Back in 2008, we toyed with the idea of running an underground restaurant some 60 kilometers south of Manila. Not your neighborhood bistro, but a place to enjoy good home-cooked food after maybe a day in the hot springs of the next town Los Banos, Laguna. Lily Pad is in a gated subdivision in Calamba, Laguna --- home of the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. To get there, one drives south of Manila along the Southern Luzon Expressway (SLEX to many). The highway ends and leads to the many towns of Laguna. First off from the end of the highway is Calamba, Laguna. Lily Pad
is what its owner, Tweetums, called the place. Tina arranged to lease the place and run a weekend restaurant for a single reason. She loves to cook. Oh ok, perhaps there is a second reason. She loves the place too. Martin would always remind us that Lily Pad is a "small island". He says this as he believes this. You see, Lily Pad consists of 2 structures. The first houses the living room area and has a second level housing the bedroom and studio. It is connected by a bridge to a one-storey structure
where the kitchen and dining area is. This smaller structure is where we held many lunches and dinners. It was where Tina was in her elements. But even then, Tina didn't need a full-blown restaurant place. Just a reason to cook for family and friends.
And so it happened that family get-togethers and weekend reunions with friends became the order of the times. Tina ruled the kitchen. Week after week she would plan the menu. And almost always she would silently scream in desperation as we soon claimed our favorite dishes and would demand that they be served on the occasions we were there. Regardless of Tina's planned menu. Such is her clientele. Very demanding. After all, we are friends!
There was Oscar's fried duck served with cranberry sauce. Emmy's crabs cooked in leeks and oyster sauce. Patricia still drools over Tina's lengua while her grandmother dreams of her chili relleno (with lots of cheeeeeesssse) and bottarga bites (fish roe). Tweetums loves the beef tapa slices, fried to perfection. And there is Marita's favorite---gambas cooked in lots of garlic and olive oil and bacalau cooked the Spanish way. Elizabeth would hanker
for her favorite grilled fish called salamin
, delivered all the way from far-flung Ajos in Catanauan, Quezon. DJ would have completely lost her capacity for joy if she didn't find her adobong pusit
which is really squid cooked in its own ink. The salads and pastas were to die for. Her puttanesca and clam pasta are my favorites. For desserts, her niece Isabel bakes a mean walnut pie and apple pie. Both rival Tina's yummy bread pudding. As if that were not enough, we would gorge ourselves drunk whenever we visit Lily Pad. How in the world we are able to enjoy that feast while we are drunk is beyond my comprehension. Tina hardly eats. Well, she would really rather drink. The joke is that the quality of service deteriorates as lunch stretches to mid-afternoon as Tina's senses are dulled by the bubbly drink.
Farewell, Lily Pad. Welcome, Happy Memories
Some weeks ago, Tina delivered some boxes at my place. To this day, I have yet to open these boxes. Plates, wine glasses, microwave oven, coffee maker, tea pots, etc. Lily Pad
has been sold and the new owner wished to move in right away. That
ends Tina's adventure with the underground restaurant business. But for sure, it won't put an end to our unceasing demands for her culinary treats. Lily Pad or no Lily Pad, these dames won't be deprived ;-) Check out more photos here and here
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