Situated across the majestic Malacanang Palace, Casa Roces (formerly known as Kape Chino) has become one of the top restaurants in Manila since it opened its doors more than a year ago. That is because this casual style dining restaurant has masterfully treated its diners a harmonious blend of food, history and heritage within an intimate setting.
A Bit of Casa Roces History
Before Casa Roces became a restaurant, it was first a home that has been carefully preserved through time. In fact, much of the original setup of the home were carefully preserved and kept as it made its transition from a home into a casual style dining restaurant, from the vintage crystal chandeliers to the numerous artifacts and memorabilia originally owned by the Roces clan found all over the restaurant.
The Casa Roces Dining Experience
If there is one that makes Casa Roces such a unique restaurant in Manila, it is the overall experience guests have when they dine here. From the moment you step in, you get more of the feeling of stepping into someone’s home. The side entrance of the restaurant where you can avail of their valet parking service opens up to a cozy lobby area that looks and feels like someone’s living room where you are immediately greeted and accommodated by the waiting staff.
Comfort Food with a Twist
Casa Roces offers a selection of dishes crafted by Chef Menoy Gimenez of the Cravings Group. He got his inspiration from the Roces family cookbook and decor and added it his own personal touch to create an a la carte menu showcasing some of the much-loved dishes of the Roces clan as well as a few interesting signature dishes.
As part of the first year anniversary, Casa Roces now offers some great new dishes as part of their El Bulto del Casa menu, which gives you a great selection of Filipino and Spanish food good for up to 15 people, perfect for parties and special gatherings.
One perfect example of this is Casa Roces’ Choritos (smoked Spanish pork sausage) and Tinapa (smoked milkfish) mousse. Chef Gimenez took these two popular Filipino breakfast staples and combined them with a selection of cream cheese and herbs to balance out the otherwise strong smoky flavors. The result? Two appetizers that are light on the palate yet rich in flavor.
Another is their Ensaymada Bread Pudding with Spanish Chocolate sauce. Ensaymada is a sweet bread roll topped with butter, sugar and cheese usually enjoyed during breakfast or as a snack, often accompanied by a cup of rich hot chocolate. Chef Gimenez took his cue from the traditional pairing done by Filipinos to come up with this luscious, yet light dessert to fittingly end a hearty meal.
When it comes to their entree menu items, however, Casa Roces keeps them as close to the original and traditional as possible. Serving sizes are often good for sharing. Compared to the appetizers and desserts, the presentation of the entrees appear more homey and less artistic. But what it lacks in presentation, it overwhelming makes up in flavor.
I was particularly impressed with their Roasted Leg of Lamb served with some homemade mint sauce and local sweet potato. It was a no frills dish; just a huge leg set by our table. The only thing that added a bit of a flair to it was the fact that it was being carved right beside our table. But as soon as it was being carved, I knew I was in for a treat. The meat perfectly cooked, still having that slight tinge of blush in it. At the first bite, I was in heaven. The meat was so moist and tender, you barely need to chew it. The mint sauce was excellent. It had just the right amount of mint taste and sweetness to complement the lamb.
Another was their Morcon. The rich tomato-based sauce generously slathered onto it accentuated its rich meaty taste. Definitely a far cry from the one that I tasted back during my recent trip to Pampanga.
For vegetarians, try their Vegetable lasagna. The generous servings of an assortment of hearty vegetables tucked in between each pasta layer would make even a carnivore not miss the meat.
Casa Roces Tours
After your meal, you can take a walk around the outdoor dining area, or go up to the second floor, where you are briefly transported back in time when Casa Roces was still a home. Here, you can find artworks and paintings created by some of the notable artists in the country as well as those done by members of the Roces family. Also on display are different pieces of memorabilia, some dating as far back as the Commonwealth era in Philippine history.
If the place is not too busy, approach one of the waiters to give you a tour. I have been told that not only are they trained to give you prompt and excellent table side service. They have also been trained to give you a tour and a bit of its history.
I decided to give it a try. Before coming here last Wednesday afternoon, I have read that President Noynoy Aquino would often come here to eat. Not surprising since it is literally just a few feet away from his office. I asked Randy, one of the waiters on duty, to show me around, particularly where the President would usually eat when he comes over to Casa Roces.
Randy proved to be a really good tour guide. He led me to the Daily Mirror—one of the private dining rooms located on the second floor of the restaurant. This, he told me, was the favorite of the President. It is also the room that has quite a remarkable piece of furniture: a huge wooden door formerly used in the house that has been converted into the private dining room’s table.
From there, he showed took me around the other private dining rooms located upstairs. Each were named after different print publications of the Roces family. Next to the Daily Mirror, my favorite was the La Vanguardia room. Named after the very first publication owned and managed by the Roces family, this was formerly the master bedroom. It is also the largest, with two long elegant tables—each able to sit 6 people—and two sofas, great for visitors to laze around and chat after a hearty meal.
This is not the only tour Casa Roces offers. Being so close to the historic Malacanang Palace, they also offer a package that includes a tour of the Malacanang Museum. This is definitely something I’m going back to try.
After spending an entire afternoon here, I’d say it is definitely worth the trip. From the ambience, to the food, right down to the service, Casa Roces truly is a celebration of Filipino food and heritage, and worth the trip every single time.
Casa Roces Rating:Ambience 5/5 Cleanliness 5/5 Menu Selection 4/5 Service 5/5 Price 4/5 Casa Roces is located at 1153 J. P. Laurel corner Aguado Streets, San Miguel, Manila (click here to view a map of the area). They are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 9pm, Saturdays from 9am to 10pm, and Sundays from 8am to 9pm. Reservations are highly recommended since there are instances when the entire restaurant is closed because of different functions and events. For reservations, you can call them at (632) 735-5896 or (632) 488-1929. You can also e-mail them at email@example.com.
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