Monday, July 2, 2012


Braved the bed weather last Saturday night to have dinner with people I love and love to work with at Aracama, the newest dining place to be seen at, apparently. Having said that, I walked in with reservations, since my experience with celebrity chefs have ranged from delightful to disappointing, leaning more towards the latter.

The whole second floor was taken up by the party for celebrity birthday girl Ruffa Guttierrez. Happily, Chef Fern has an small area for about 20 people on one side of the area and our party of seven had been smartly reserved a table.

It was a fun night of feasting, imbibing, story-telling and star-gazing that started out with a trio of appetizers.
L-R: Mozarella Malunggay Dip, Fishballs, Chorizo Frito
The Fishballs aren't the kind  you find on the street but rather a tastier version with less air pockets inside.  The Malunggay Mozarella dip was also a creamy delight but needs a little bit more mozarella for that tangy punch. The Chorizo Frito was like hamonado- flavored Chinese chorizo. A bit too sweet for my taste, if you ask.

The group also ordered salad, which was good but...
Salad with feta cheese, grapes and walnuts
... was off-key with the Kansi soup.
The Kansi  was perfect for the rainy night, with the pork and batuan soup base, sour enough for my taste. Can't help comparing it to JT Manukan's version, though, which I find having a fuller bodied soup base.

The Kansi was best partnered  with the fish dishes, though.
Rellenong Bangus and Crispy Tilapia
One of the first to be finished was the Rellenong Bangus, an 8-9 inch headless milkfish skin with flavored and flaked bangus meat inside. The open-faced Crispy Tilapia was good (best eaten hot) but the real kicker in this dish is the geen mango salad on top which I think should be eaten with a sinamak (coconut vinegar) dressing.

Don't laugh now but we also had Kare-Kare, Callos, Humba and Crispy Pata. Luckily I was wearing a loose dress that night.

The vegetables in the Kare-Kare was served separately which makes it better to look at and easier to eat (and share).  The Bagoong was not as salty as the ones I like best from Malabon, though.
The winning element in the Callos was the tenderness of the tripe. The dish had a home-cooked feel.

Crispy Pata and Humba
The Crispy Pata did not disappoint. Crispy, crackling skin and tender meat inside. A runner-up for my favorite Judy Ann's Crispy Pata from Malabon.   The Humba was a tad too dark,  a bit too sweet. It looked burnt, not caramelized.

All of these were served wit rice...and we had a lot of choices: Kalkag, Kalo-kalo and a brown & red rice mix.
L-R: Kalkag, Brown and red rice mix, Kalo-kalo
Kalkag is basically fried rice with whole dried baby shrimp fry, kalo-kalo is the Ilonggo version of sinangag.

The mos unforgettable part of the meal was the dessert: Dulce de Leche. The candied condensed milk was obviously made the traditional way- the condensed milk is boiled inside the original can until it reaches a caramel-like consistency.

The whole dining experience was fantastic as it was with friends and the staff were helpful but not intrusive. We even got the chance to meet Chef Fern himself. The night was made more fun by the presence of stars walking up to the second floor dining area. Aracama could very well be The Fort's version of The Ivy in Hollywood.
The meals were relatively affordable (we spent about 900 bucks each, for everything, including drinks and coffee). I was a bit surprised though that after tasting each dish, I ended up comparing it and yearning for a different version like the Kansi. The gustatory experience gave us one brilliant dessert and good comfort food for most parts.
For those who want to have a taste of Aracama, come with no great expectations, people you love to enjoy food with and a bit of patience if you want to star-gaze.

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