Hill Station was closed, we were famished. So we had to look for another place to eat. Right next to Casa Vallejo (Hill Station) is Barrio Fiesta. It’s a Filipino restaurant chain. During my younger days, this has been one of my Mom’s favorites. I still remember the Crispy Pata (deep fried pork thighs) and my favorite dish pinakbet ( a mix of vegetables, bagoong, pork and shrimp). What could possibly go wrong? – right. A lot, this adventure turned quickly into a scene from Dante’s Inferno – sans pool of the wailing dead and all those mythical characters wanting a pound of your flesh. Hence our ordeal:
The entrance, you will be greeted by life-size wooden statues. Baguio is famous for these wonderful life-size woodcarvings. In fact, it was an enjoyable and entertaining experience to be greeted by the Former President of the Philippines – Corazon Aquino seated with Cardinal Sin (Yes that’s his name). These 2 statues have the most “look I am in Baguio” tags on Facebook. In deference to our Facebook friends, we decided to respect history and abide by the rule of good taste and not have the normal Facebook Selfie or “look I am in Baguio” photo with Cory and the Cardinal. We were sorely tempted though.
Entering the restaurant
The place was nice and clean. We saw four tables combined together to serve a party of balikbayans having lunch with their families. It was cozy. As we were led to an adjacent table we politely asked for more quieter surroundings at the far end of the room. We were accommodated. Place was nice the waiters were friendly. Hence we ordered. And our ordeal began,
Pinakbet, this is not a representative of what I am used too.
Here’s why, traditional Filipino dining ware consists of a plate, a spoon and a fork. You put your food on the plate and use your spoon and fork to eat. Knives are not typical. A main course is always accompanied by rice as a staple. Since, we traditionally eat like this, the main dish has to be either soft so you can slice it with your spoon or cut in smaller portions to fit your spoon along with rice(a teaspoonful or 3/4 tablespoonful).
I liked my vegetables crunchy but cooked. This is not cooked. If I wanted something in my mouth that would poke my teeth and injure my gums – I go see a dentist. Chewing on this, is akin to the same experience as a root canal without proper anesthetics. This thing wasn’t cooked right! The saltiness of the bagoong was not evenly distributed. It’s like you are blindfolded and asked to kiss somebody in an alley – you’ll never know whether you’ll be slapped, kissed back, bitten or shot. The pork was not tender and the shrimp gave its life in vain. It really died and hid behind the vegetables.
After this, what could possibly go wrong? Man, I was wrong “hell hath no fury than the next dish”.
The dish above -to this day my friend and I have yet to classify. It is supposedly advertised as sinampalukang manok (chicken soup with tamarind leaves) This dish does not have tamarind leaves and the chicken resembles some bloody thing that remained after a car accident. It takes a while to figure if a chicken is under cooked – the bloody and uncooked portions usually hide very close to the bone. You really have to operate to find blood and it usually hides in a very discrete place. This chicken screamed with blood “Blood !!!” asking for vengeance “Please avenge my death !!!”. I poked around the soup and wondered what else was lurking behind what normally should be a nice yellowish clear soup (by the way this is orangey). If there were vegetables in there I couldn’t identify it. If there were, they didn’t die happy.
As an ultimate salute, I took a sip -against protest from my companion, warning me that you should not eat that. Against sane advice, this is what I said ‘We already know its bad … It can’t possibly be any worse” ( this was in Filipino btw). I took a sip. And It was really bad. Really, it was Bad. We didn’t touch this thing and we hastily paid our bill and left.
After this ordeal you might ask if we tipped – Please don’t.