Friday, February 17, 2017

Romy Dines at Bodega Casa Villa

I don't usually venture around the Marikina neighborhood, but after a long day of wedding errands one Saturday, I only had one dinner destination in mind: Bodega Casa Villa on Dragon St., San Roque.

Full disclosure, my grade school friends Karen Villa and Jan Junsay own the place together with another business partner Keanne Andeza, and they asked me to check the place out. I didn't want to come alone because I wanted to try several dishes to give my readers a comprehensive review. So with Jay and Kenneth in tow, I knew it was the perfect time to go.

Bodega Casa Villa is open for dinner service, which starts at 5pm. We arrived early at 6pm, as the crowd usually comes later for drinks and the live entertainment, which starts at 9pm from Tuesdays to Saturdays.

From the outside, the Filipino-Mexican (Filmex) restaurant looks like your neighborhood hole-in-the-wall, with bare cement walls, barbed wires, and a wooden gate. An old garage was converted to an al fresco dining area, where the bar is also located.

Intricately-carved wooden double doors lead to a more family-friendly dining space, decorated with yellow walls, cream tufted booths, and wooden tables and chairs. Warm lighting makes it more conducive to long meals and conversations, in contrast to the low lighting at the bar perfect for friends sharing a drink or two.

One of the two murals at Bodega Casa Villa.

Karen and I were classmates in third grade, and I am very happy to see her as a successful chef and now, a restaurant owner. "It wasn't my plan to open a restaurant," she told me. Karen used to be a chef for the Raintree Group, which operates several restaurants in the country including Chelsea Kitchen, M Cafe, Kabila, and Rocket Room. 

I love the restaurant's plates, carefully chosen by Executive chef Karen Villa and co-owner Keanne Andeza
But when Karen and her family moved houses, their old family home became a bodega for Rey's Auto Shop next door, owned by her parents. When Jan and Keanne asked her if she wanted to team up and open their own restaurant, Karen seized the opportunity.

We started our meal with one of their bestsellers, the Mucho Nacho Bodega (Php220). The photo doesn't do it justice, the serving is huge! It is topped with a mix of Filipino-Mexican ingredients: salsa fresca, jalapeño, lonnganisa, kesong puti, garlic cream, and quezo sauce. Even with a mouthful of toppings, we loved how the nachos weren't too heavy that it ruined our appetite. I'm not a fan of spicy food, but I tried them with the Bad Boy Tikboy hot sauce, and man what a bite. Not for the faint of heart diners.

Next we had the Taco Trio (Php295), where you can choose three among six variants: crispy buttered ox brain, lamb adobo, beef barbacoa, chicken inasal, fish sinigang, and pork bagnet sisig.

We chose (from left) fish sinigang, beef barbacoa, and chicken inasal. They come with salsa verde, chopotle salsa, and garlic cream sauce. Even without the dips, the tacos burst with flavor and I like the beef barbacoa best. The chicken inasal with atchara is also good. I liked the crunch of the fish taco, though it needed more of the sour taste of the sinigang soup.

Kenneth ordered the Sticky Pork BBQ Ribs (Php295), which we all loved. I often try ribs in restaurants that serve them, and this one is a winner. It's sweet and tangy, the meat tender. Bodega Casa Villa's servings are generous, and their plates can be shared among 3 people if you're ordering several dishes. The BBQ Ribs come with grilled corn and cilantro rice, which was a pleasant surprise. 

Jay and I split the Grilled Chipotle Lamb Chops (Php340), which comes with grilled corn and Mexican rice. This is best eaten upon serving, but because we had so much to eat, we weren't able to finish it and had the rest packed to go (like I said, huge servings). 

By the time we finished our entrees, Bodega was almost filled-up, with families, couples, and friends among the mix of diners. A few days later, the restaurant hosted a girl's Frozen-themed birthday party. Four months into their operations and the joint is already becoming a Marikina neighborhood favorite. 

We ended our meal with a must-try, the Boleros (Php170). They're deep-fried donut holes sprinkled with confectioner's sugar, and come with salted caramel, maple, and chocolate dips. 

Guys, I can't recommend this enough! Warm and packed, this dessert immediately made it to my Ultimate Comfort Food List (together with mac and cheese, ube, pudding, and truffle cream pasta). It's the kind of food you eat with your eyes closed, and you groan with happiness because it's so good!

Coming back for you, my loves!
With everything we ate, there was still a lot of things we will come back for. Their large burritos, squid aligue pasta, and chimichanga mac and cheese are just some items that caught my eye.

Reasonable prices, top-notch food quality, and great service are what you can expect from this humble Marikina spot. Don't you just love servers who automatically refill your water glasses, and are attentive to your needs without being overbearing? I do, and Bodega's staff does just that.

Can I just also tell you quickly about their restroom? How cute is this! This is the powder area, and flanking this station are the his and hers restrooms, aptly labeled Senyor and Senyora.

I want to take home the mirror!

Thoughtful details extend to the restroom. 

Some food for thought while in the loo. 
Another noteworthy detail that we immediately noticed upon entering the restaurant, it smells good. Not "cooking food" good (which you worry might stick to your clothes), but like how a home smells like. Fresh and welcoming, which says a lot about how Bodega Casa Villa is. It's an inviting place to come together and hang out.

Tired but full! 
With restaurants and food parks sprouting left and right, it's refreshing to see a well-thought out concept that's also executed thoughtfully, but with good food still at the forefront. From the interiors to the regularly-updated menu offerings and their clever names (check out their cocktail list which includes Saging Ni Adan and Treau The Fire), Bodega Casa Villa is a work of love. Each owner is hands-on with the operations, with Karen at the helm of the kitchen and dining areas, Jan overseeing the bar, and Keanne in charge of marketing and entertainment.

Lunch service is in the pipeline, as the parking situation still needs to be addressed. For now, guests can park across the restaurant and at Rey's Auto Shop.

I'm excited with how the menu will further develop, and I tip my hat to my two grade school friends who made this unexpected project a reality. Congrats Jan and Karen!


48 Dragon Street, San Roque, Marikina City
Operating Hours: Tuesdays-Sundays, 5:00PM-12:30AM
Accepts cash and credit card.

Full Menu

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