I first met Henry Cheung at the Good Earth Tea Room when it was in the old Magallanes Commercial Center in the back of the Berenguer-Topacio showroom.
My late aunt, Doreen Gamboa Fernandez, brought me along when she reviewed the restaurant, largely because of my cavernous appetite. I loved it, and have followed Henry and his cooking since. As is with all good restaurants, Henry eventually franchised out The Good Earth Tea Room. As is the case with a great many that do, he lost control of concept somewhere down the line, and The Good Earth Tea Room quietly faded from my consciousness after the branches in Greenbelt and Bonifacio Global City finally closed down.
Then a month or two ago, I got a message on Facebook from Henry to let me know that he’d opened a restaurant in Tagaytay just across Serin. Being a resident of the City on the Ridge these last couple of years, I was obviously intrigued. I know the area well, but was flummoxed as to where his restaurant was. I replied to his message, but it took a while for him to get back to me as he isn’t online as much as some of us are.
Turns out he’s running the restaurant in Casa Maria y Martha, a small 12-room hotel just across the Ayala Mall in Tagaytay. It’s so nondescript that there isn’t even a sign. It wasn’t until we sought it out that I noticed a banner on the gate of the hotel saying it served Chinese food there. It turns out that Martha Horrigan (the “Martha” in Maria y Martha) is Rose Cheung’s (Henry’s wife) aunt, thus the near secret location.
It’s a small menu of appetizers and a few entrées but let me assure you the heady flavors that endeared his cooking to me seem to be even more intoxicating and addictive than ever. If there is a theme to his menu, it seems to be roast duck. His duckquitos are a play on miniature tacos and are delicious. The crispy duck rolls are exquisite as is his duck noodle soup.
But it is his chicken chowmein that I missed the most. Henry makes the best chowmein that I’ve ever tasted and if anything, it is better than I remember. I mentioned this to Henry and he retorted that back in his Manila restaurants, it was his chef who did the cooking but up in Tagaytay, he did everything himself.
That alone is reason enough to make the new Good Earth a regular haunt in Tagaytay. Mabuhay ka, Henry Cheung! We’re all eagerly anticipating our next meal at your restaurant.
■ Casa Maria y Martha is at 1320 General Aguinaldo Highway, Silang Junction in Tagaytay City.
For reservations, call Martha Horrigan at 0917-863-8540, or Shannon Horrigan at 0915-133-1293. You’ll be glad you did.