1950 Restaurant takes inspiration from the dishes of a well-traveled tita
The traditional Filipino family gathering is the inspiration behind chef Robby Goco and his team’s menu for 1950 Restaurant
The moment I learned that 1950 Restaurant was in the heart of busy Quezon City close to malls and the LRT station, I imagined a stuffy restaurant in the middle of a high-rise building, being passed frantically by businessmen and polluted with the sound of honking cars. A little bit extreme, I know, but with the current state of the Philippines, we’ve come to expect the worst.
That’s why when I saw the restaurant tucked on a quiet street only a few miles away from the main road, I was pleasantly surprised. The restaurant, hidden by a flurry of trees, reminded me of an oasis in a desert. There’s a wide lawn with scattered garden chairs and at its center is a simple but elegant two-story white house, what we now know as 1950 Restaurant.
The restaurant, which used to be the ancestral home of the Santaromana family, was the place where relatives would meet and enjoy Sunday lunches together. Throughout the years, this familial energy stayed with the house and it’s what brought the restaurant owners to set up 1950 Restaurant, with a promise to maintain the structure and integrity of the house.
“When the Santaromana family wanted to rent out the house, they were specifically saying to keep the look of the house. Hindi ‘yung gigibain,” Goco shares. “A lot of people were asking for this house, but we told them we’ll not only keep the integrity of the house but also elevate it.”
Inside, the rooms and spaces have been upturned into a restaurant. The kitchen area is an open space where cooks prepare the dishes, and the living room has been transformed into the dining area. All around there are trinkets and valuable items such as an old piano and vintage photographs that piece together the cozy, classy feel of the house. Upstairs, the whole space is a dining area that can house around 40 guests. The natural light brought about by the wide bay windows radiates a sense of liveliness to every dining experience.
Now imagine it’s Sunday, and there’s a family reunion at your tita’s house. You know her, the one who worked her way to the top and was able to fly around the world, so now she’s holding lunches at her house to share stories and knowledge on international cuisine. That’s what Goco, chef Jonjon Balanagay and chef Chester Velas are trying to make you remember at 1950 Restaurant.
“With the menu, there is always something more elaborative. It’s familiar flavors but elevated. When you’re in the Philippines, it’s always about ‘Paano mo gagawin mas mura?’ Pero pag may tita ka na ganito, it’s always paganda. Gawin natin ‘yung parang sa Spain, parang sa Italy.”
The Filipino Classics, for example, are the dishes that our parents love to cook, like caldereta, adobo and laing but with an element that differentiates it from the original. The caldereta is made of lamb ribs and topped with a potato tuille and the adobo is served as a set that includes bangus belly adobo sa gata, chicken adobong Tagalog and pork belly adobo sa dilaw. For the dishes that resemble the international cuisine your tita boasts about, there’s the likes of the tori kuwayaki (Japanese fried chicken), foie gras brulee (French custard cream topped with duck liver) and the Angus prime ribeye (American beef).
Fans of seafood will love the sablefish aburi where the fish is kept tender with a crisp coating then topped with crispy bacon and roasted cauliflower puree. The lobster bisque, a rich and creamy soup using Maine lobsters, makes for a tasty appetizer.
The end of each meal is best complemented with a sweet dessert. 1950 Restaurant’s molten chocolate cake has the ingredients of a kid’s snack (chocolate, caramel popcorn and vanilla ice cream) but the flavors are surprisingly subdued and light. For drinks, you’ve got a wide selection of craft beers, mocktails, coffee and different kinds of wine.
While I was having my fill, I witnessed the true essence of the restaurant in the works. The chefs treated it like a home, chatting with guests, occasionally having a bite from some of their own dishes, and enthusiastically sharing the creative process behind each meal. Everyone, from the head chefs and cooks to the waiters, all gave a sense of a close-knit family themselves. Even as 1950 Restaurant packs its dishes with a kick of high-quality flavors, the cherry on top is its familial vibe that makes each meal not just a dining experience but a treasured memory.
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Even as 1950 Restaurant packs its dishes with a kick of high-quality flavors, the cherry on top is its familial vibe that makes each meal not just a dining experience but a treasured memory.
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