WHAT’S A little gluttony right before or right after church? Café Inggo 1587, a café within the Sto. Domingo Church complex in Quezon City, is serving up indulgent dishes that just might make you sin a little.
A meal during a tasting earlier this month began with lechon kawali sinigang (a sour soup made with deep-fried pork belly). Take that, arteries. The lechon kawali still remained quite crispy, while the charring of the meat gave the sinigang’s broth a smoky tasting note. Next came a fabada, modeled after a traditional Spanish bean soup, which was filling; made chunky with white beans, vegetables, and bits of ham and sausages. This might remind one of family dinners after the holidays, making one smile quietly.
A chicken gallantine with blue cheese sauce didn’t impress everyone, but hey, this reporter enjoyed it, reminded of late-night dinners that one makes in the dark, to be eaten in front of the television. An adobo carefully stewed in fat, soy sauce and vinegar, had a similar but more masterful effect.
Finally, the meal ended with an excellent apple strudel, which reminds one, perhaps of mom — if your mother was a great cook.
Actually, the dishes are the creations of chef Willy Domingo, formerly with the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel.
All in all, Café Inggo’s dishes create an effect in the palate that immediately evokes comforting memories: just perfect for calming one down right before confession.
The Café’s name comes from the Filipino nickname for Domingo, the Spanish variant of Dominic, the saint for whom the convent was named. Trivia: while people are comfortable calling it Sto. Domingo Church because of the adjoining Dominican convent, the complex is actually called the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary. The numbers in the cafe’s name is an allusion to the year that the first Dominican missionaries arrived in the Philippines.
The religious theme is strong in the café, decorated with a painting of the pieta as well as dozens of pen-and-ink sketches of churches by Alex Uy, collected by the café’s owner, Vic Alcuaz.
Mr. Alcuaz, who works as a hospitality consultant in the hotel and restaurant industry, was a Dominican seminarian himself once, which was why the priests found it natural to contact him when the restaurant which formerly occupied the space closed down (hint: it was a dessert place).
The priests also have their fingers in some of the pies (figuratively, of course). Following the tradition of members of the clergy distilling spirits (think chartreuse and Champagne), the café’s recipe for sangria as well as a craft beer recipe come from two of the priests.
Most of the café’s customers are parishioners, but there’s a surprise if you arrive early for breakfast. From six to nine in the morning, Gregorian chants are played in the café while one indulges in tapsilog (a set dish of dried beef, fried rice, and egg) or some other breakfast fare, because the priests and nuns enjoy it.
“There is something unique about opening a restaurant within the church,” said Mr. Alcuaz. — Joseph L. Garcia
Café Inggo is inside the Sto. Domingo Church compound at Biak na Bato corner Quezon Ave., Santa Mesa Heights, Quezon City.