Saturday, January 01, 2011


G.U.S. NITPICKS!! (v. 21)


Actually, i had sworn off writing restaurant reviews, since so many other bloggers are able to do this much better than i can; and i just reserve my efforts for the out-of-town, so-called "destination" restaurants (think Antonio's Tagaytay).

But then Isabelo's was located in the shoe city of Marikina, which, for me, might as well be at the ends of the earth, since it seems so remote and far, far away like a distant galaxy.

Add to this the fact that my wine-swilling friends, D. and Jbs., waxed rhapsodic about the food and ambiance of the place, so it was a go.

Before we get on the car and drive off, here's a few things one should know about Isabelo Garden resto:

1. They are open for DINNER only (6 PM onwards).
2. One has to make advance reservations. No reservations, no food for you!
3. One also has to order from the menu in advance.
4. The owner-chef, Portia, generally does the cooking of the food herself.
5. They will give you the exact address and location map, only AFTER you make a confirmed reservation. Ergo, curious sightseers aren't exactly welcome! :D

So, off the three of us went for our foodie excursion. Unfortunately, the girls neglected to print out the map, relying instead on their memories of the directions from their previous visit.

This resulted in us getting lost in a major major way, and we tried asking policemen, a hospital doorman, tricycle drivers, etc. for directions, to no avail. D. called the resto, but their landline was not working.

"The food had better be worth all this trouble," i muttered grumpily, whilst entertaining thoughts of ejecting Jbs. from the car.

Finally, we turned into the small, extremely narrow Isabelo St. and honked at the slightly rusty, totally non-descript, grey-colored and unmarked gate of Isabelo Garden resto.

First, a brief word or two about the place. Isabelo aims to project a rustic, "feels-like-home" garden setting, and i'd say it overwhelmingly succeeds in this aspect. With the ancestral trees and assorted plants and cool breeze, one could very well forget that just outside the gates is a booming, industrial city with concrete roads and new commercial complexes.

There are various seating options, depending on the size of the group. One can dine on the garden, alfresco-style, or inside the equally-charming wooden house, which
doubles as an art studio/gallery.

Now, on to the FOOOOOOODDD! :D We had pre-ordered the following:

Creamy Italian Paella (PHP550.00)

This paella was a bit moist and soupy, i had thought it was almost like risotto. Creamy risotto at that, with sausage, chicken, and more than a hint of cheese.

Ultimately, it didn't matter what shape or form it was; this paella was simply packed with flavour, rich and delicious, albeit a bit heavy on the stomach.

Orange Herb Chicken (PHP660.00 for small size)

This is Isabelo's signature dish - one whole chicken, stuffed inside with orange peels and roasted for 4 hours. It comes served with squash, potatoes and carrots.

Moist, tender and juicy! I could have inhaled the entire chicken all by myself, come to think of it :D

Pizza Rustica (PHP430.00) - thin crust, with a thick layer of mozzarella cheese, and roasted veggies (zucchini, mushrooms, etc.) on top.

I was initially leery of this dish, being a major carnivore; but after two bites of the crunchy pizza, i was sold! Great way to eat veggies.

Mango Float (PHP110) - Isabelo's ice cream cake. This was good, but maybe because i had already eaten too much of the other dishes, it wasn't anything fantastic. Passable.

So, obviously we have a happy, positive verdict: The food at Isabelo's not only lives up to the hype; coupled with the nice, relaxing ambiance, it is worth all the trouble getting lost in the (dare i say it) boondocks of Marikina!

I'll leave you all with this nice table accent. It's small, deft touches like this that make all the difference, no?

A return trip is in the cards, indeed-y.

Photo credits to MBismonte.

(For more details regarding menu and reservations, please check out Isabelo Garden's website. I will not publish the exact location, but here's a hint: It is very near the Marikina Shoe Museum)