So why did it take so long for us to try this place out? One word: Marikina. It’s a LONG drive that’s really out of our way. And if you go back some of our entries, we really hate driving. Plus, Marikina is a flood city. I wanted to go when the rainy season was over, but in a twist of irony it actually fucking rained that December evening. And after a 2-hour drive to Marikina, here we are in this home-resto tucked in the city of Marikina.
First order of business: reservations! This place is a strictly no walk-in establishment. So get your guest lists in place, because they literally check the gate. Second, pre-order. You have to pre-order your meal and pay a deposit before heading to the place.
So here’s a taste of our meal.
For appetizers, we got an order of their Spinach Artichoke Dip, which is one of their signature dishes. Actually, from what I’ve read and heard, they started this whole thing with this dip. Got well-known, built this place, and here we go. The dip was good, but we should’ve ordered more. 1 order for 10 people is basically one slice of bread and 1 dunk each.
I loved the Herbed Sausage with Caramelized Onions. The sausages they use are not exactly top notch or deli-worthy, but they make it work really well. That’s all you can really ask… Well, you can ask for more of it. One order really won’t feed 10 people. It would’ve been better if they brought out the appetizers together. It ended up with us getting one scoop of spinach dip each, then it was gone. One scoop each of sausages, and it was gone again.
The pasta dishes came next2. First was the Mushroom Cream Pasta with Truffle Oil. I’m not a fan of white sauces, but it wasn’t bad. It was good enough for the guys to order another one of these. How bad can it be with truffle oil? It’s like cheating. Everything tastes better with truffle oil.
We tried a bit of red sauce with their Chicken Parmigiana. Solid dish, but nothing special. It’s a solid Italian red sauce, but with that hint of sweetness that’s been a staple of Filipino-style pasta dishes. It wasn’t too sweet to be bad, in my book. I asked Marc what he remembers about this dish. His reply? He can’t.
Now the Lemon Shrimp Linguine was excellent! It’s an oil-based pasta with the acidity of the lemon. There weren’t too much shrimp in there, but the combination of flavors was a real hit. We tried to order one more of this, but they didn’t have anymore shrimp3. We should’ve asked them to cook it even without those little midgets.
When I visit Italian joints, pizzas are a must for me. And between Marc and I‘s love for pizzas, it’s really a no brainer. I’ve mentioned before that a plain / margherita pizza is a good measure of how good the pizza really is and I thought Isabelo’s Pizza Margherita was really solid. Not the greatest pizza in the world, but really a solid pomodoro sauce, good amount and quality cheese, a hint of basil, and a solid crust.
We ordered another one, their Honey Bacon Pizza, which is filled with bacon jeje. Everything tastes better with bacon and this was no exception. In fact, it’s a lot better with the bacon because it didn’t taste like the cheap kind. I’m usually skeptical of square pizzas, but Isabelo Garden’s making me think twice about that. Hell, if they do square pizzas in Rome, how bad can they be?
We tried the Slow-cooked Beef Ribs for our first entree and it came with vegetables and a bleu cheese dressing. To be honest, it was a little tough and probably our least favorite dish of the night. In hindsight, we might have been better off with the Beef Bourguignon, which I’ve been hearing good things about. 950 bucks for the beef ribs is a bit too much.
You can’t go wrong with that 900 bucks for their Orange Herb Chicken. I’ve said that I’m not a fan of protein with sweet and fruity flavors, but this one was pretty good. It’s one of their house specialities and rightfully so. It came with a bunch of veggies, but the chicken was the real star here. Tender, well-cooked, and juicy, this is how you should do roasted chicken. It even came in this chicken plate.
I brought that up because it’s funny that one of my friends who went with us didn’t eat this dish because she has chicken issues. Once when she was a kid, she dreamt that a chicken poked her finger with its beak and has been traumatized ever since. True story jeje.
But the absolute winner of a dish is really their Roasted Pork Crackling. I’m serious. If you can’t enjoy this dish, you’re better off killing yourself. Fatty, not-so-oily, and motherfuckin’ crunchy pig skin goodness. And that should be all you need to know. It seems a bit expensive, but order it anyway. This cheap bastard would willingly pay for that price4.
It came with a couple of sauces: Wine Vinegar, Mango Chutney, and a pomodoro sauce. I like the wine vinegar sauce, but it really doesn’t matter. Just finish up those crunchy pieces and it’s really worth the drive. It was a unanimous consensus that this was everyone’s dish of the night.
For dessert, we pre-ordered a Chocolate Molten Lava Cake and was a solid dish. The rest we ordered on the spot.
Their specialities are their sherbets (or sorbets) and we got their Watermelon Sorbet. Not bad. Tasted like frozen watermelon out of the freezer. It was fresh that I think there might even have been a couple of seeds in there.
The Key Lime Mini Pie wasn’t as big a hit. It was too hard inside your mouth5. I mean, I was worried I’d chip a tooth if I bit into it.
The Dark Chocolate Mud Pie seemed to be the favorite dessert. I’m not a fan of chocolate, but I trust my buddies.
Overall, good but a little short of great of a meal! Definitely too off-the-usual-route for us, but I think that is part of the experience in looking for the place. The pork crackling is worth the drive 6 for something special. It’s a bit pricey, but it should be more affordable (per person) for a party of maybe 4-5 people. The pre-order thing has its good and bad bits. For one, you’re ensured for getting your orders and they really prepare for it. The downside really is not being able to order more should you want/need it (like the Lemon Shrimp Linguine).
But I’m glad that we got to try something different. Everyone was fairly happy and maybe I’ll visit this place again soon.
Check out Rustic Mornings by Isabelo here.