I’ve been hearing so much about people going to City of Dreams for the past couple of weeks. Who wouldn’t be curious about it, especially since it’s the casino being advertised by three big names in Hollywood?
We headed there after checking out the Manila International Auto Show held at the World Trade Center. The place was smaller than I expected it to be, but I have to admit that the amount of colorful lights and constant barrage of slot machine sounds were a bit hypnotic. It’s really not surprising how some people can just stay there for hours on end!
To be honest, our main goal in going there wasn’t to try our hand at winning a poker game or betting a few hundred pesos at the roulette table. Our goal was to visit the Dreamplay activity center / theme park established by Dreamworks inside the building. Anticlimactic, I know, but what can I say? We’re all kids at heart! :p Unfortunately for us, we were a few minutes late as the place has already closed for the day. Maybe on another day. 🙂
After wandering through the gaming area, we decided to have dinner in one of the restaurants there. We chose Apu, whose name was said to be derived from the Kapampangan term for grandmother. They claim to serve authentic Filipino cuisine, a very challenging thing to carry out.
We noticed two foreigners behind the counters whom the group of Filipino wait staff addressed with respect. None of us knew for sure if they were the sole owners of the restaurant, but seeing them there made us think so. One of them would, at times, help out in the prepping of tables for waiting customers. It was kind of fun to observe them, for a change. We wondered how well their grasp of Filipino cuisine is, especially since this restaurant was supposedly all about its authenticity.
A few minutes later, our attention was diverted to the food which arrived at our table. We chose just a few items off the menu since there were only five of us dining that evening. We started off with Apu’s Sizzling Pork Sisig (Php390.00), which unfortunately tasted pretty bland. It wasn’t served anything close to sizzling hot either, although the plate had enough residual heat to cook the raw egg added in by our server.
Their take on the Lamb Kaldereta (Php640.00), on the other hand, was a winner. The braised lamb shank was truly fall-off-the-bone tender. A bigger serving would probably make this dish more family-friendly.
Their Bicol Express (Php685.00) was something out of the ordinary, with a block of fried lechon kawali (pork belly) seated in the middle of the coconut milk sauce instead of the usual shredded pork meat.
Taste-wise, it was okay. The pork’s skin was no longer crunchy even before it hit the liquid, but we still thought it was satisfying. Nothing too fiery here, though, so traditional Bicol Express lovers here may be disappointed by the lack of heat. I know I was.
Apu’s Seafood Kare Kare (Php750.00) was comprised of a decent assortment of seafood and vegetables, so we had enough to split among the five of us. Presentation was a notch above other Filipino places and it had that signature Kare Kare sweetness to it, but the flavor of ground peanuts / peanut butter wasn’t as prominent as I hoped for.
We ordered plain rice as our main source of carbs so that we could fully appreciate all the sauces. A serving of the rice may be good for 1 to 2 individuals, but it really depends on how hungry you are.
We already knew that choosing to dine at the City of Dreams would mean that we’d have to shell out more cash for most items, but we still felt our wallets silently protesting when we were handed our bill amounting to Php3,000 plus. The food, service and ambiance were pretty decent, but it would be understandable if not everyone would make Apu their regular choice for Filipino cuisine.
Were they really serving authentic Filipino cuisine? I couldn’t say for sure, but I think they might need to tweak some things around a bit. I appreciated the effort and the nice way they presented Filipino food to the public, but I felt that there was something amiss. I’m more inclined to think that their dishes were more of what the people behind the restaurant thought Filipino food should be, instead of what it essentially is: homey and no frills.
*Apu is located at City of Dreams, Upper Ground Floor, Asean Ave. cor. Roxas Blvd Entertainment City, Parañaque, Manila.