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I remember my mom mention Little Quiapo when we went to SSS about three to four years ago, she remarked ...Ay! Buhi pa ni gali ang Little Quiapo! College pa ko ni a!“
Many years later, I suddenly thought of visiting this place just to avoid eating in another restaurant inside a mall. Upon arriving (Malakas St. near Philippine Heart Center and Sulu Hotel) I instantly took a whiff of the rich smell of frying spiced meat in fat wafting from the kitchens to the Lanai. There were colourful assortments of fruits for sale, giving the place that Sunday Market feel. Everything looked and smelled good already.
Its interior was not what I really expected, but I could not say that I was disappointed. It had that grandmother's house feel, however you could tell that the dÃ©cor were purchased and were not really relics of Spanish Era Quiapo. It was even Mexican-ish looking because of the choice of wall hues and what with the game hunting memorabilia and the enormous bull horn as doorknobs. Even the feel of the architecture was a little Mexican, I half expected tortillas and chimichangas to be on the menu.
As per online reviews, Pancit Palabok and Halo-halo were the old time favourites of Little Quiapo. So I decided to order Caldereta and Lumpiang Shanghai. It was a little pricey, more than what I expected. According to an online source, meals would cost around Php 150 per person, but of course I neglected to check what date that review was posted, and it talked about Little Quiapo as carinderia looking which is a far cry from this family lunch looking venue.
Most entrees ranged from 200 up, good for two persons said the waiter. Speaking of waiters, this is another aspect of Little Quiapo that I was excited to witness for myself. Most of the reviews I read, talked about the waiters being not in the mood or even a little irritable when you requested something extra. Now this part did not disappoint. I had to restrain myself from giggling every time the waiter would make a disapproving grunt.
They were not exactly rude, but they weren't very customer service oriented either. They all looked the same too; imagine the pot bellied men of the Rotary Club or the local barangay council. They may look like that barangay captain of yours or one of his close mates, always ready for beer and kainan doon kela kumpare and they almost always know someone from the police, or they claim to anyway. Not to stereotype, but that's what they impressed on me.
When the waiter took our orders, and I requested for the Caldereta to be made a little spicy he even asked me ...ano pa?“ . I felt like I was talking to somebody's father and I wasn't really very welcome in their place. When he came to put our plates and utensils on the table, he did so with absolutely no finesse just slid the plates on the table with a clatter. Admittedly, it was a bit shocking as I was used to smiling waiters and waitresses ever so polite, still, it was a little amusing. It seemed like they wanted to be anywhere but there. Of course, as Karl put it so perfectly, if you've been serving since 1949, you wouldn't be so hot too. Hahaha.
As for the food itself, it didn't disappoint. The Caldereta even tasted like how my mom cooked it, a little stew-y and spicy and ever so rich. The beef was so tender, but not overly so, just the right bite; with the fat melting in your mouth. Even though the potatoes were a bit undercooked, the dish itself is a must try. The Lumpiang Shanghai was perfectly cooked as well, and it had that adobo-ish twist to it. Albeit the poor customer service, this quaint little restaurant should be marketed as a must visit.
It will definitely transport you back to the Sundays of your childhood when mom or lola would cook for the family.
Cost: Php 600 something (Caldereta, Lumpia and four orders of rice)
Lumpiang Shanghai and Caldereta
Wood Laddles and Dippers displayed on the wall adjacent to the washroom
Karl outside the facade
Nice heavy wooden doors
Inside Little Quiapo
The Sunday Market Feel
An assortment of memorabilias
(original note created December 8, 2010)