Café Bola: Filipino-Italian Café Bar For The Discriminating Mass Audience.. Comfort Food At Its Best

18 11 2008

[This was originally written on August 30, 2004.] 

GREENBELT 3                                                      ARANETA COLISEUM ARCADE

Second Level,                                                    Araneta Coliseum Arcade

Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center,                              Araneta Center, Cubao,

Makati City                                                          Quezon City

757-2652                                                               913-2928

Open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner         Open from 10AM to 11PM, Sunday to Thursday,

                                                                              Open from 10AM to 12MN, Friday and Saturday

 

I’M ALL for and about cool comfort food.  So the attraction to try out Café Bola in Greenbelt 3 was but natural.  That and the fact that it has behind it the name Margarita Araneta Fores, a name synonymous with what a famous movie character would call confident and inventive cusine.  And those in the know are aware that Café Bola is just one of Ms. Fores’ three fantastic restaurants.  The other two being the Italian Family Ristorante-Bistro ‘Cibo‘ and the high-end, fine-dining place ‘Pepato‘ in the Greenbelt 2 Restaurant Strip.  If there ever was an unspoken hierarchy for Ms. Fores’ restaurants, I think Café Bola would be the one for her mass audience, and Pepato would be for the elite, with Cibo bridging the gap.

 

While perusing the extensive one-page menu, we started with a round of drinks, soup and an appetizer.  When Café Bola first opened at the Araneta Coliseum Arcade in Cubao, it created quite a curiosity stir with its Kamias‘ Shake (Php 60.00), pale green, sweet and tart at the same time.  I personally hesitated to try this shake because the word ‘kamias‘ conjures up images of ‘sinigang (meat or fish cooked in a sour broth with native vegetables)‘ and not some cool drink that I would wash food down with.  But hey, what’s the point in trying out a new place if I wouldn’t order its house (drink) specialty?!  So I got one for starters, and for later, I got ice-cold ‘Lemongrass Tea’ (Php 60.00).  The ‘Kamias‘ Shake was nothing I feared it to be, and can only be considered as the crowning glory of Café Bola’s line of fresh fruit shakes.  The ice-cold Lemongrass Tea was calming and soothing, much like the local ‘Salabat (Ginger Ale)’, and the only thing closest to the ice-cold Chrysanthemum drink I fell in love with during a couple of trips to Malaysia.  The drinks alone were so comforting that with every sip, I fell more in love with place.  And the ‘Banana Heart and Cheese Dip With Pan De Sal Rounds’ (Php 120.00) wasn’t of any help from preventing me to plummet head over heels to food heaven on earth.  I think this is Margarita’s take on the classic Italian Spinach and Artichoke Cheese Dip.  Her use of the banana heart, instead of the artichoke, while being innovative and clever, actually works!  The dip blends perfectly together the mild, nutty flavor of the cheese and the chunky texture of the banana heart.  It was perfect for the toasted pan de sal rounds, which I later found out could be exchanged for the soft, untoasted ones (Php 15.00 for an extra serving).  The toasted pan de sal was also the perfect accompaniment to the home-brewed ‘Cream of Mushroom Soup’ (Php 65.00) that I ordered from the day’s roster of soups.  It was very yummy and fresh and didn’t taste anything like the popular canned soup.  If I could only make the same pot of soup, I would have the perfect bowl to snuggle with during the torrential rains when it is no good going outdoors and it would be best to stay home and watch a little TV, or better yet, a movie.

 

By the time the waiter was clearing away the soup bowl, I wouldn’t call myself famished anymore.  But I sure still had a lot of space to fill up.  What with the really tempting choices for the main course!!!  I started off with the ‘Fried Bangus (Milkfish) Belly With Crunchy Pork Skin And Baby Crab Fat Rice’ (Php 225.00) which I requested to be served with Fresh Tomato-Cilantro Salsa instead of the usual Garlicky Vinegar.  I chose this because of the baby crab fat rice, especially since I haven’t had my favorite ‘Aligui (Baby Crab Fat)’ Pasta for quite some time now.  The milkfish was tender and flavorful, rich in healthy fish belly fat.  It tasted much better with the fresh cilantro salsa, and a sprinkling of the crunchy pork skin (chicharon), with a lot of the rice in every bite!  If you’re like me, a big rice eater, one is never enough.  So I ended up ordering extra ‘Baby Crab Fat Rice’ (Php 85.00)    but don’t have too much!  The baby crab fat is high in cholesterol.  But the health-conscious need not fret.  There are quite a number of dishes on the menu that are marked “good for the heart.”  I was just not in the mood to try them out myself that night.  What I found were a couple more entrees that I just had to have.  ‘Botsky’s Tuna Laing Rice’ (Php 150.00) was not disappointing.  Their ‘laing‘, which is dried taro leaves cooked in a spicy coconut sauce, was a burst of flavors from the creamy coconut milk, the taro leaves and the pow-pow spiciness of the local chili, punctuated by the succulent and tender chunks of fresh tuna (which in itself is good for the heart!).  It was really a flavor of the Bicol region in every spoonful.  Lastly, I had one of their home breakfast specialties which is actually available at any time of the day: ‘Spicy Tuyo (Herring) Filets On Rice With Scrambled Eggs And Fresh Tomato-Cilantro Salsa’.  You can never get any closer to home than with this dish.  It was so visually appealing too    served in a deep pristine white bowl, with the colors of the tuyo filets and the scrambled eggs contrasting marvelously.  But admiring the presentation didn’t last long as I had to really dig my spoon and fork in and devour the dish that best reminded me of breakfasts at home that would kick off another busy day at school.  Or in more recent memory, a breakfast like this would set my friends and I off to long drives to destinations like Stanford University, Vacaville or San Francisco.

 

I almost mopped my plates clean with the pan de sal rounds.  And this was all because of the undeniably excellent food, which by the time I was taking my last sips of the ice-cold Lemongrass Tea, I had proven not only to be really confident and inventive, but trailblazing as well.  With the freshness of the ingredients they use, the brightly lit mostly-red interiors, the lightly pert and exuberant ambiance, not to mention the excellent attentive service, I would say their prices are very reasonable.  Undeniably excellent food and reasonable prices sure sound like a knockout one-two punch I’d keep coming back to and actually have.

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That's the beautiful "Partner", in one of our more recent visits to Cafe Bola's Greenbelt 2 branch.

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One response

19 11 2008
Clint

Uy naaalala ko yung mga articles na ito!!! I can’t believe you still have copies of these. Nakaka-miss ang news-later! 🙂

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