I crossed my legs, gnawed on a Smint and gulped some water. It was my second Smint in a span of 90 minutes. The buffet was being set. I tapped hard into my inner Audrey Hepburn (which was very challenging to find) to suppress animated squeals when I saw some delicacies and miniature blocks of pastries. It was 40 minutes before the start of the evening buffet and my stomachwas revolting.
We were here for half business, half pleasure. Accepting an invite from Kim Marcelo, my fierce fellow blogger Shawn and I traveled to Quezon City and arrived too early, to sample the buffet offerings at Primero Casa Filipino.
A post-war ancestral house, turned Filipino buffet restaurant and events venue, along Scout Torillo cor. Scout Fernandez, it is not hard to find. Coming from EDSA, then Timog Avenue, the huge signage at the left side of the road kind of screams at your face. 😛 On the Google map, it’s still labeled as Chef Laudico Casa Filipino, its old name. The Laudico’s are no longer affiliated with the restaurant so former patrons can expect some fresh offerings under the new management.
Inside the primary dining area, one can find wooden tables, paintings adorn its walls, candles on each table, jars on side tables and chandeliers on the ceiling. Near the entrance is the staircase to the function room which seats 60 people. There is also outdoor seating and an enormous bar where pop and jazz bands perform on occasion.
The cozy, dark decors make me feel as though I’m visiting an affluent relative’s place. There is a friendly vibe, nothing eerily splendid that makes you want to hold off boisterous laughter which is probably why during that night, a Thursday, the place was filled with friends and families.
After an exchange of congenial hi’s and hello’s when Kim arrived, we headed excitedly towards the spread. As someone who’s used to eating set menus, I find the selection quite generous for its price range. It’s 398 Pesos Mon-Thu and 100 Pesos higher from Fri-Sun. They’re open for lunch and dinner. It’s what you could have easily spent on when dining at a family restaurant with a few dishes and no dessert. Here, you get around 12 main courses and a dessert buffet with over 12 types of treats. The offerings per day changes so as not to bore frequent patrons.
We start off our food adventure at the appetizer section. On each platter, small portions of food are placed which makes you feel as though you’re just at a family gathering, a nice contrast to commercial buffet set-ups, those with overwhelming heaps of food on trays or pots.
Each dish was infused with influences from regions around the world. For example, tofu – which is normally fried and paired with lugaw, was prepared as Steamed Tofu Cake, glazed with tomato sauce and pierced with a tiny stick. Baked Aubergine and Cumin is eggplant spiced with cumin, commonly used in Mexican and Indian dishes. It elevates the flavor and compliments the natural sweetness of the food. Non-eggplant eaters could probably appreciate this one. There’s no after-taste.
Baguette Canapes which is basically bread topped with meat and herbs had a thick, chewy base. I had difficulty biting into it. The interesting ones from the bunch were Sisig Shooters – minced pork placed inside a crisp dim sum wrapper and prepared on a shot glass with its soy sauce at the bottom. It was nice to look at and fun to eat. The wrapper is thin and the sisig itself had the right amount of saltiness that doesn’t make you crave for rice. It’s perfect as an appetizer. The Spicy & Cheesy bread kesadillas was enjoyable. It’s not too spicy and the taste of cheese was faint but with its soft, moist dough, it was one of my favorites. If not for the main dishes which we were yet to try, I would have consumed two more.
Fried Lumpiang Shanghai was tasty, good thing it came in tiny pieces because it’s really good. The wrapper was again, delightfully crispy, given that it had been one of the first trays that were brought out. Amazing!
The salad section had three types of salad : Potato Salad with Maya-maya bits, Nicoise Salad with Salted egg and tinapa meat and the least interesting, the Pinoy Salad Station which had bowls of fresh lettuce, tomato, cucumber, carrots and onion . It’s boring, I mean, you get some lettuce, slap it with some dressing and it’s done. I snubbed it. The other two were innovative and delicious.
The combination of the appetizers were successful in building our anticipation for the main course. There were two types of soup, pork nilaga and vegetable chowder. I only tried the vegetable chowder which was expectantly creamy and had a thick consistency. I just gulped the entire thing. I was excited for the entrees.
For meat lovers, there’s angus beef kare-kare which is served daily, Angus beef Caldereta, Caprichon – tediously prepared crispy lechon belly with the skin deep fried, then baked. The rest is roasted then baked. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the heart to eat the caprichon. It’s been a while since I consumed unprocessed pork or beef, thus, it no longer goes down well into my system. I love steamed dumplings, but then again, that’s processed meat. Shawn, my “carnivore” friend, loved it.
There’s also roasted Angus beef and hooray – Roasted Chicken. These two appear to be the star of the buffet. Both are placed in a platter under yellow lamps. I tried the roasted chicken which tastes the way it should be, nothing extraordinary. The real star should have been the sauce – there’s four types of sauce, the one I picked which Mr. cool head chef recommended as it was a new concoction was buttery, complimented the chicken well and should not be missed.
There seemed to be a lot of carbohydrates served that day because there was also pumpkin pasta (pumpkin with fettucine noodles), Asian Pancit Guisado and two types of rice – steamed rice with pandan and the colorful garlic rice that had eggs and spring onions. The pumpkin pasta was innovative though I wish it had a little more flavor.
Though I’m not a fan of beef, I had to at least try angus beef kare-kare and the caldereta. It looked too good to pass up. The angus beef melts in the mouth and the flavors of both kare-kare and caldereta were spot on.
We also had Tortilla de patata, Steamed vegetables, tilapia escabeche with Papaya pickle and chicken binakol. Tilapia- is something that I avoid outside the house because my mom’s an expert on tilapia, thus, with much prejudice, there is no better way that tilapia can be cooked apart from the way she does it. 😛 That being said, PCF’s tilapia escabeche comes second to my mom’s cooking. It was good, but I prefer it crispy.
My appetite was still revved up when it was time for dessert. On the spread, I counted 15 : Rhum Balls, Turones jackfruit with butterscotch, Palitaw with latik, banana bread, Pichie-pichie, Halo-Halo Shooters, Chocolate Cake, Chocolate mousse, Chocolate Fountain, pineapple, watermelon, ube and vanilla ice cream, Vanilla Tort Cake, Brownies and Chocolate-ooh.
Off all the desserts I tried, the only one I didn’t enjoy was Turones jackfruit as its wrapper was a bit tough to bite into. Rhum balls with its adequate mix of liqour and chocolate, palitaw with latik, which came in green and orange, tastes as good as it looks and were my favorites. All the pastries were aptly sweet and chewy. Baking seemed to be another strength of this restaurant. The Halo-halo shooters were too small for comfort, but that’s just me. I like halo-halo with tons of shaved ice and minimal ingredients.
The home-made ice cream which is offered in ube or vanilla was a nice surprise. It had a rough texture, felt some minuscule ice caps on my tongue which Shawn and I liked. Vanilla was milky while the ube had the right amount of flavor.
By the time we got through with dessert, my stomach felt like bursting. Kim, Shawn and I capped the evening with stories about our personal life, alternating serious and funny topics. Nothing like great dinner to get your mouth spewing with happy raves.
With a homey ambiance and an array of well thought dishes that comes at a fair price, I’d recommend Primero Casa Filipino as a place for families, friends and long term-couples to dine, reminisce and talk about anything. The place spurts out long term relationship vibes. After all, it is an ancestral house that has withstood the decades.
Buffet Schedule :
Mon-Thu : 398 Pesos net (buffet)
Fri-Sun : 498 Pesos net (buffet)
Lunch Buffet: 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Dinner Buffet : 6:00 PM-10:00 PM
Merienda (Set Menu):Daily from 2:00 PM-5:30 PM
*188 Pesos (comes with appetizer, main dish, dessert and iced tea)