuts, and refreshingly sweet orange slivers. And to think I’m not really such a salad person. Hahaha! Despite the fact that I devoured each and every dish, the meal was so nicely paced that I didn’t feel at all full, and definitely had room for dessert :)! Or does that mean that my stomach has expanded already? Que Horror!
For our last meal in Baguio, we had lunch at Chaya on Legarda Road.
Chaya is a charming old house turned Japanese restaurant. I love the dark wooden walls that are reminiscent of many old homes in Baguio, as well as the quilts that adorn the walls.
But the star of this restaurant is most definitely the food!
We were so excited to try it out that we ended up ordering so much–Chirashi, Chicken Teriyaki Salad, Chicken Teriyaki, Salmon Sashimi, Mixed Tempura and Sukiyaki! To wash it all down, I couldn’t resist ordering their Green Tea shake too! It was sooooo yummy!
To say we enjoyed our food is an understatement. We LOVED it! The tempura batter was light and crisp, the soup of the sukiyaki was not too sweet and very comforting, the salad had a wonderful, tangy dressing that was quite refreshing, the chicken teriyaki was soft and had a nice glaze to it, and the sushi was fresh and served in huge slices. What more could we ask for, right? And the cherry on top was that everything was sooo reasonably priced!
We definitely ended our trip on a high note with Chaya!
So there you have it, six of Baguio’s best culinary gems :). Should you find yourself in the City of Pines anytime soon, do take the time to check them out! I am sure, like us, you will be truly delighted!