|Spend dinner with the family at this secret resto is the best way to celebrate a special occasion.|
I had recently been lucky for being chosen to become an openricer. For those who live in the boondocks, Openricers are those who dine, write and review food + restaurants in the Philippines and post them on the main site called www.openricers.com.ph. I had been making my own food blog for almost a year, but I’d say that it’s my first time to join the Openrice group. I was pretty excited upon knowing I made it to the list.
|Romantic dinner for two is perfect for this setup.|
The Secret Garden: Although we were given maps sent on our emails to make it easier to get to the restaurant, I didn’t realize it would be quite hard to find. I thought since I am quite familiar with Marikina, I’d be able to know my way around. I figured if ever I get lost, I’d just ask the locals. And this is exactly where I went wrong. Why? The locals weren’t familiar with the said street, more so the restaurant itself. It was a rainy evening when I got to Marikina and the rain must have made the search even more difficult. I did not lose heart. After a few minutes of walking, I had finally arrived at the secluded Isabelo’s Garden Restaurant. The minute I arrived, I had asked the guard on duty why there was no signage upon the entrance. The guard politely said that it was the owner’s personal choice not to put up a sign. Upon hearing this, I began to wonder why. You’ve got to read and check out the end of this article for you to find out the owner’s reasons.
The vibe: Upon entering its huge silvery-gray gate, I was dumbfounded! Totally captivated by Isabelo’s sweet rustic charm. Isabelo had this quaint romantic vibe. It is perfect for a dinner date with someone special or to celebrate special occasions with the family.
|Cupboards were filled with thingamajigs.|
Apart from the typical ornamental plants and trellises within the restaurant’s vicinity, I’d have to say that it is really unique with bits and pieces of history and culture on its own. It had an artist’s nook (the lovely owner, Ms. Portia Dee-Baluyut’s mom used to paint in the said room) where different paintings are on display. They’ve got loads of used perfume bottles, ivory and ceramic figurines, crafts, antique copper pots, pans and whatnots also on display at their one-of-a-kind cupboard collections. Not to mention, they’ve got old black and white family pictures hanging on the walls that truly brings a sense of nostalgia to its guests.
|Cute dove figure.|
|Empty fragrance bottles on display.|
|Old family pictures.|
|Trimmings and recycled items may look fabulous like this one.|
|Portraits of Portia and her family.|
|Even the mosaic floors are as lovely.|
|Roses are red and blooming.|
|More paintings from Portia's mom.|
|Al fresco dining at its best.|
What I love most with Isabelo’s Garden Restaurant is that it stimulates and pleases almost all of your senses: your sense of sight: with what you see within the area (amazing art works + some history + relaxing garden), with what you hear (with the soothing music they play) + your olfactory nerves (the delicious aroma of both food and sweet scent of flowers), + taste, your discriminating palate (with really excellent food!). With such stuff I had just mentioned, I could feel my stomach began to grumble so let’s now proceed to the food review.
Now, here's what I can say about their food.
The Food Review:
Spinach Artichoke Dip—It is served with a few slices of bread. The spinach artichoke dip was so creamy and delightfully delicious, it tasted heavenly! For P350 per order, it promises to be a good appetizer.
|The best appretizer ever: Spinach Artichoke Dip with bread.|
|I can't have enough of this creamy Spinach Artichoke Dip.|
Pinoy Tuscan Salad—I’d say do not underestimate this simple-looking dish. Yes, you’re reading it right. It may look ordinary with bread and tomato slices, but when you put it inside your mouth, it spells all the difference. I didn’t know how Ms. Portia did it. But there’s something on this salad that makes it refreshing. Could it be cilantro? How about its balsamic vinaigrette dressing? I’m not quite sure. One thing I’m sure of is that this plate had been emptied in less than ten minutes. Pinoy Tuscan Salad is P195 per order.
|Pinoy Tuscan Salad in its simple yet addicting taste.|
|The healthy grilled green vegetable salad.|
Apple Cranberry Bread—Okay, I had to admit I am not really an apple eater. But I do love cranberries and this one tasted sweet just like French toast. It is served with something that looked like butter. This appetizer was actually a hit among the openricers because I almost didn’t taste it. I was left with a really small portion just so I could taste it. It costs P150 per order.
|The Apple Cranberry Bread--Berry Good!|
|This was the leftover buttery-sauce from Apple Cranberry Bread.|
Honey Bacon Pizza—I am a self-confessed pizza fan. Although I was able to eat just a small slice during the Eats a Date event by www.openrice.com.ph, it was enough for me to taste its crunchy pizza goodness with gooey mozzarella cheese and the smoked-honey flavor of bacon toppings. For only P430, a serving of this pizza is great for an entire family.
|Pizza heaven for cheese and bacon lovers.|
Chicken Family Feast—The chicken was served with mashed potatoes and gravy on the side. The chicken was tender, juicy and flavorful. As its name suggests, an order of this chicken is enough to feed the entire family. It’s P1050 per order.
Beef Ribs—It was a bit spicy, somewhat similar to one of Filipino’s favorite viands, Caldereta. But unlike a typical caldereta, it didn’t have carrots or potatoes on it. It has caldereta’s rich sauce and spicy peppery taste. It is also very tender and you could slice it up by a fork even without the use of a knife. An order of this dish is P950. Quite a value for the price, considering that it is good for 4-5 person per order.
|The star for the night: Pugon Pork Crackling with four different dips to choose from.|
|See how well we ate this delicious pork crackling?|
Desserts: Watermelon Sherbet—Before this dessert was served, Ms. Portia told us to taste the sherbet, as it is first, after that only then we’ll squeeze out the lemon slices. We did just as we were told. And we were all surprised with the results. It turned out that the lemon did a refreshing twist to the watermelon sherbet’s flavor. It is indeed a great way to cleanse the palate and cap off an excellent meal. It costs P90 per order.
|Sweet and zesty Watermelon Sherbet is my fave with lemon squeeze for that twist!|
Key Lime Pie—This pie can be deceiving. It looks so simple but I swear, once tasted, it can be pretty addicting. Just like the effect the watermelon sherbet had given us, a slice of key lime pie cleanses the palate and gives off a refreshing zing to one great meal. It tastes just right—not too sweet, not too sour. For P200 per slice, it’ll surely satisfy your sweet tooth.
|Refreshingly sweet Key Lime Pie was a sure hit!|
Mango Float—Think of graham crumbs + ladyfingers + frozen cream + ripened mango slices + chocolate syrup, that pretty much sums up what this mango float is all about. For P110 per slice, chocolate lovers would surely go loco over this dessert.
|Yummy Mango Float with chocolate drizzle.|
I am amazed to find out that Isabelo Garden Restaurant’s owner and head of the kitchen, Ms. Portia Dee-Baluyut had not taken any culinary course. She was an Assumption Graduate (she used to run an ad agency) who had a natural flair for the kitchen as she grew up watching her grandma cook. Ms. Portia takes pride that everything in Isabelo Garden Restaurant was done with a heart: from the garden’s cozy look to the kitchen and of course, to their efficient service and excellent food.
|The lovely and accommodating Ms. Portia Dee-Baluyut.|
|The author after enjoying a hearty meal.|
Here’s a little trivia: Did you know that the Isabelo Garden Restaurant was washed off by the tropical storm Ondoy? But as Ms. Portia would say, Isabelo means God is Bountiful. Thus, He had restored everything they had lost in a few months time. It was really Ms. Portia’s personal choice why the restaurant had no signage at all. She wanted to protect the privacy of her clients and to make sure that they will have an unforgettable al fresco dining experience at Isabelo’s. That’s why reservations and advance booking is a MUST.
And btw, Isabelo's had a pretty restroom. Check it out yourself:
And btw, Isabelo's had a pretty restroom. Check it out yourself:
So I may have gotten lost on my way to Isabelo Garden Restaurant. But I’d have to say, with the great ambiance, efficient service and excellent food—I don’t really mind because it’s all worth the effort.
Visit their website www.isabelogarden.com. Call 681-2461 for reservations and inquiries. Like them on Facebook as well. Purple Plum Fairy thanks Openrice, Isabelo's Garden Restaurant and Ms. Portia Dee-Baluyut.