I’ve always wanted to experience a boodle feast or fight for a very long time. I’ve seen a lot of photos on social media and television food networks showing what a gastronomical experience this type of Filipino dining is, where food favourites are served on a wide-green banana-leaf platter and eaten with bare hands. So I contacted my friends whilst back in the Philippines, to see if they would like to have a get together and catch up over a boodle night, everyone liked the idea, so bring on the food war!
So where to start for the search of the best boodle feast in the heart of Metro Manila, suggestions were shared and one menu that stood out was from Aracama Filipino Cuisine, it was also recommended to me by one of Manila’s top IG foodie groups.
The Boodle Platters menu was pretty straight forward, a choice between the two, Salo-Salo Boodle PHP3,200 – AUD$84 or Fiesta Boodle PHP4,200 – AUD$110, both good for 8 diners, we settled for the Fiesta and the booking was made.
The table reserved for us was next to the wall on the right side of the restaurant. The place has ample space with two dining areas – downstairs and upstairs with chic ambience, wooden floors, uniform chairs and tables, the lighting emits an inviting feel and contemporary decor that reflects a modern take of a Filipino restaurant. The light brown and velvety blue curtains behind the long counter/bar area were imposing, kind of theatrical statement, the curtain in the middle will open up and the food show begins.
Once seated, we didn’t know what to expect really. Our table was already set with plates, forks and spoons, we were beginning to wonder if we had correctly booked a boodle feast for the night. Curiosity began amongst us, where are the banana leaves? are we going to use ‘kubyertos’ or are we eating by hands? It would have been nice if the wait staff had given us a quick briefing of their boodle feast style or bit convivial, after all we were their customers for the night, it was a bit slow paced, albeit the restaurant was generally quiet, oh well, I guess we will leave it all to the chef.
Pandan juice was the first served, a sweet drink with hint of pandan leaves. It was a nice starter and an ice breaker between our table and the wait staff, though after I sculled my drink, I needed a beer to cleanse the palate to say the least. Then came the boodle plate, a wooden platter with banana leaves on top and all the dishes on the menu laid out nicely. And before the wait staff could lay it properly on the table, everyone’s mood changed to awe, wow, yum, and phones were clicking here and there capturing the presented repast.
So, was the food worth fighting for?
The plain and kalo-kalo rice were equally served as the base of the toppings. The fried rice (kalo-kalo) was flavoursome, I could literally eat it with the juices that had soaked through from the dishes on top.
The pickled veggies had all the right elements of well balanced sweetness, tangy and sour tastes, a good accompaniment to the grilled and deep fried dishes.
The tiny servings(2) of grilled eggplant with a slice of salted egg, were worth fighting for, the portion was only good for 2 person. The smokey flavour of the eggplant combined with crispy sweet and sour taste of the mango and sweetness of the tomato was fresh and punchy. I wished that they served at least 4 portions of this.
Instead of minced meat, the springrolls were made from milkfish flakes, they were warm and moist in middle and crunchy on the outside.
The glazed chicken honey barbecue on sticks were tender, juicy and saucy, a finger-lickin’ dish.
The crispy pata, pig’s leg was the crowd-pleaser, consistent golden colour, perfect crisp crackling and the meat falling off the bone. The condiment sauce was alright though I would have liked to have seen freshly cut chilies or extra lemon/calamansi to go along with the dipping sauce.
The beef adobo was cooked with palm vinegar (tuba) that gives this dish its signature savoury and aromatic flavours, it was a stellar dish.
The prawns were perfectly cooked but the spice in the coconut was missing.
Hands down to the gooey dulce gatas (milk candy), the caramelisation was consistent and the bunuelos fried dough balls were crunchy. A delectable way to finish off a bountiful dinner.
Recap: Boodle feasts started as a Filipino army tradition. All eat together regardless of rank and food was spread over banana leaves and eaten with bare hands.
Our group utilised the cutlery on the table as well as our hands to peel, eat and share the feast, plates were banana leaf free. The restaurant provided us with finger bowls, not to be mistaken for soup!
Overall, it was a good night catching up with friends over a boodle feast. Aside from the boodle menu, Aracama offers an intensive food and drink menu, check it out. By the way, any idea of the ultimate dishes to be added on a boodle feast?, let me know.
The Fort Strip, 5th Avenue Corner 26th Street, Taguig, 1634 Metro Manila, Philippines
Phone: +63 2 519 6815