Story By Dolly Dy-Zulueta / Photography by Rafael R. Zulueta
FOR diners who are looking for authentic Filipino merienda fares, Serye Restaurant & Café has got a number of these on its menu.
Locals, balikbayan and even foreign tourists would surely love its freshly made bibingka galapong, because it is made from scratch using freshly ground rice, just the way it has been traditionally made. Topped with slices of salted egg and kesong puti (local white cheese), which give the rice cake an added depth of flavor, Serye’s bibingka galapong is soft, fluffy and heavenly to the bite, especially when spread with a thin layer of butter and sprinkled with a little sugar and lots of freshly grated coconut on top. It is a favorite merienda fare that diners keep going back to Serye for, be it at the Santana Grove in Parañaque or at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City. Some diners cannot even wait for merienda to enjoy it and order it for lunch as dessert. While most Filipino restaurants offer bibingka, much less bibingka galapong, only during the Christmas season, as it is the native kakanin most closely associated with the Christmas season, Serye is one of the few places where people can enjoy it all year round.
Of late, diners are pleasantly surprised to find out that bibingka’s traditional partner as favorite Simbang Gabi native delicacies, puto bumbong (purple-colored suman-type rice cake cooked vertically in bamboo poles) is now also available regularly for merienda at Serye.
Now, this comes as an even better piece of news, since puto bumbong is even more difficult to find than bibingka on a regular day. Smothered with butter and freshly grated coconut and sprinkled with muscovado sugar, puto bumbong is a delightfully all-Filipino merienda treat indeed. Serye makes it even more special by using fermented rice in making its puto bumbong, with no less than heirloom rice varieties tapol and pirurutong going into it. As rare as puto bumbong is being offered when it is not the Christmas season, not many of the few Filipino restaurants who do can boast that they make their puto bumbong this way.
Suman sa latik at mangga is another native merienda fare that has become a top favorite of diners at Serye because the classic combination of tastes and textures of suman (a rice cake made of malagkit or glutinous rice, with its soft, fluffy and slightly gummy rice kernels coming together beautifully) and soft, smooth and naturally sweet mango is simply irresistible. Suman sa latik at mangga is the Filipino version of the sticky rice with mango of Thailand, and Vietnam also has a version of it, thus proofing that the combination is not just classic but universal.
Other delicious Filipino merienda fares available at Serye are arroz caldo (savory rice porridge with chicken), champorado (chocolate rice porridge), lomi (thick noodle soup), dinuguan at puto (pig’s blood stew with chopped innards, paired with small, steamed rice cakes) and halo-halo (an iced concoction with assorted preserves and beans, laced with milk and sweetened a little more with sugar). They have developed their own following, although Serye also offers a lot of modern, international snack and dessert options, such as banana cream pie, mango cream pie, pineapple pie and macapuno pandan cake (which is made from real pandan leaves and is without any artificial flavoring).
These delicious baked goodies come from the commissary of Manilabake, the artisanal bakery helmed by Serye owner Alvin Reyes Lim’s wife Gretchen Consunji-Lim to provide all of Serye’s baked items, such as cakes, pies and breads. Manilabake makes it possible for Serye to be able to serve and sell a wide range of baked products, so Serye can concentrate on maintaining the quality of its food and even develop more new an sumptuous dishes to delight diners with.
Incidentally, Food Network’s show, Food Wars Asia, recently hailed Serye’s kare-kare as the best in the Metro. More than just its award-winning kare-kare, however, Serye takes pride in serving a whole range of Filipino dishes that can be said to be in the same caliber as its kare-kare. Its owner, after all, is a Reyes, who belongs to the famous Reyes clan behind The Aristocrat Restaurant. Alvin Reyes Lim’s great grandmother, Engracia “Aling Asiang” Cruz Reyes, is the founder of The Aristocrat Restaurant. Alvin’s grandmother is Teresita Reyes, who is better known as Mama Sita, and his mother was also named Engracia. So, having grown up in a restaurant setting, Alvin has very high standards when it comes to food. He likes his food prepared the traditional way and will not compromise its quality for the sake of profit. He applies the same standards for his restaurant.
No wonder Serye, whose name is an anagram of ‘Reyes,’ serves some of the best Filipino dishes in the Metro.
Serye can be found at Santana Grove, Dr. A. Santos Avenue, San Antonio, Parañaque City (825-4691 and 826-9317); and at Quezon Memorial Circle, Elliptical Road, Diliman, Quezon City (924-3411 and 426-2693). For orders and food delivery, visit www.zomato.com.