The other day, when I was on the phone catching up with my friend Dr. Gary, I mentioned that my cousins had taken me to a place called Your Local for lunch. Everyone knows that I have food on the brain 24 hours a day and as soon as I’m in Manila, conversations are immediately about where to bring me to eat, where I have to go, what I have to try, who and what I have to order from, and often I’ll come home to yummy treats sent over from friends and family (like last night which I’ll write about another time…most excited about the bag of salted egg fish skin chips!). So when I mentioned Your Local, he asked if I had tried the restaurant across the street which was opened by the son of the owner of Mamou, another old favourite haunt of mine. I hadn’t so I added it to my list of places I had to try before leaving town.
A week later, when I met up with Deo for lunch, I suggested that we give the restaurant across Your Local a try. So we wandered over and much to our delight, we discovered that it was a pasta bar! A build your own bowl pasta place called Trufa Pasta Bar! And I am crazy about pasta, especially fresh pasta. In Vancouver, we have a fresh pasta counter at Urban Fare (I only shop there for the fresh pasta) and in Florence, it was a fresh pasta stall at the Mercato Centrale that I frequented. I’m not quite sure where to buy in Manila but I love that this place is near me and serves it up with every bowl. And service is quick! Granted there were only 3 tables occupied including ours. The food was light, delicious and our server was friendly and polite. You couldn’t ask for more from a lunch place. If I lived here and worked in the area I’d be there for lunch all the time for sure.
The concept is similar to a build your own fresh pasta bar that we stumbled upon in Portland called Grassa. It seems like these build your own bowl concepts are all the rage these days, even here in the Philippines. I would know because my brother started a build your own Southeast Asian bowl concept in New York called Vien. So I don’t always get excited anymore unless the concept is unique because nowadays there are so many imitations of what’s already out there in North America. What got me excited with Trufa, however, was not only that it’s all about fresh pasta, but the flavours are twists on Spanish and Filipino ingredients and flavours. Specifically, Catalan and Bacolod, merging the Spanish and Filipino backgrounds of the two restaurant owners.
I’m generally skeptical of fusion cuisines as I’m more of a purist when it comes to food. However, I’ll always give any cuisine the benefit of the doubt and try it at least once. Filipino cuisine is already heavily laced with Spanish influences so their flavours naturally come together and make sense to me. There are 3 steps to building your bowl at this sit down pasta bar. You select your salsa (sauce), then your pasta, then your alegria (toppings). I chose the Carbonara Filipino Sauce + tagliatelle + trufo (their bestselling salsa. Deo chose the Trufo Sauce + tagliatelle + pancetta. While waiting for our food to arrive, I wandered around inspecting the interior design elements, photographing vignettes I liked like a tourist would do (except I’m not one), and checking out the desserts on display. I also made chit chat with one of the servers.
“How long have you been opened?” I asked.
“8 months, “she replied.
“So, the owner of this restaurant is the son of the owner of Mamou?” I asked
“No…” she replied.
“Mamou, the restaurant. The owner’s son owns this restaurant, right?” I assumed she didn’t know what she was talking about, she’s probably new I thought to myself.
“Margarita Fores, isn’t this restaurant’s owner related to her,” I said thinking maybe she would then make the connection.
“No, Ma’am. Wait, let me ask the manager.” She turned around to let the manager behind the counter know that I had a question.
“Yes, Ma’am?” the manager asked.
“I was just asking her about the restaurant’s owner and whether it was owned by the son of the owner of Mamou. You know, related to Margarita Fores? Of Cibo?” I explained.
“Um, no Ma’am. That restaurant is next door…and they don’t open until 6 pm.”
And that’s when I realized we were at the wrong place and it was too late to turn back. So I sat back down and we laughed about it and I figured, oh well, we had to eat anyway. And that was just minutes before the bowls arrived and before I knew that our accident may have been a good one. But after the first bite, I knew it was serendipitous. My pasta was absolutely delicious and Deo’s was even better. I gobbled it up in seconds and several Instagram posts later had a new perspective on life. Accidents can lead you to wonderful surprises like delicious bowls of fresh pasta with trufa (truffle) sauce, crispy dilis, Ilongo chorizo, and decadent, airy slices of pastel de crema Catalana. So don’t beat yourself up for an unintentional mistake, I certainly found myself celebrating this one. And that’s why I had to write about it.