Friday, December 31, 2010

Anniversary Special Part 4: Bawai's Vietnamese Kusina

"Bawai, which is Vietnamese for grandmother, is a homey restaurant inside one of Tagaytay’s retirement communities. It’s actually the home of Vergilio & Yong Tatlonghari. Yong, a Vietnamese, settled in the Philippines after marrying her Filipino husband. A great cook, her home was always open to her children and grandchildren, who wanted to share their bawai’s fantastic Vietnamese meals. When strangers started showing up at their doorstep, they took that as a sign to open a portion of their home as a restaurant."

This is a place worth traveling for because of their scrumptious Vietnamese food! We discovered the place just days before our Tagaytay celebration via Anton of Our Awesome Planet and because we wanted to taste authentic Vietnamese food, we decided to include this on our anniversary itinerary on the last minute.

I got their contact number onlinr and made a lunch reservation for two. An old man answered the phone, probably Mr. Tatlonghari himself, and took my details but then later instructed me to just send in a text message so that he won't forget. After some hours, I got a reply with a sorry for not replying immediately  and a confirmation for my reservation. Also included is a list of the menu and the driving direction to the restaurant. Since initially, we were supposed to use the public transport, I inquired for the commuting directions and immediately got a phone call from Mr. Tatlonghari. He then instructed me on where and what to ride. Now that's what you call great service! I felt like we are valued visitors and not just mere customers.

Finding Bawai's is a bit hard because they do not have signages along the highway. We had to make a U-turn because we drove past the entrance to the compound. All we had were maps and directions we got online.

It was a Sunday and the restaurant was packed with famished customers. We were excited to finally taste those yummy dishes we only had the chance to see in photos online but that excitement faded when a mix up with the reservation occurred. Our reservation was not listed! I tried to reason out with the gate staff and showed him my confirmation messages but to no avail. Okay, I was losing my cool and my interest when I called Mr. Tatlonghari about the situation. He then said sorry and called the restaurant (he was tending their other branch). It was a good he fixed it or else I would've wrecked havoc in the blogworld! *evil laugh*

Anyways, we were invited in and given a table for two. It turned out, our names were mixed up with another. There were two groups inside the converted sala, one with 15pax and another with 8pax. Upon ordering, another group of about 6 came and I guess that's just the maximum number the restaurant can accommodate. The others groups were too noisy talking so we got shy taking photos other than what was on our table. Our meal was cooked rather quickly despite the fact that they lost the list of my advanced orders.
Complimentary Pandan Tea

Since we were still full from our breakfast at Sonya's, we started off with just a  plate of three pieces of Goi Cuon (Vietnamese fresh lumpia) with peanut sauce for the appetizer. One bite into the Goi Cuon and we know it’s freshly made. The shrimp is tender and seemed to be bursting out of its transparent wrap. The veggies crunchy and a tarragon leaf was a nice surprise. There's also a beef strip on the other side which provides that meaty taste.

Goi Cuon (Vietnames Fresh Lumpia)

Next comes our main dish, Pho Bo for RT and Bun Thang for me.

RT's pick: Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup)
 I don't know it tasted but RT said it was delicious. There's something to the broth that enhances its beefy flavor. The beef was also easy to chew.

My Pick: Bun Thang (Seafood and Egg Noodle Soup

I love everything seafood and this one is one of the best! I agree with RT that the broth has this special taste I can't figure out. 

My pick: Pandan Iced Tea
Nothing better to sooth your thirst but  a fresh pandan iced tea. It tasted a little bit like the famous sago't gulaman.
RT's pick: Vietnamese Iced Coffee
 They used condensed milk that's why the milk stayed at the bottom.
Bahn Da Lon
 Because of the mix up earlier, Bawai or Lola Yong was very apologetic and gave us two of these, on the house. I guess it's the Vietnamese version of our local sapin-sapin or maja blanca. This is made with pandan (green) and monggo beans (yellow). It is topped with coconut cream and a sprinkling of crushed peanuts.

What I really like about Bawai's, besides their good food, is that, whenever not busy, they will entertain you as their own guest. You need to reserve and order in advance since each meal is cooked by Bawai herself. I do hope it remains that way, and the food don't get commercialized like most Vietnamese restaurants in Manila. The secret to Bawai's food is authentic imported ingredients from Vietnam sent by Bawai's friends and relatives.

Because lola Yong herself cooks all the dishes, Bawai’s kitchen is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for lunch and dinner. Also, due to Bawai’s limited space, reservation is a must. For reservations, call 0920-9722924.
Bawai’s Vietnamese Kusina

Brgy. Bukal, Silang, Cavite
+63 920 972-2924

Location map:
Map to Bawai's Kusina, Tagaytay

Click on the map to see the larger version.

Anniversary Special Part 3: Sonya's (Not So) Secret Garden

 After our lunch date at Buon Giorno, we then headed to our next destination, Sonya's Garden.

We chose Sonya's Garden because netizens were just raving about it's good reviews so we had to check it out. It was initially just a restaurant featuring healthy organic buffet meals in a garden setting but as people started flock the place and wanted to spend a little more time with it's wonderfully tranquil garden, the Bead & Breakfast facility was born. It was really inevitable because with the beauty of the place, some hours of stay aren't enough.

For a weekend stay, they charge P3,400 per person (P3,000 on weekdays). Yes, it's a little hefty on our pockets but we really wanted our first anniversary to be special and memorable so we picked a unique place to stay. On our second anniversary, we could have a typical anniversary celebration, eat in a typical restaurant and stay in a typical hotel but not on our first. Firsts should always be special.

I made a reservation three weeks in advance for Dec. 11-12 but December being a peak season, all of the rooms were reserved so we had to settle for the Dec 18-19 weekend. But I guess fate was with us when someone backed out and we got a slot on our preferred date. It was good that I decided to put our names in the wait list for that date. :D

It was a little hard to find but I guess that adds to its charm because you'll never think that a place like it would exist inside their compound. This is probably the reason why it was previously called Sonya's Secret Garden.

We got there just in time for our check-in, 2:00 PM (check-out time was 12NN the next day)

The Garden

The dining hall
Sonya's is of course well known for its lush gardens, you will be astonished of the stunning huge area planted with thousands of varieties of fruiting and flowering plants. I asked our attendant for the lot area but I forgot what he said, haha! It would be perfect to be here in the summer just in time to see the garden bloom, an authentic burst of colors which is truly relaxing and delighting to the senses. No wonder that there are people who just drop by to take lovely pictures of the verdant garden, and let the soothing aroma of the herbs please your senses.

Your eyes rest on light blue, bright fuschia, orange, violet and white blooms. Your ears hear the lulling sound of water from small fountains and rain tubes. As you walk around, there's a hammock that both kids and oldies can try. There are areas where people can sit or lie down to read a book, all framed by soft, white, flowing, curtain-like cloth.

cherry tomatoes?
 A walk around the garden will reveal beautiful nooks and crannies to explore: a hut tucked away with a bench and Buddha for meditation, shaded benches with cushions to lounge about in, large containers with beautiful Balinese like flower arrangements strategically placed to entice the senses, etc. It was all so overwhelming and at the same time so calming as well.

Butter bush. Smells sweet and buttery.

The Room

On our way to the Bed and Breakfast area, we couldn't wait staying and sleeping in a non-airconditioned room with no television to agitate serenity.  The rooms are designed with exquisite soft white curtain with shells which adds a romantic touch. The architecture is Filipino/Spanish with bits and pieces of things from around the world. There is a mini lanai before the room where you could relax and read some books. It has that "with the nature" feel probably because of it's transparent roof and part of the walls having only fine nets for covering (and keeping insects away).  We loved our bed! It was huge with warm, crisp white linens. We just wanted to lay there and just cuddle, and kiss, and..

The shower area was very ingenious! The floor's got tiny white pebbles and a big shower head that tricks you into thinking that you're just taking a bath in the rain. Their complementary shampoo and soap is probably home made because of their natural mint smell.

Path to our cottage
  Going to Sonya’s is the perfect hideaway solution if you want to spend time with your partner or friends over a nerve-wracking week or simply to smell the aroma of the flowers around or most likely to eat a hearty meal and set aside meat and fatty foods. 
Walk under the trees
We stayed in the Parsley room
Tagaytay being well-known of fresh cool freezing air making the weather agreeable that one does not need an air-conditioning. 


Notwithstanding the idea of being surrounded by plants, natural repellents proliferate in the gardens thus, there are no irritating mosquitoes. Picture yourself waking up in the morning to smell the aroma and see the rich garden, just outside your window. It’s the Bed and Breakfast experience which only Sonya can provide. 
Nature in the backyard

View from the lanai

The Dinner

Come dinner time, we were first served with a buffet salad, which I understand is organically grown in their garden. 

We were also served freshly baked bread with different spreads like pesto and mushroom pate'. To add to the healthy appetizer we were served fresh dalandan juice. I was happy to munch the leafy greens since there was no guilt. You had the freedom to select the ingredients for your salad like pineapple, mango, melon, beans, cucumber and egg. 

RT's salad. Mine was too "with everything" to be delectable in photos. :P

I just love the sit-down buffet style, you don't need to stand up to go to the food.

The much awaited pasta was served. The serving fork used for getting pasta is a novel idea. It's like a huge-toothed comb. You also get to make your own pasta with ingredients like olives, mushrooms, salmon, etc. The salmon was a letdown. It was too fried and too oily just like how daing na bangus are cooked. You also get to pick what sauce to use between sun-dried tomato and white chicken sauce. RT and I chose to use chicken sauce because it tasted great, creamy with a bit of sweetness, but was too dried when added to the pasta. 
mini turon, caramelized sweet potato and chocolate cake

this is literally a sliver of chocolate cake

my favorite tarragon tea!!
We ended with a very thin slice of chocolate cake,  mini turon, and caramelized kamote. The dessert is nothing to rave about. Pampatanggal lang ng umay. My favorite tarragon tea provided a very distinct touch of class. I ended with an after-meal mint that I took from my dalandan juice. I'm talking about real mint leaves here and it sure beats any chewing gum. RT on the other hand suffered from toothache so I told him to chew those left over tarragon leaves from the tea and paste it on his aching tooth. Sure enough, it worked! Yay for natural remedies!
After the dinner, off we went to our room to do some anniversary thing haha! But not without taking photos of the garden at night :)
The garden transforms into something mysteriously beautiful at night. Parang nasa fairy land ka lang.

I call that bahay ng dwende because, well, it looks like one.

Now, isn't this a scene from Avatar?

The idea for the christmas tree was great. A eucalyptus tree adorned with christmas lights.

The Breakfast
Because of the heavy dinner last night, we prepared ourselves for a hearty breakfast meal. We had a mix of European and Continental breakfast but it seemed to be more of continental dishes. RT being a light eater, I was tasked to eat more which I happily obliged! 
The dining Hall. We were one of the first to have breakfast

deliciously rich hot chocolate

chicken pork adobo

sausage, too tough at salty :(

The redeeming factor of the breakfast: Creamy Mushroom Omelet

Salsa, Fried Rice, Daing na Bangus, Chicken Pork Adobo

fresh fruits for dessert

Daing na bangus

Long and short of it is that I loved it! I loved the tasteful blend of Filipino architecture. The cuisine is not that notable but I'll give them a thumbs up for coming up with an eat-all-you-can healthy set of meals. Though with a P610 price for lunch/dinner and P427 for breakfast, I wouldn't recommend going there just for the food alone.  I loved the gardens and the surprise of finding a bench in some secluded area which allowed me to sit and ponder the lush vegetation. I felt very fortunate and blessed to be in such a special haven of peace and tranquility with my partner, RT. That is what's so special about this place: it allows you to slow down, be mindful of the present and count your blessings because there is nothing to distract your from what is happening at the moment.