Monday, April 5, 2010

The Roving Gourmand: Gerardo's: Belly busting meals that won't break the bank

By Chanda Shahani

This is a tale of two 24-hour restos: the newer Gerardo's branch in Timog Avenue, Quezon City and the older Gerardo's in Panay Avenue, Quezon City, both of which are run by its proprietor, Mr. Carlos Agulto. The former is situated in front of GMA-7 while the latter is in front of ABS-CBN. While both are aesthetically miles apart, both have dishes that are certainly pleasing to the palate.

The atmosphere in Gerardo's Café and Bistro in Timog Avenue is very pleasing and elegant. Launched last January 31, 2010, it attracts broadcast journalists, actors and staff from GMA-7 and nearby establishments. The lighting is diffused and the large plate glass windows give an unobstructed view of GMA-7. The little touches that matter are all there: late edition magazines to read; a waiting area with upholstered chairs; small compact coffee tables with filligree designs and a large display of cakes make this café-cum-bistro worth taking a second look at.

The staff was warm and helpful and put up with my rather detailed questions about the menu. I finally settled on the grilled pork ribs with rice and a side dish serving of vegetables (PhP 175.00). To round it off, I also ordered an iced cappuciono (PhP 85.00).

The iced cappucino did not disappoint. It was sweetish, very cold and frothy which perfectly balanced out the full-bodied coffee bean aftertaste. This was the perfect drink to have on a hot summer's day. As I waited for the main course, other customers began to drift in during the lunch hour and soon the small café was quickly filled up.

The grilled pork ribs proved to be a visual feast. The ribs were cut lengthwise and splayed out in a fan-like formation. The ribs were tender and meaty with the distinctive aroma of well-done pork. The sauce was smoked barbecue-style, and added to the interplay of meat, slivers of pork fat and rice to provide that filling experience.  The portion sizes were pretty hefty and the mixed vegetables, made up of stir-fried peas, carrots, corn and sayote made up for a well-rounded visual, olfactory and savoury feast.

On the other hand, Gerardo's Bar and Restaurant, located on Panay Avenue, proved to be something of an aesthetic disappointment in the cold light of day. The older of the two establishments, it is also owned and operated by Carlos Agulto, the son of University of the Philippines MBA Professor and U.P. Foundation Executive Director Gerardo Agulto. Perhaps business genes run in the blood of the Agultos. For Gerardo's Panay Avenue proved to be no less successful than Gerardo's Timog; and considering that I dropped by for a quick lunch on Black Saturday when the majority of eating establishments in Metro Manila were closed, it proved to be quite a revelation to find out that the place was packed to the rafters with customers.The customers - mostly employees of ABS-CBN and nearby call centers - who work 24/7 - seemed to be be having a great time. In fact, Gerardo's does an admirable job of keeping up with its customer base who clock out of their work at 6 a.m. and demand a full "dinner," or just a round of beer during the early morning call center worker's "Happy Hour."

I was somewhat surprised, however, by the comparatively unfriendly waiters who wouldn't let me take a picture of a small statuette of the U.P. Oblation bearing Professor Agulto's name (the official explanation was that the place was being franchised and I needed the clearance of higher ups). Casting an eye around my surroundings, I ordered a sizzling chili squid with rice (PhP 150.00) but upon seeing the dusty chairs, the worn tables and the whole beer-house style ambience of the joint (it was only lunch time), I suddenly felt the need for a mild anaesthetic and ordered a Cerveza Negra to go with it.

Surprisingly enough, though, the sizzling chili squid was excellent. The squid was soft and tender without being rubbery, with the rice acting as a perfect accompaniment. The spices had permeated the flesh of the meat  and oozed flavour with every forkful. The aroma of sizzling squid marinated in spicy sweet and sour sauce was enough to set all my senses tingling. The Cerveza Negra soothed away the heat generated by the spicy squid and refreshed, even as it anaesthetized me to my surroundings. At the end of the meal I felt that warm buzz that you usually have when the beer goes to your head and the quasi-satisfaction in consuming a memorable meal in totally forgettable surroundings.

Here is a sampling of the menu in Gerardo's Panay Avenue:

Appetizers - Hungarian sausage (PhP 140.00), baked tahong (PhP 95.00) and garlic mushrooms (PhP 90.00)

Salads - Tossed green salad (PhP 100.00), green mango salad (PhP 80.00)

Sizzlers - Beef salpicado (PhP 180.00), mixed seafood (PhP 200.00)

Favorites - Lechon kawali (PhP 175.00), steamed tilapia (PhP 130.00), chicharon bulaklak (PhP 100.00)


Gerardo's Café and Bistro
In front of GMA-7
Timog Avenue (Near EDSA)
Quezon City
Telephone: 386-9005

Gerardo's Bar and Restaurant
In front of ABS-CBN
Panay Avenue, Quezon City
Telephone: 386-9005

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