Galli Village Cafe

8:37:00 AM

Galli Village Cafe | Awesome in Manila

Galli Village Cafe has maps of Israel following the journey of Jesus Christ, displayed at both its Makati and Maginahawa branches. This has led many customers to believe that the restaurant's name was borrowed from the northern region of Galilee, where Jesus grew up and started His ministry. The owner was quick to dismiss the presumption saying that, while they are devoted Catholics, "Galli" is nothing more than a portmanteau of family names.

Galli is an undertaking of Christine Arriola-Villongco, a travel junkie, and her husband, whose family used to own the popular pasteleria we've all come to know as Dulcinea. What started out as a hobby businessshe wanted a place to display her trip mementos, he found an area to exhibit his photographshas quickly turned into a clandestine favorite among foodies who are into Spanish-Filipino fusion. Galli has managed to turn itself into a household name, so much so that the restaurant has attracted engagement proposals, requests for baptismal catering (quite convenient with its location facing the Sacred Heart Church) and other intimate gatherings.

Finding its home in San Antonio Village, Galli imbibes an easy, relaxed ambiance. There is a hostel right above it, which sends a lot of hungry backpackers down for a quick meal before shooting off to their city trips. The specialty is Spanish-Filipino fusion, made possible by the artistry of Chef Linda Aznar who personally cooked for us that evening. They serve everything from soup and salads to all-day breakfasts, rice meals, gourmet sandwiches, pasta and some desserts. Price ranges from P80 (soup) to P580 (group meal), surprisingly friendly for a concept resto.

I remember thinking that if Galli's Fish Salpicao (P230) was an indication of the rest of what will be served, then we are in for a treat. It's very tangy, flavor lent by the bed of chopped tomatoes the soft tuna chunks sat on. I don't eat a lot of fish but Galli's tuna salpicao had me sticking my fork in for second and third helpings. It's clean, even refreshing—a good introduction to the night's epicurean adventure.

Truthfully, I felt somewhat disappointed seeing Arroz a la Cubana (P170) on the table. It is on point with the whole Spanish-Filipino fusion thing going on at Galli, but arroz a la Cubana (or versions of it) is easy to find in Manila, at any given day. Heck, the breakfast manang at my old office serves it at least thrice a week. Plus, the plating did not make it any more appealing. You get what looks like a tumpok of saucy giniling, a visibly imperfect sunny side up, two halves of fried banana and plain white rice. Safe to say, I didn't really give this offering much thought.

What I did learn that evening is that tasting food is much like going into business, dapat open-minded ka. This is, by far, the best arroz a la Cubana I've tried—at least in comparison to the aforementioned breakfast manang, Herco Center's "Box Man" and the jolly jeeps at Legaspi Village. A nice interpretation of the humble pork dish.

Even I am surprised at the fact that I have never been excited about eating paella, despite being such a big fan of flavored rice in general (I just really can't with plain rice, you know). I really believe the Chinese does mixed rice better than anyone else and, regrettably, Galli was not able to change my mind about this. There's nothing wrong about their paella. (I think; I'm prolly not the best judge.) In fact, it's quite siksik for its price. (Obviously, Galli does not scrimp on ingredients.) I guess it's just a personal preference for anything laden with vetsin (the more, the merrier; the badder the chicken, the better - if you know what I mean) and, Idk, I don't like the way rice is cooked kapag Mexican / Spanish cuisine.

Unless you do and if that's the case, you probably should try their Paella Valenciana (good for 2-3, P300 | good for 4-5, P580). It is one of Galli's best sellers and it did solicit a few good remarks from our table.

I did like their Callos ala Madrilena (P230). It was spicy, but not to the point where you wouldn't be able to appreciate the rest of the flavors. This is my beef (pun not intended) with most spicy dishes: I hate it when it gets too hot and my taste buds begin numbing to the rest of the experience. This callos was kind enough not to go there. Galli's version is rich in every way, which is ironic for something that used to be considered a poor man's dish.

Weyyyll, slap my increasingly heavy culata and call me Sally! Galli's Shrimp Gambas (P230) is da bombbb, my friends. The question is not whether I would come back to Galli for gambas but when I'm coming back to Galli for gambas. That is how much I love this tiny bowl of shrimp goodness. I know it doesn't look much but there is more than what meets the eye with this dish. You get juicy (read: oily), you get garlicky, you get tender crustacean meat - it's all that I have been trying and failing to do with my garlic shrimp experiments. The only thing I'm not so keen about is the serving size, which practically spells out B-I-T-I-N for around 5 to 6 pieces of shrimp in a bowl that wouldn't even satisfy infant appetites. Walang hustisya like walang forever.

If you're getting Beef Salpicao (P230), you should have it with rice. The meat was cooked well, there is zing at every bite. I'm not big on salpicao, but this is one of the very few times I enjoyed eating it.

Galli Village Cafe | Awesome in Manila

There is nothing Spanish nor Filipino about Coffee Jelly, which made the night's dessert felt a little "off-strat". I was tempted to check the menu for a more fitting option, but one cannot be choosy when one is being served free foodalso, the cream on top was really temptingso I chose to just dig in, what with very little expectations.

Now, there is no plot twist to this, as the coffee jelly in question did sit comfortably in my expectations. It didn't even try to level it up a bit. What I did appreciate was the fact that, with its mild mix of coffee and cream, it provided a clean break from the flavorful journey we had that night. It's not much but it is all you pay for at P40 a cup (unless, this isn't what Dessert of the Day refers to in the menu).

Galli Village Cafe | Awesome in Manila

Galli was an interesting discovery. I was delighted to find a homey spot in Makati that can accommodate my cravings for gambas without breaking the bank, especially when I don't feel like being crushed in the city's overwhelming foot traffic.

If you do decide to come and you spot Christine (in white, in the middle), do engage her in a chat fest. She has a lot of travel stories to share. Ask her about the map, the art, the books. And don't forget to say hello to Chef Linda. Have gambas or Angus Beef Tapa (heard that one's good too). Who knows? Galli might just be the comfort you didn't know you needed after a long day's work.

Galli Village Cafe
G/F YMCA Hotel,
7 Sacred Heart St,
San Antonio, Makati City

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  1. A fusion of Spanish-Filipino foods - I'm a fan! It's quite interesting they have concept restos like this. They should definitely have a branch here in Cebu. Reading this makes me crave for these foods! I haven't tried the paella but when my mom was able to come across this post, she decided we'll cook one daw. Hahaha. This resto really has more character than you think, and you bet I'd go there if I have the chance. :)

    Mimi | The Foxy Heroine

  2. Concept restos are the way to go now for food entrepreneurs! These days, it's not enough that you serve good food. You should also make it a point to incorporate an interesting story and great design. :) Lemme know how your mom's paella goes and tell her I said hi! :)

  3. Hey Ade! Thanks, man but this is a throwback from January! Haha I believe you already sent a greeting then. Still, thank you! :)


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