I was just in Manila recently to attend a friend’s birthday and since I arrived a few days early, I decided to drop by Aruga at Rockwell to visit my good friend Alu Suarez for some catching up. It had been a while since my last visit and a lot of catching up needed to be done.
Instead of having lunch at one of the many restaurants at the Powerplant Mall which is right across Aruga, we decided to stay even closer to check out the hotel’s newly relaunched all-day dining restaurant, the Aruga Cafe by Mesclun located at the hotel’s ground level.
“The Aruga Cafe used to be managed by a different operator to provide breakfast for our guests” shared Alu. “We decided to partner up with Chef Katrina Alcantara to improve the dining experience our guests can have whether they stay at Aruga or are just visiting and need a good meal for lunch or dinner.”
The Aruga Cafe’s menu is a mix of Filipino favourites as well as Western comfort dishes, so we decided to start with an order of Empanaditas. The pasty was crisp and flaky and they definitely were not stingy in the stuffing. A hearty bowl of French Onion Soup followed. After digging into the toasted cheesy top, I was met with a blast of savoury steam coming from the rich and flavourful soup.
For our main dish, Alu decided to have Aruga Cafe’s signature Baby Back Barbecue Ribs while I chose to go Filipino with the Adobo sa Guava. The pork ribs Alu had were fall-off-the-bone tender with a light smokiness that aired well with the coleslaw it was served with. The serving was also huge, so much so that Alu and I were not really able to finish it off.
My favourite dish that day however was the Adobo sa Guava. The dish is very much like your typical adobo except for the addition of native pink guava into the dish. The slight tanginess and fruitiness of the guava elevates the dish, giving it a level of sourness that is mild and mellow. A bite of the chunks of guava gives a nice textural and flavour contrast to the rich pork stew.
“We are lucky to find farmers who can supply us with native pink guava which used to be abundant,” said Chef Katrina who also happened to be at the restaurant that day. “Many of our dishes here at Aruga Cafe are comfort food that brings the diner closer to home.”
So when you need a place to eat at Rockwell that is away from the mall, Aruga Cafe by Mesclun is one place you should not miss.