by Nines Licad
Filipinos are such masterminds when it comes to making names, but to name a Filipino bistro with a term such as Kabila, which means ‘other side’, is simply clever.
Literally, the name was created not only to establish that Kabila is on the ‘other side’ of another restaurant called Museum Café located in the same building , it was also created to reflect the ‘other side’ of the Filipino dishes that we grew up with— the one with bolder, unashamed flavors but presented in a more refined, art-of-plating style.
It was me and my friend’s first time to experience Kabila so we decided to combine the bestsellers with the new dishes. For starters, we had some Crispy Catfish, Burong Hipon + Mustasa with tomatoes, onions, and julienned green mangoes. All these were served with some calamansi, finger chillies and Balayan vinaigrette. I love how I was able to use my hands while eating this— combine all ingredients on a mustard leaf, roll it up, and eat. I am such a fan of buro (fermented rice with shrimp) so it was a treat for me to have this in between trying out the other dishes that we ordered.
Another dish that’s worth trying is their Grilled Pork Belly & Pig’s Ear Dinakdakan which looked more like a chunkier version of Sisig but made with a creamy mayonnaise dressing with calamansi, vinegar, onions, chillies, and sliced radish. The charred taste of the pork belly added an addicting flavor dimension to it. I also loved the mix of textures and flavors without overpowering each other.
One of Kabila’s bestsellers, the U.S. Beef Adobo, did not fail me at all. The Wok Fried Garlic Rice that we ordered did a wonderful job in sopping up all the flavors of soy, vinegar, and garlic though I think it would’ve been better if I could get all those garlic confit smothered on top of pieces of grilled bread. You won’t find our national dish created this way from any other place. It’s quite sinful but definitely a food for the soul.
The last of the main dishes that we had were some Chicken Skin Skewers, made even prettier as it sits atop a mini charcoal grill with some sinamak (spiced vinegar) and chicken oil. Chicken skin is quite popular among Filipinos and Kabila surely brought a bit more sophistication and a slightly more edge to it.
As me and my friend slowly realized that we were seated and ready to devour on our cholesterol-party kind of lunch, we just had to counteract them all with some veggies. Which was why we opted for A Pot of Pinakbet, a take on the classic dish but made more interesting by stewing it in a lotus leaf topped with bagnet (crispy pork belly) and squash flowers. Who ever said eating vegetables is boring?
The best things about my experience in Kabila were the following: 1) the fact that most of the dishes were of good serving portions made perfect for groups; and 2) the fact that even with the restaurant’s posh interiors I never would’ve expected that the dishes came with affordable prices. Kabila is where you’d get the best of Filipino comfort food that’s honest and bold making it a place that I certainly won’t mind coming back to.