A Don for a day…dining, in the old fashioned way (lunch at La Cocina De Tita Moning, Manila)

Dining, in the old fashioned way – and by that, I don’t mean eating with bare hands. That is just the old way, minus the fashion.

After our tour at Intramuros, the guide suggested this place which I’ve also read from just about any publication, online or hardcopy, that has to do with food.

The place is called La Cocina de Tita Moning. It’s actually an old house of the Legardas, constructed way back in 1937 on what was then the posh address of San Miguel, Manila close to the Malacanang Palace. The moment you enter the gate, you would know that the elite of Manila society lived here. Now it has been turned into a fine dining restaurant slash family museum, named after the late Mistress of the house, Dona Ramona or Tita Moning (I used Mistress in its proper definition, as the feminine form for “Master”).

Their menu consists of traditional Spanish-Filipino fare, and they serve the food in a very traditional manner, probably in the same fashion the house help served their master’s family back in the day. The servers by the way (or many of them anyway), were the house help of the family, until the mistress of the house passed away. It’s nice that they get to keep their jobs, even though they now serve paying customers. It also adds a very personal touch to the meal.

Scattered around the house are various antique pieces.
I would think that this is the coat of arms of the family.
Don Alejandro, the late Master of the house, was an enthusiast in photography.
More of Don Alejandro's antique photography equipment.
Some old photographic plates, harking back to the days even before the 35mm film was created.
Don Alejandro also had another hobby besides photography. He was an amateur radio operator. Here's his old equipment, and it's amazing to think how all of these have been virtually replaced in private use, by one small gadget we now call as the "cellphone".

The place may not have Michelin stars, but it does give a fine personal dining experience. The centerpieces, such as the dolphin here, are made of Murano Glass, brought by Tita Moning from Italy.
Just like the old days, a bell on the table can be used to call the waitress (or house help).
The staff took great care in arranging each table.

A ball of butter is prepared on everyone's plate, ready for the bread.
A Spanish condiment was also prepared on our table. I forgot the name, and it's the first time I heard it.
Upon placing our orders, we were immediately treated to "pica-pica" of bread with melted queso de bola, together with iced tea.
Each of us ordered food for sharing, so we could sample as much of the menu as possible. Here is the Callos, served on the the family's antique China.
This is the Cocido, with the broth on the bowl to the left, and the meat and vegetables on the right.
The Lengua with white wine sauce.
Slowly Roasted Pork, with Candied Camote.
To cap the meal, we shared for dessert the Queso de Bola Cheesecake, with Mango Sauce

All dishes above (except the dessert of course) came with unlimited healthy brown rice, and mixed local vegetables.

The food was great and the staff made everyone feel at home. The price is expensive, but not outrageous – the four people in our group shelled around 700-plus each, for all the food above.

The place is strictly by reservation though, I guess due to the personalized preparation, so it’s not a place you can go to just when you feel the whim. Better call up way before hand, if you want to go. Just Google the number =)

* all photos taken with Olympus E-420 and Zuiko 50mm f2

We had this lunch last July 2010

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