When in Manila, find time to experience classic Filipino food from Abé …. where good friends dine.
Abé (ah-beh) is a Capampangan word for friend or companion. Last July 28, we visited Abé at TriNoMa for dinner. Inside, the dining room atmosphere is intimate and warm. The design is clean, simple. A couple of capiz windows add character to the room
At Abé, a number of dishes are reinterpretation of classics. Some may surprise you others are plain common. As we sat at our table, the wait staff Emz and Vince introduced themselves. The enthusiasm speaks about the service they can offer, a level that will be measured for consistency throughout our dinner. Emz attended to us and walked us through dish by dish, trying to provide as much details as she possibly can. From that point on, we had more sense of menu understanding. However, as with most Filipino restaurants, simplicity in cooking is the hardest thing to achieve. There’s this tendency to overdo each dish, and my review will revolve around this simplicity. The simplicity in ingredients, execution and the over-all dining experience
And so it begins …
To start, we had Paco Fern and Tomato Salad. The simplest preparation preserved its beauty of color and height. The salted egg gave a light salty contrast to the sweet and sour taste of fern, tomato and light salad dressing.
Second, Burong Mangga (pickled green mango slices). My Mom and sister liked this one. I thought it was plain, nothing really special to rave about.
Third, not for the faint hearted we had Betute (farm frogs stuffed with minced pork). One needs to be adventurous to pull this off. It was surprisingly tasty, leaning towards delicious but a bit overcooked. It may have been cooked that way to get rid of any perceived aftertaste.
Fourth, Gising Gising. My favorite among the dishes we had for dinner. The delicate crunch of the beans combined with creamy and fragrant coconut milk made for a delicious dish.
Fifth, Mutton Adobo with Popped Garlic. An example of reinvented classic, this meat dish was served moist and tender. The popped garlic was a perfect complement that added flavor and texture to the dish. We all agreed that this was indeed delicious however I found it quite oily for my taste.
Sixth, Klasik Kare Kare. It was indeed a classic take, yes it was delicious but not extraordinary.
Seventh, Knockout Knuckles. Not your usual crispy pata as it tasted like it was spice-infused. Juicy and packed with flavor but not outstanding.
Eight, Binukadkad na Pla Pla (overgrown crispy fried tilapia). There really isn’t anything special about this dish except for its overgrown size and butterfly presentation. It should score extra points for creativity though. The accompanying Balo-Balo relish and mustard leaves are worth trying. The relish totally changed the way I think about fermented rice.
Ninth, Sikreto ni Maria. Apparently this is Abé’s signature dessert. It was a beautiful white dessert and the taste tickled my curiosity so I asked Emz and Vince to tell us more about this dessert. They both smiled and said the ingredients are top-secret thus the name “Sikreto ni Maria”. This dessert was a welcome twist on the classic suman (sticky rice) sandwiched between slices of ripe mango. It was topped with ice cream that’s really creamy not icy and caramelized young coconut shavings. There’s also generous serving of what appeared or tasted to be creamed and lightly sweetened coconut or carabao’s milk. This dessert tasted beautiful.
And oh, we had Tamarind Shake too. I took note of the just the right blend of sweet, sour and salty tastes. But that’s just it. I perhaps was expecting to get the usual “kilig” feeling when eating tamarind. I didn’t have that unfortunately.
That moment spent with your loved ones over good food transcends dining as we know it. It would have been truly memorable had the service been natural and consistent. The expectation was for ladies to always be served first. It wasn’t the case here, it was random to the point that we thought they ran out of rice when they missed serving my sister’s plate. Also, watch out for empty glasses. I need not elaborate this rule. Ok these are minute details, but these can sometimes break an otherwise beautiful experience. Agree?
Forget that we braved that stormy evening as the experience was well worth it. We were full and happy. The complex layering of tastes and flavors matched the simplicity of ingredients and execution. And that mattered most to us.
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You can contact Abé for reservations at: 0927-222-2601
Abé: find time to experience classic Filipino food