New Dishes to Try at LJC Restaurants as they Celebrate Festival of Flavors

Cafe Havana Caribbean Shrimp Curry

All the restaurants of the LJC Group will be launching new dishes starting tomorrow, Sept. 21 🙂

LJC Restaurants includes favorites like Abe, Cafe Adriatico, Cafe Adriatico Express, Lorenzo’s Way, Cafe Havana, Bistro Remedios, Larry’s Cafe and Bar, Fely J’s Kitchen, Abe’s Farm, and Polka Dot Bakeshop.

Before all the hip restaurants in BGC, Morato and inside malls, there was Malate. And the place that started it all was Cafe Adriatico.

My friend B’s favorite restaurant is Bistro Remedios. We actually just had dinner there last month and now I’m back to try some of the new dishes from LJC’s Festival of Flavors.

Most of the dishes from the LJC Group’s restaurants are Filipino comfort food. They don’t do fancy fusion with weird combinations. They do Filipino food really well, sometimes with a local twist, using ingredients that work. One of my new discoveries last month at Bistro Remedios was the sinigang with guava – it’s not something you’d normally find in other restaurants, but it’s very good, and the combination works.

In case you’re unfamiliar with LJC, LJC stands for Lorenzo “Larry”  J. Cruz. He was a journalist and opened Cafe Adriatico in Malate in 1979 because someone suggested it. It quickly became the place where Manila’s bright minds, celebrities and politicians hung out. He opened more restaurants after that.

Larry was a gentleman of great wit who loved the good life, which meant living well within one’s means, with things one loves most. That’s a philosophy I completely agree with! 🙂


For our lunch, we got to try several new dishes from the different LJC restaurants:

Enseladang Esmeralda (Cafe Adriatico) – I love sweet and salty combinations, especially for salads. This one has cranberries, almonds, chia seeds for a health boost, and a delicious, sweet raspberry-yogurt dressing.

Cafe Adriatico Ensalang Esmeralda

Crispy Bagnet (Bistro Remedios) – deep-fried, crunchy pork strips cut like thick bacon, served with spicy vinegar. People just gobbled this up!

Bistro Remedios Crispy Bagnet

Caribbean Shrimp Curry (Cafe Havana) – this was really good. The perfectly seasoned and well-balanced coconut curry sauce goes really well with some rice! This was the favorite dish of half of my lunch companions.

Cafe Havana Caribbean Shrimp Curry

Crab Bola-Bola sa Gata at Gulay (Fely J’s Kitchen) – this was the favorite of the other half, including me. At first, it’s like, yeah, it’s just kalabasa and sitaw, boring… but then I just can’t stop myself from reaching for it again and again. There’s really nothing over the top about this dish – it’s not too spicy, it’s not too salty, it’s not too sweet, there’s really no particular flavor that stands out – but somehow, I can’t stop eating it! It’s delicious, but in a very mild way that it catches you by surprise. The fried crab bola-bola is a comforting morsel that reminds me of childhood summers with my grandmother.

Fely Js Kitchen Crab Bola Bola

Ginataang Manok sa Puso ng Saging at Dahon ng Sili (Abe) – this is how I imagine Filipino curry would be if we had one. This is a simple dish of lean chicken simmered in turmeric coconut milk. Not spicy, there’s no cumin or garam masala here – just simple cooking using fresh ingredients, evoking provincial life. Fresh turmeric, coconut milk, garlic, chicken. Some bitterness from the greens, and carbs from the banana heart. Delicious.

Abe Ginataang Manok

Tenderloin Steak with Grapes (Lorenzo’s Way) – U.S. Beef Tenderloin Steak wrapped in bacon. It had me at steak AND bacon. 😀 It is served with some wine and grape sauce, because, why not? Red wine and beef make a good pairing, no? Why not extend that combo to the actual dish itself? It’s served with some potatoes au gratin.

Lorenzos Way Tenderloin Steak

Salted Caramel Cake (Polka Dot)This Salted Caramel Cake is the best thing ever! If you’re a salted caramel fan like me, you must try this cake! It is sweet, buttery, but also slightly bitter. Unlike other sweets that claim to be salted caramel, this one from Polka Dot has a very strong salted caramel flavor.

Polka Dot Salted Caramel Cake

Chia Pudding with Fruits (Larry’s Cafe & Bar) – the chia seeds mimic the texture of tiny sago in this dessert – sweet, creamy and cold. If you like sago cream, you’ll enjoy this healthier version. It is topped with dragonfruit, longan and pumpkin seeds.

Larry's Cafe Chia Pudding

We also visited the Polka Dot bakeshop across the street from Bistro Remedios. Polka Dot supplies all the cakes to the other LJC restaurants, so if there’s a cake that you loved at an LJC restaurant, you know where to buy more!

Polka Dot Cakes

Polka Dot Ensaymada

Polka Dot has a lighter, more girly, happy vibe compared to other LJC restaurants. I am very happy to have come across it. Now, we have somewhere to meet for coffee in Malate! My friends would love this place.

Polka Dot Malate

I’m so happy about Polka Dot because most of the coffee/dessert alternatives in Malate feel dark. Polka Dot feels light and airy, and the price point is very affordable!

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