Where to eat in Laguna: Arabela

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Great restaurants are often tucked in an area far from the city and civilization. Discard the fascination over imported franchise food and focus on local culinary feats - starting in Liliw, Laguna.

Arabela Restaurant, located in the land of cheap and fashionable footwear, Liliw, Laguna (or what Metro Pinoys call 'The Marikina of the South'), is a restaurant that doesn't offer the town's specialty and does not purely offer Filipino food. It offers a fusion of comfort food filled with delectable carbs standard for Italians - pasta and pizza. Of course, being a fusion restaurant, it also offers salads, soups, steaks, and several rice and fish tandem dishes. But pizza and pasta dominate their menu.

Clearly, Arabela does not depend on the shine and glint of the surface but it focused on the quality of the food. The restaurant is rather small and claustrophobic, as it's located on the first floor of a house. If your height is past 5 feet 5 inches, you can find yourself checking if your head will bump the ceiling. The interior is quaint and well thought of - you can say it's chic and reminiscent of Old Spaghetti House or Banapple.

The restaurant has a sign outside to guide first time customers but I think the locals already know of this small restaurant so they are free to ask the locals where it's located. You can reach Arabela in two hours from Los Banks and maybe 3-4 hours from Manila.

Some of the signs in Arabela

As mentioned, the ceiling of this restaurant is low that you have to think twice of bringing a tall foreigner friend here. See the guy in the photo below?

Right photo shows where they store their pasta sauces and condiments. 

This is where you can order your sweets and other products like imported chocolates.

Arabela restaurant also offers baked goodies. It's really a complete package. 

Here are photos of their dishes as a preview of their menu (not sure if they changed the price):

Pecan crusted chicken salad, P150

Left - their water has orange slices on it, for a healthy twist Right - a photo of their condiments

Large deluxe P250 on thin crust

Since they have thin crust for their pizza, this one is not that filling at all. I love the homemade taste and the lack of greasiness present in Pizza Hut or Shakey's. 

Large margherita pizza - P250

Grilled chicken on marinara sauce - P175 - angel hair pasta in marinara sauce topped with mozzarella cheese... and two bread sticks. These sticks are ok since it won't make you bloated with all the carbs.

 Chicken parmigiana with pasta in marinara sauce - P170

Ravioli - P175

Carbonara - P85 - I think this is carbonara, if I'm not mistaken. And yes, that's a small bread over there. It's also nice that they are very particular about their presentation - from the plate, the placement of the basil, and the cleanliness of the plate. 
Baked macaroni - P85

Pan-grilled John Dory P180 - seemed a bit expensive at first but seeing the large slab of John Dory, it's worth it. It's not so healthy after it's drizzled with the sauce.

Sinaing na isda - I forgot the price. I remember that this tasted so ordinary and can be made anytime at home.

Blueberry cheesecake! P85 This is not baked cheesecake but the no-bake variant. We tried doing this at home before but it never came out this thick. We loved this, especially the cream and chocolate syrup presentation. Nom!

Fudge walnut brownie - P50 - We asked for a brownie and expected it to come in a plate with the wrapper on but no, we were presented this beautiful plate with caramel. Props to Arabela for adding presentation even though this didn't cost that much.

(murdered) bread pudding - P50

 Chocolate mousse - P85

Raspberry and mango cheesecake - P80 - Ah this is just lovely. I love how they presented this, which seemed like it came out of a hotel restaurant.

It's true that you can buy the same food from other establishments in Manila but it's just refreshing that a businessman from a province in Liliw can have the courage to set up a modern restaurant that would seem alien to a probinsyano like me. The business is booming because the restaurant is near the footwear shopping street that is frequented by tourists but also because residents of Laguna are sampling this restaurant and loving it. 

So if you're bound to Laguna and want to try something that is not seen in Metro Manila, drive to Arabela restaurant in Liliw, Laguna, and you'll find that your money (for gas and food) is worth it.

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