Much to the protest of my sister, I rarely ever visit the South. I have heard of some of the wonderful places to eat at there, but with the exception of Mama Lou's, I had yet to schedule our long-planned-but-can-never-seem-to-push-through Food Crawl of some of the best restaurants in BF Homes.
A few weeks ago, Rina and I decided to use a voucher for Bellevue Hotel Alabang that we purchased earlier in the year. Baby Rain had a Halloween party to attend at Bellevue as well, so the timing was perfect. My buddy Tales From the Tummy also had a GC for a stay at Crimson Hotel, so we decided to make it a Food Trip Weekend down at the South!
As soon as our bookings were confirmed, we contacted the Queen of the South, Sugar & Spice herself, Jane Go, to let her know that we would be entering her kingdom. The next thing I know, (Before Richard and I could even plan anything) Jane had reservations for us at one of her favorite restaurants in BF.
In fact, it was the restaurant that I had been most eager to try.. Bamba!
I'll be honest, I had narrowed down my choices of places to visit to two restaurants. I asked my sister, a BF resident, which one she would recommend more, and without missing a beat, she declared that it wasn't even close. Based on service, cleanliness, and of course, food, Bamba was the way to go, especially since her experience with the other my other "candidate" wasn't very pleasant.
So when Jane told me that Bamba extended an invitation to us, I tried it play it all cool..
But in reality..
Bamba is the brainchild of Chef Tina Legarda, who made a name for herself with her exclusive private dining dinners, and catering. All my sister needed to do was tell me that she was behind Gourmet Palate catering for me to be sold. To me, they are among.. if not THE BEST caterer if I've had the pleasure of trying.
Bamba is a cozy little place in BF. The are is not very big but the size adds to its unique charm.
Smokers need to fret because there is an Al Fresco area by the frontage, making it a relaxing place to enjoy a snack on a brisk afternoon.
There is a small coffee shop like section, that had a rustic feel
Chef Tina was already in full on beast mode in the kitchen, preparing the dishes that we were to sample. The aroma alone that came from the kitchen was more than enough to get my tummy grumbling, making Rina think there was something wrong with the nearby aircon.
My tummy had to continue grumbling for a few minutes further, because Chef Tina brought out a flurry of salads, starting with what Chef Tina calls, That. Awesome. Salad. Aka T.A.S. (P495). Rina is crazy over salads (and I love her still), and is a sucker for anything with shrimps, so this truly was awesome for her. Plump Grilled Shrimps and Marinated Salmon, made the salad more "filling", whilst figs, parmesan flakes and balsamic cream added a medley of different textures. The crisp potato strings were a nice final touch as well.
The Foie Gras Salad (P590) is quite an eclectic concoction, using the decadent fatty liver, and tossing it with sauteed peaches, ricotta, and vinaigrette cream, and sweetened up by a little Raspberry demi glace.
A new item on their menu, is the Apple and Fennel Salad (P420), which boasts a drizzling of Anchovy-Date Dressing and a sprinkling of goat cheese over crisp romaine lettuce.
Despite the fact that it was clearly heavy on the tomato sauce, I could not help but dig into the Huevos Flamencos (P210) with reckless abandon. The robust flavor of Chorizos, Ham and Beef cooked in tomatoes, with a creamy egg comfortably simmering in the center. The creaminess of the egg plays with the acid of the tomato sauce wonderfully, going perfect on the toasted crostini.
I'm really not a fan of artichokes, so I wasn't planning on trying the Artichoke Crostini (P290). Rina was totally convinced that I would enjoy it, and I could see why. To me, the beauty of this dish began with the crostini, which was smeared with delicious ricotta cheese and a fragrant basil puree. Bits of artichokes are placed on top, and drizzled with reduced Balsamic, then finished off with a sprinkling of toasted Almonds.
The French Fries Moderne (P190) was my favorite starter of the day. I simply annihilated the plate of Crispy hand cut potatoes that were topped with lightly sweet honey, then sprinkled with bits of feta cheese and fried rosemary for an added punch of flavor.
Ever since I got Rina to start watching Hell's Kitchen, she's found an interest in Scallops. She tries looking for Scallop dishes done in a gourmet way, reminiscent of the show. Well, luckily for Rina, Bamba's latest addition to it's starters menu, is the Pan Fried Scallops (P590). The beautiful pan fried scallops rest on a pile of Spinach, with a perfectly cooked sunny side Quail Egg perched on top of it. The plate is then smeared with flavorful Sweet Corn Puree, and balanced with a touch of Romesco sauce, and a bit of breadcrumbs for added texture.
I had already reached my quota with tomato based dishes, so I went easy on the Bolognese (P260). The noodles were a delightful Al Dente, and was coated in a rich, tomato meat sauce. Very good, but I would recommend ordering the other dishes that show off more of Chef Tina's creativity.
Something like the Duck Ravioli (P495) would be a good start. Freshly made raviolis, tightly packed with minced duck meat, swimming in a mouthwatering Porcini Cream sauce and truffle.
A mark of a great Chef, is how they can take a simple dish, and turn it into something absolutely spectacular. This is what Chef Tina did with the newest item on the Pasta menu.. The Cacio e Pepe (P420). Made with a blend of Grana Padano, Pecorino and Parmigiano cheeses, then jazzed up by the dashes of pepper, made what was supposed to be a simple pasta dish, into something truly amazing.
The Le Cochon Sliders (P350) totally blew my mind, I pitied the custodian that had to mop the floor afterwards. The sandwich consisted of thinly sliced, deep fried Pork Belly laying on a bed of red slaw, and topped with crispy wanton chips. Every bite had a play on flavor and textures that made me regret telling Rina we would split one slider (Marriage. Bah.)
Coach Jana had been craving for Bamba's Surf N' Turf Tacos (P595) for quite awhile, so despite the fact that she offered us all a try, repeatedly swearing that, "I won't be able to finish it", none of us dared to even try the smallest piece from her plate, for fear of losing a finger.
The "Surf" taco was made with chunks of Prawn and Lapu-Lapu, topped with a refreshing watermelon salsa, and given zest by a garlic aioli, and topped with alfafa sprouts, and drizzled with "Eel Sauce".
The Turf taco, on the other hand, is made with slices of Grilled Tenderloin, Red Coleslaw, Sricha Aioli, Salsa Verde, and gooey cheese.
Oh and by the way, within minutes, the plate was sparkling clean, it could have been used in a dish washing liquid commercial.
"I can't finish it", she said.
Rina's favorite dish of the entire meal was the Grilled Prawns (P695). Juicy, plump grilled prawns, piled on top of a bed of Roasted Tomato Risotto, and blanketed in a goat cheese berlinoise sauce, and a reduced balsamic to balance the richness.
Once I removed it from beneath the pile of Arugula Salad, My favorite was the Porcini Crusted Steak (P995). A mouth watering Angus Ribeye Steak, that had a bit of a spicy kick, served with delicious duck fat corn kernels. The cut was beautiful, with a gorgeous lining of fat along the sides, and cooked to a nice medium well.. Just the way I like it.
Our jaws dropped when they brought the S'Mores Dip (P250) to our table. I was worried at first that the chocolate would be too dark for my liking, but much to my surprise, it was made with warm milk chocolate, and topped with torched marshmallows that were peppered with gorgeous scorch marks, and Graham Crackers that you use for dipping.
As much as I loved the Smore's Dip, it was the Pizzookie (P230) that impressed me the most. I had a Pizookie a couple of months ago during a visit to BJ's restaurant when I was in the United States, and it was life changing. I'm proud to say that Bamba's Pizzookie is a very good version, and can easily stand toe to toe with that of its U.S. contemporary.
The Pizzookie itself was soft and moist, with the center still warm. The Pizzookie went perfectly with the scoop of Vanilla ice cream, drizzled with salted caramel, and toasted walnuts. It was brilliant.
I feel that Bamba Bistro's food isn't just good.
It's "I-Need-to-buy-a-House-at-BF" GOOD. Bamba puts a definitive stamp on Chef Tina Legarda being an undeniable culinary force to be reckoned with. Maybe those treks to BF to visit my sister may just occur more often.
Not only does she run Bamba Bistro, but Chef Tina also has another venture, Aprons by Amouse Bouche, which specializes in novelty aprons, only for P600 each! Kiddie sizes are also available! (Still too big for Rain though)
BAMBA BISTRO MENU