Riviera Cafe is located at The Heritage Hotel Manila, and their credentials are impressive. Their kitchen team recently won 2 gold and 5 silver medals in the recently concluded Philippine Culinary Cup 2011. So we knew we were in good hand.
We started off with:
I haven’t had tinola in like, years! So this soup really hit the spot. I love the whole ginger component of tinola, which gives it the sort of spicy kick the way it does with halaan. It’s light and refreshing, but tasty as well. Of the dishes, this is already the fanciest, since everything else has this non-restaurant, good old-fashioned home-cooked meal appeal.
This is also a little bit out of the usual, with deep-fried squash flowers on top (which I LOVED). It also doesn’t have that overpowering bagoong flavor that tends to overwhelm other versions of this dish. So I got to taste more of the other ingredients than I did the bagoong.
Chicken & Pork Adobo
The next 2 dishes are what I’m talking about. The food doesn’t have that hotel-restaurant feel, it really transports me back to when I was a kid, during the days when you’d have lunch in a friend’s house, a friend who has a mom or a tita who cooks well, and you squeal with delight at the flavorful morsels that land on your plate.
Kare-kare has got to be my single most favorite Pinoy dish ever. So much, that I have grown up to be quite a kare-kare connoisseur. So when this creamy concoction was served I hungrily plowed into the dish and I was not disappointed. I ended up wolfing down so many servings of rice because I couldn’t stop once I started. The highlight of the meal for me.
Of course a meal would not be complete without dessert to sweeten our palates. Nothing screams PINOY like halo-halo. I love this dessert mainly because it’s dessert AND a drink as well. You don’t really feel like you’re downing some heavy starchy dessert, mainly because it’s so refreshing as well. They didn’t scrimp on the ingredients with this hefty serving.
I’m actually not a big fan of kakanin mainly because it’s a bit too heavy for me as compared with other sweets. So it’s brilliant that they came up with a sampler of the bite-size rice cakes because you won’t get that umay feeling because the servings are so tiny! You’ll be begging for more after you’re done. My faves here are the sapin-sapin and the majablanca.
Overall, eating at Riviera Cafe is such a comforting experience. Like I said, it’s more of genuine home-cooked goodness that reminds you of home. If you’re looking for fusion cuisine, what we had wasn’t it. What it was though, was authentic Pinoy cooking. They said most foreign guests ask for real Filipino meals, and not the foreigner-friendly versions, so they came up with a Pinoy home-cooking taste for their arsenal. I was ready to burst after the satisfying meal (mostly it’s the kare-kare to blame), so I walked away with a full belly and a happy palate, and all I wanted then was a warm bed with fluffy pillows, on which I could curl up and snooze the day away with a big smile on my face.