Lugang Cafe

1:40:00 AM

Some of my friends from work caught good news last week and to celebrate, we headed to SM Aura Premier for lunch. The Aura branch in Taguig is the latest from SM’s portfolio and it boasts an offering of dining selections that, limited as it may be, brings a world of flavors in one place. Such include the Ben Chan-bought Paul Boulangerie and Patisserie (originally from France), Ramen Nagi (franchised by two other fashion magnates and friends), Greeka Kouzina, the katzu-crazed’s favorite Yabu, Thai hotpot place Coca and Lugang Café.

I read somewhere that Lugang Café is the best contemporary Taiwanese restaurant in Manila. Stripped away of the politics of things, I’ve always assumed Singapore and Taiwan’s cuisines are basically Chinese. And since you know how crazy I am with Chinese (food), the usual frustration of choosing where to eat was easily settled that day!

Now before anything else, I believe that it is important to note as a surprising twist to events that we didn’t order fried rice (!!!). My insides were protesting but my libre-happy consciousness was willing to let it go. I still think we could have done better than a P62 cup of plain rice (ohhh the plainness), which is not saying naman na we weren't satisfied with our meal.

I'll spare you the history of the place and whatnots. Here's what we had that day:

Lugang Cafe | Awesome in Manila

Steamed pork xiao long bao (P248/8 pcs). First thought: the xiao long baos looked like tiny Onion Heads in a steam bath! Clutched with chopsticks, they looked like they were hanging on for dear life! Well, come to think of it, they were good as gone the moment they were placed in front of five hungry creatives.

It was my first time to have this delicacy and I must say, it was a “pleasant surprise”. It was like misua with meatballs, but the misua soup and the meatball are inside a dimsum wrapper – dimception! The taste springs mostly from the soup and while the filling was a bit bland, it was nothing soy vinegar with ginger strips can’t fix.

Lugang Cafe | Awesome in Manila

Stir-fried beef with mango slices (P352). I’m always hesitant when I encounter ulam with sweet-tasting fruit. But I was curious enough for this one, since it felt pointless to have it otherwise, and I was happy with it! The slightly bitter taste of the bell peppers evened out the sweetness of the mango strips and the overall flavor was absorbed by the beef slices. Sarap!

Lugang Cafe | Awesome in Manila

Salt and pepper squid (P290). I don’t mind sosyal-ized street food as long as it’s sosyal-ized street food I don’t have to pay for. But don’t get me wrong, Lugang’s salted and peppered offer was actually good. Cooked just right, it was chewy and tasteful even without vinegar. Kulang nga lang sa kick ng outside pollution but, then again, maybe that’s not so much of a bad thing :P

Lugang Cafe | Awesome in Manila

Cantonese stir-fried broad rice noodles with beef (P280). “Lasang Chinese” is the best way I can describe it. I don't know about you but no matter how faithful I try to be with the ingredients list of a Chinese pancit recipe, it just seems impossible to get that distinct flavor. As for what kind of flavor I'm talking about, I can't find the right (inoffensive) words to describe it. But I'm sure anyone who knows the difference between Filipino and Chinese pancit gets what I'm saying.

Anyway. There was so much bokchoy in there, I wanted to ask (just out of curiosity) if they were trying to grow a garden in our plate. I loved it still! Very flavorful and the meat was soft. Aprub!

Not pictured is hot and sour soup (P240). It was exactly as the name suggests. Except, it was also all sorts of weird. I don't know what they put in there or why anybody would like that.

When it comes to Chinese food, I say your best bet would still be Binondo. Every city boy and girl should get their fill of Manila Chinatown at least once in their lives. But it is exciting to come across something like Lugang Cafe, which offers a different take (in this case, a modern twist) on things.

Lugang Café
Skypark, Level 5, SM Aura Premier,
26th Street corner Mckinley Parkway,
Taguig City

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