MANILA, Philippines—A new bar-bistro is drawing raves as the hip hangout du jour of high living gourmands with recriminating tastes.
Porchetta, of the JLN restaurant group, strategically located in Batasan Hills, Quezon City, is already a hit among foodies, VIPs and lobbyists. Lavishly appointed and bathed in dim but tasteful lighting, the bar-bistro has plenty of nooks and crannies for intimate business, or pleasure.
For really private under-the-table repartee, you can reserve The Smoke-Filled Room in the Lower Casa. Deep-pocketed regulars prefer the Upper Casa’s wiretap-proof Den of Iniquity, a watering hole of “tradpoles” (that’s lawmakers linked with Napoles, to the non-au courant).
The bar is an endless fount of unique cocktails. I ordered one of the house’s signature mixed drinks, Cubra Libre with Bacaldi rum. Jimmy N, the star bartender, personally prefers Whiskey Sour Aftertaste with plenty of Johnny Wanker Blue (“pour into iced tall glass, skim off the top, add bitterness”). A variation is the Juan Ponzi with Johnny Wanker Black and Old Glory bourbon.
Try the Gringo Snap—gin and muddled ginger. Popular with lobbying imbibers is the Bloody Mare and the Vodka with Compare Soda (with Stoleitnaya, Absulot or Smearnoff). There’s also the brain-curdling Denggoy Fever, in honor of Senator Jinggoy Estrada (two parts White Libel and three parts Kahlulua).
Before dinner I ordered a Bongdogle made with Patron tequila. It’s so potent you’ll forget that you know your kids’ business partner, or that you had a picture taken with her.
These lubricants can awaken an insatiable appetite. Good thing Porchetta is renowned for its brown nose-to-tail cooking. Don’t be put off by the all-you-can-eat setup, it’s the only way five senators and 23 congressmen do it.
The dishes are finessed with professional care. But you must eat everything on your dish; leaving traces could lead to fines, or prosecution.
I started with Pate-on-the-Back and a Terrine of Lily Livers. For entrée, I had Deep-Fraud Cutlet with layers of sugarcoating and a garlic payola dip. I couldn’t resist the excellent Anyhow Na Baboy (you get your kicks back any way you like).
Unfortunately, this is no place for vegetarians, and there are only two non-pork dishes, melt-in-the-mouth Estafadong Lengua, so deceptively rich in smooth talk and Roast Racket of Sacrificial Lamb just in case.
I just had a bite of Lechon Kawawa–taxpayers parboiled then fried in their own oil–I didn’t want my blood pressure to shoot up a la Miriam. But I couldn’t pass up the House-Style Pulled Pork BBQ (Budgetary Buyoff Quorum) reportedly the president’s dish because it makes everyone vote “aye.” That’s a lot of pull.
There’s intriguing Coup de Gras, goose liver marinated in gringo ale, the fave of a senator who has never met his co-coup plotting best army buddy’s wife. The less adventurous settle for the traditional Pork & Beans, the choice of pork loving co-swindlers who, when cut out of a deal, decide to spill the beans. Slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone Pork Tenderloan a la Pobre, serves 2, but not the poor.
The saucy dessert, Baboy au Rhum, according Sen. Ping Lacson, is best enjoyed when wining and dining with “NGO” lobbyists and the bevy of beautiful girls they bring to see lawmakers. The kitchen created what for me is the least tasty dish, the Dim Son, in honor of Sen. Bong Bong Marcos, who’s convinced he can still win the presidency after all this.
Porchetta’s sister bistro The Pork Barrel in Pacific Plaza Towers is also very popular and has a similar menu. However, due to popular disgust, there could be a major change. But I doubt that lawmakers and lobbyists will still be attracted to it after it becomes The Chicken Feed.