Saturday, January 17, 2015


Back in 2009, I wrote about Kiss the Cook Cafe, one of the first restaurants that set-up along Maginhawa Street in Quezon City. It has since then closed but its owner and chef, Waya Araos-Wijancgo has set up a new food haven. This time, the menu of her recently opened Gourmet Gypsy Art Cafe along Roces Avenue distinctly has a middle eastern influence.

The place is cosy. There is a mix of finely crafted wood furniture made by her father and master sculptor, the late Jerry Araos, new pieces made by her younger brother Julian and lovely Persian rugs. The photos on the wall were taken by her husband Ernie Wijangco.  One can say that the interiors are a family enterprise.

I was in luck and caught Chef Waya the first time I dined there with the hubby and a friend. We tried all of Chef Waya's recommended dishes, which were all served in portions that can be shared by two to three people.

We started off with  the bread basket, served with olive oil, chicken liver and shiitake mushroom pate with dukka or duqqa, a dry Egyptian  nut and spice dip, which adds a layer of crunch and flavor.  
Bread basket
We then had the Elote Mexicano, charred corn croquetas topped with chipotle mayo, goat cheese feta and cilantro. The key word for this appetizer is "charred". It brings back memories of the inihaw na mais I used to buy in the plaza of Tigbauaun, Iloilo, my father's hometown, where I used to spend my summers. While the roasted corn on the cob of my youth gave a straight forward flavor, this was layered with the creaminess of the mayonnaise and the slight tang of the cheese. Don't try to eat this on your own, though as it is very filling.
Elote Mexicano
For our entrees, we shared a shallow bowl of Vietnamese Beef Stew and Pork and Clam Favada. The cubed beef was tender and had a sweet aroma since it was stewed in star anise.
Vietnamese Beef Stew
Being used to Favada that tastes more like pork and beans, this Pork and Clam Favada was a pleasant surprise. The starchy stew made from the garbanzos (chick pea) integrated the flavors of the chorizo, pork shoulder and clams. I was afraid that the seafood would be intrusive but, gladly, I was proven wrong.
Afterwards, we had three kinds of dessert:  Green Tea Panna Cotta with Mango and Honey,  Vanilla Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit Curd and, Blue Cheese and Fig Home-made Ice Cream.
Green Tea Panna Cotta with Mango and Honey
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit Curd
Blue Cheese and Fig Ice Cream
Of the three desserts, my favorite was the ice cream (hubby disagrees and says it is an acquired taste). I had previously tried an artisanal  Blue Cheese ice cream  and didn't like it because the blue cheese simply overwhelmed me. With Chef Waya's recipe, the candied fig leveled the strong taste of the blue cheese. Although one scoop was already enough. So if you order this, make sure that you share.

We capped the meal with cups of "smart coffee,"  where the ground coffee beans area steeped in hot water placed inside a funnel-like device balanced on top of the cup.
Smart Coffee

That's Chef Waya herself, making smart coffee
Aside from the food, one of the things I remember best about Gourmet Gypsy Art Cafe are the well-appointed bathrooms with a quirky touch.

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