Abe’s is Where Good Friends Dine. I’m all about friends and friendship. But what makes Abe’s really standout is the quality of its food. I’m not really big into local Filipino cuisine, dayuhan sa sariling bayan and all that, whatever. The truth is probably more like, there aren’t many good Filipino restaurants around. If there were more of them, I’d probably be a bigger fan.
But Abe’s is perhaps the single best Filipino restaurant we have. I wish I knew about more, but this is the only one that has ever really made me think, “Man, I am proud of my native cuisine.”
Take a stroll through Alabang Town Center’s new restaurant area — the one with Jamba Juice, Chili’s, Fully Booked and Starbucks — and you’ll find Abe’s. It’s actually a Pampangan restaurant and not a Tagalog one, and “Abe” itself means “friend” in kapampangan.
But what you really wanted to know and see is the food!
Let’s start with the High Blood Brigade.
Let’s start with the good old standby — Crispy Pata. There’s probably no food in the Philippines more responsible for cases of hypertensiveness than Crispy Pata. Everyone loves it. Everyone craves it. And unlike our next contestant, everyone orders this all the time, and not just on special occasions.
This dish is a pig’s hind leg, or pata, fried to perfection until the skin gets all crispy. The meat becomes ridiculously juicy and oily, loaded with cholesterol goodness. Eat it with some toyo for that added salt content. But hey, so you don’t die too fast, there’s some healthy ginger achara on the side.
I’m not too big a fan of Crispy Pata, so I count my blessings. Maybe I’ll live to see 60 after all.
Next up in our high-blood-pressure-inducing list is Lechon. Perhaps the most regal of Filipino Pork dishes, Lechon rightfully deserves its crown as the go to fiesta food. Lechon is basically a pig put on a spit and slow roasted over a fire, turned all around until its outsides are charred brown and its insides cooked pure white. It’s a surprisingly simple preparation but apparently there’s a lot of skill involved, as lechon quality differs greatly everywhere.
The best lechon has incredibly crisp skin on the outside, slightly difficult to chew, and as you do residual traces of the crisp skin get stuck in the crevasses of your teeth, that’s how you know it’s good lechon.
On the other hand, the layer of fat underneath the skin is wholly-preserved as the pig was roasted with most of its skin and meat intact (and only the innards removed) — so you get a sort of layered cube of pig meat with crisp skin on top, smooth luscious fat in the middle and soft wonderful meat at the bottom. Abe’s lechon is classic good lechon — it doesn’t have the exotic taste of the spices and marinating sauces used in Cebu-style Lechon, but it’s very very good, with the roasting honed to perfection.
However, since there is pretty much no marinating done with this lechon, the sarsa dip (that brown sauce you see beside) is necessary to give it a suitably sweet, but not too sweet, taste. This complements the pig meat perfectly.
Perhaps the most iconic Filipino dish, however, is Adobo.
Unlike your regular adobo, which is made of pork or chicken, this is made of lamb. I’ve eaten lamb before, and sometimes it has a very gamey taste that makes it unpleasant to eat. This lamb though is well-prepared with none of that gamey taste, and just pure succulent morsels of mutton.
Adobo is a rich way of cooking meat, originating from Spanish influence, with lots of vinegar, soy sauce and various herbs, and a ton of garlic. You can even see the whole morsels of garlic swimming in the sauce. I eat it all. The sauce is ridiculously tasty, not the best adobo I’ve had (but let’s face it — the best adobo is the one your mom makes), but you won’t feel bad having this one.
Pour that sauce over your rice and have a go at that succulent mutton! The taste is very savory but not too salty, with just a hint of sourness from the vinegar, perfectly mixed. I hate it when my adobo is too salty or too sour, this nailed it just right.
Speaking of rice, a meal at Abe’s is never complete without its signature Bamboo Rice.
The bamboo rice is served right in its bamboo husk. Before serving, the bamboo is cracked open by the waiter, creating a sharp clacking sound. The deliciousness of the rice inside then wafts out, it’s spiced up with some soy sauce and shrimp, so if you’re seafood allergic take note.
I am allergic to shrimp, but if I eat just the rice and take out the shrimp I am fine eating this rice. It’s a great variety of flavored rice and a nice alternative to the usual fried or garlic rices we get around, it’s a must try and serves 3-4 people per order.
This was our beef dish for the night. Unfortunately… I seem to have forgotten the name of this dish. It’s a tomato-based sauce with very soft beef cuts, potatoes, mushrooms and green onions. As always, the sauce goes well with white rice, and you should put it all over the rice. It wasn’t my favorite dish, which is probably why I forgot the name! But it’s still a good, tasty dish.
We also had Crispy Tadyang — which is a great beef ribs dish crispy fried to perfection — but I seem to have lost my picture of it.
Now, in the Philippines we worship coconuts. We’re called a Banana Republic but it wouldn’t be off to call us a Coconut Republic. Coconut milk (or gata) is a very popular ingredient in many Bicolano dishes, and here we have a favorite known as Gising Gising, which means, “Wake up!”
So-called because of the rich chili peppers hidden amongst the kangkong cutlets, you’ll also find some shrimp hidden in there. Unlike the rice, though, this causes allergies in me even if I avoid the shrimp. I love the coconut milk but the allergies acting up ruin my taste for the dish.
So instead, I get my coconut milk fix from:
Laing! This is my dad’s favorite and a really, really good dish. It’s a bunch of Gabi leaves squished and smothered in coconut milk, but Abe’s version doesn’t shy away from its Bicolano roots and lavishes it with tons of labuyo peppers.
It’s suitably spicy, has such sweet and creamy coconut goodness, and tons of leafy veggies to keep you nice and healthy. I absolutely love this dish. My favorite here in Abe’s. It’s so thick and creamy, I have to wonder how they managed to make it without a big helping of Nestle Cream, but this is all pure coconut cream goodness.
Absolutely the best.
And with that, we move on to our desserts.
Halo Halo is perhaps the most iconic Filipino dessert. With tons of shaved ice inundated with a hodge podge of sweet and delicious goodies, topped with some ube and ube ice cream and slathered with milk, it’s a favorite of mine and pretty much everyone.
My one complaint about this Halo Halo — it doesn’t come with Leche Flan. Come on?! So…
Leche Flan is another Filipino favorite. It obviously has its roots in Spanish cuisine, where its original form, Flan de Leche, is found. I do not really know the difference between Spanish and Filipino leche flan, but Abe’s has some good leche. It’s obviously milk creamed into a flan custard, then glazed with caramelized sugar.
Abe’s is not the best leche flan I have had, but it goes well with the Halo Halo. Unfortunately, Abe’s Halo Halo is not the best I have ever had either, but hey nobody’s perfect.
Since I get allergic to shrimp, I ordered some buko pandan ice cream to help me get rid of the allergy. I don’t take anti-histamine medicine; instead I rely on sweets and dairy products to remove the allergy — and hey, it works. I don’t know why, but it does. Ice cream, milk tea, or just plain milk work great in fixing my allergies.
This ice cream worked well. But I have to say, it’s not very good. The buko is there, pandan is in the form of pandan jelly, but it lacks the zing of real pandan. But it cured my allergies so that’s fine.
My favorite dessert though had to be…
This is just amazing. Suman was a childhood favorite of mine. My lola used to bring suman from Bicol all the time. Suman is a kind of kakanin and is nothing but stick rice wrapped in some kind of leaf, infusing it with a fresh sweet taste. This is the same great suman, but cut into small pieces and then fried. The real kicker though is the chocolate fondue!
Let me be clear. This chocolate is not sweet. It’s Spanish-Style chocolate meaning it is very rich and thick with cacao juice, it’s the tablea kind of chocolate cooked with evaporated milk to create a rich, thick, creamy chocolate sauce. You can feel the granules of the cacao in each glop. It is not sweet at all. There is no sugar.
The sweetness of this dessert comes solely from the infused taste of the suman, which you dip into the fondue, and when you bite in…. wow! The crispy texture of the suman mushed with the cacao granules as the rich chocolate sauce melts on your palette and fills your mouth with its bitter, chocolatey goodness! Then the sweetness of the suman kicks in to balance out the slightly bitter taste, and you chew it and the gooey softness rolls off your tongue….
Ahhh, excuse me I was drooling for a moment.
This dessert is without a doubt one of my favorites anywhere. It’s not sweet, it’s different, but it’s great. I could eat this all day long!
Have you been to Abe’s? What did you have? Do you know of any other great Filipino restaurants I can sample? Let me know in the Disqus comments!