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Isabelo, Marikina's Secret Restaurant

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We were blown away by our recent Isabelo Garden restaurant experience. It was indeed a secret restaurant -- you really have to journey to the heart of Marikina to find it. The food tastes good and you can tell that everything was cooked with love by the lovely Ms. Portia. The rustic Italian ambiance is set in an ancestral house (with old trees), which is artistically decorated by Portia's mom.

Isabelo is a combination of the concept behind Sonya's Garden, the kitschiness of Cafe Juanita, and the home-cooked goodness of Conti's. It is also a family showcase: the garden is created by the Mother, the Daughter is the queen of the kitchen, and the overall inspiration comes from the Grandmother. The walls are adorned with photos, paintings, pots and pans, mugs with faces, animal figurines, empty wine bottles and empty bottles of perfume (with contributions from some guests).

Which Table to Reserve?

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There is a small, romantic table for 2 near the kitchen and a small garden table good for 4 (see above). This is where all the people pass by since it is near the entrance. It would be nice to add a curtain of bottles or vines to give it more privacy.

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The long table (good for 10) is the perfect spot for a medium-sized group. It is situated al-fresco style with drapes designed with leaves, a backdrop of pots and pans, and a curtain of bottles. 

The boys at this table were celebrating a special birthday, so they brought their own Mango Torte cake (no corkage) and some bottles of wine (P300 corkage fee/bottle).

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For bigger groups, there is an al-fresco garden area good for 20 (although this is less kitschy than the table for 10, shown above).

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There is also a studio, where you can find three tables: one with a backdrop of heirloom photos, pots, pans and bottles; one with a background of funny clown facial expressions; and one with a background of floral paintings.

Some of the items were destroyed during Ondoy -- the flood actually reached the ceiling. What you see are the remaining items, cleaned and refurbished. True to its name, Isabelo, which means "My God is Bountiful", this garden restaurant was able to rebound and rebuild after Ondoy. A beautiful recovery story.

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For our group, we got the bigger table (good for 8 people) since there were 5 adults and 2 kids.

Appetizers

The appetizer spread was quite nice. I just wish the appetizers were served slowly, one after another (degustation-style), instead of putting them on the table all at once. The concept behind it is that it's an Italian way of serving, where the dish portions are big and meant to be shared all at the same time.

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Spinach Dip (P350 +10%sc)
I liked the dip -- it was creamy but not too thick. This is a perfect kids' appetizer with the bread.

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Mixed Fish Fry (P540 +10%sc)
This is, perhaps, the only dish I did not like overall. The shrimps and squid were too small and a bit tough already. A lot of people order this because of the yummy fried lemons and the subtle marinara sauce. We were guessing why the fried lemons, especially the balat, were so yummy -- maybe they were preserved first before they were fried?

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Baked Oysters (P285 +10%sc) and Stuffed Portabello (P525 +10%sc)

The oysters were fresh, but I was expecting more cheese and butter on each one. As for the stuffed Portabello (which was highly recommended by Elena), I liked the creamy and sweet flavor pairing. It's the sort of dish that you can't resist even though you know it is a bit fattening.

Isabelo Main Feast

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The Isabelo Garden Restaurant Menu

 

Portia's specialties are the long, slow-cooked, pugon-style dishes that you shouldn't miss. :) We ordered most of them except for the Osso Buco. A reservation of at least 2 days in advance is required so that she can get the needed ingredients in the morning, and cook them just in time for your dinner.

She can cook the pasta, pizza, and prepare the desserts anytime, so you can order them on-the-spot.

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Orange Herb Chicken (Small) (P660 +10%sc) Served with roasted squash, carrots and baby potatoes. This is baked for a long time, so the chicken is really soft and juicy.

The orange sauce of the chicken was indeed yummy -- not citrusy but sweet. The dark parts of the chicken absorbed the flavor of the sauce. However, the breast part remained white and bland. The roasted vegetables were very tender and a great complement for the chicken.

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Roasted Pork Crackling (P1,250 +10%sc) Four-hour pugon-roasted pork served with 4 special sauces.

The Roasted Pork was a feast for the eyes and one of the highlights of the meal. I liked the lean meat parts, which had that distinct pugon taste and went well with the mango sauce and the vinegar sauce. Some parts of the skin were crispy but some were tough, though, since the pugon cooking was not very consistent throughout the meat.

Portia should try cooking lechon de leche pugon-style; I'm quite sure it would be a hit, especially for big celebrations and festive seasons.

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Beef Bourguignon (P780 +10%sc) Four-hour pugon-cooked beef served with crusted ciabatta slices.

My personal favorite was the Beef Bourguignon. It erased all my memories of the beef bourguignon disaster when we dined at Chef Popit's. The wine-tomato-based sauce was a bit sweet, but it was definitely something to savor to the last drop. The beef was so tender; it seemed like it was disintegrating into the sauce already, but it still retained its texture. We had to make sure to choose this for our take-out. :)

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Italian Paella (Small - good for 8-10 pax) (P825 +10%sc)

The Italian Paella is a bit like risotto -- rice mashed in a creamy sauce with toppings. However, it does not have the tutong (burnt edges) that we love in a Spanish Paella. My friend Maong was craving for this after our dinner in Isabelo. On hindsight, I think it was actually a bit heavy and did not go well with the beef bourguignon.

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Quattro Formaggio (P450 +10%sc) Using only fresh and healthy mozarella, the pizzas are known for their top-caliber flavor.

I prefer Portia's pizza grilled instead of pugon-style. The dough is proudly homemade. It has a thin crust that is crispy from the grilling but still chewy on the inside. I liked the quality of the four cheeses used in the pizza, particularly the dominant flavor of the blue cheese.

Isabelo-32Isabelo-33The boys seem to know the blogging drill already... After eating dinner, Aidan asked me to go around and do a pictorial session with them. (See Isabelo Garden Restaurant Flickr Set)

Desserts

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Melon Sorbet (P90 +10%sc) and Watermelon Sorbet (P90 +10%sc)

The sorbets are highly recommended. A light ending with a dash of lemon to cap off the night.

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Fruit Trifle (P225 +10%sc) Layers of cake, pudding, cream, syrups and fruit.

The desserts are surprisingly good, but this was a bit heavy already for us to finish it.

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Our contribution to the clown faces corner...

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The best part of the meal @ Isabelo is meeting the pretty, stylish and passionate cook, Ms. Portia. She reminds me of Tita in the Spanish foodie movie, Like Water for Chocolate. (Yes, she is still available... :) )

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Overall, Isabelo Garden is one of the Awesome Restaurants in Manila with its unique, homey garden ambiance, food cooked with love, and a compelling restaurant story that provides a wonderful backdrop for your memorable family or barkada celebration. We spent around P1,300 per adult for all the food we ordered that night. Sulit!

The only thing is that the restroom seemed to be an afterthought, with only one tiny cubicle, which you'll dread going to. But I did hear the house was sort of abandoned after Ondoy (because the location is very close to the Marikina river), and the plan is to convert it to a grand bathroom. :) That's a great idea, but it might be better to transform a good part of the ancestral house as an air-conditioned area for the summer season.

ISABELO GARDEN RESTAURANT

A rustic Italian private garden restaurant by Portia Baluyut in Marikina.

Address: #11 Isabelo Mendoza St. San Roque, Marikina City
Telephone: +632 510-6914  
Mobile:  +63 917 814-6824
Websitewww.IsabeloGarden.com | Isabelo Facebook Page
Facebook: Isabelo Garden Restaurant
Email: isabelogardenrestaurant@gmail.com
Operating Hours: Open from 6pm onwards / Monday - Sunday Dinner by RESERVATION ONLY. Strictly NO WALK-INS.
Note: Cash Only 

Driving Directions: You need to get lost to discover the place. :) Once your dinner reservation is confirmed, Portia will send you the map (but we still got lost since we're not familiar with Marikina.)

 

Related Blog Posts:
Isabelo Garden Restaurant by Jin Loves to Eat :)

Live an Awesome Life,


anton 
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Founder, www.OurAwesomePlanet.com
Call or Text Me: +63917 5683-627 (LOVE-OAP)
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P.S. I can't believe it took me 2 years to discover this place. It's been a while since I had a meal this good and memorable. A must-try for any foodie!

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not my personal style but wow lol! the food looks 'delicious' takaw tingin ako i like this restaurant's sense of 'public family' or family inuman style settings restaurant i miss this kind of 'mingling' sets of places lol but allow me to critic the EITHER too much portions of the foods or the right white oversized plate services are not oversized enough
if your settings belongs to CLUTTER STYLES it is best to used non prints just plain colored table cloths/napkins and smallest paintings picture frames be best placed under or above big ones but i really like this place i like the ladylike ladies{cook-chef} here they add to the place that feels of a typical filipino family gatherings-hang outs that most filipinos treasures forever haaaaaayyy lol!

Is that Isabelo Mendoza street? OpenStreetMap is extremely well detailed for Marikina, might this be the place?

http://openstreetmap.org.ph/map/c/14.628870169965893/121.09591126441956/17/

Be a lot easier to find with an online map :)

Good food... Good place.. although, I fear Ondoy may happen again.... =/ hope not

This is charming! Thanks for the heads-up.

Yes it is Isabelo Mendoza street and it is somewhere there near the triangle road across Shell. It is so secret that even the detailed Open Street Map of Marikina don't have it tagged as POI :)

Andre -- puntahan mo, you'll love it there :)

This looks like a really nice place to celebrate Father's Day. I hope they're open on Sunday.

that's probably because noone has added it sa map sa OSM :) But you can very easily just by going to http://www.openstreetmap.org/edit?lat=14.629534&lon=121.096366&zoom=18 and adding the POI

cge will check it out next time were near there.

wow mukhang nakakagutom talaga! i love to have my own garden restaurant in Batangas... Soon

I love Isabelo! That's where we celebrated my partner's birthday a few weeks ago. We plan to dine there again. I highly recommend this place, masarap ang pagkain, very personalized ang service at maganda ang lugar!

the place is highly recommended! nice ambiance and great food. panalo!

there are a lot of good restos in marikina.. try going to cafe lydia.. thats near san roque too.. i like their pizza and pasta ala lydia..

This is some secret, Anton. Sorry, I've never been that active in posting. Work caught up. Thanks for the continuous reviews of such places. :) Will definitely visit Isabelo :)

as always anton you have found another great foodie find, looking forward in trying this resto very similar to cafe juanita in pasig...

i just fell in love with ms. portia quite recently :)

oh, and she's the best chef!

a real must-experience resto :)

if those beautiful detailed clowns are painted in oil I WANT THEM{big ones}lol! the frames are forgettable but i really appreciate the color coordinations if those clowns in the walls are actually oil paintings if it is for sale can somebody buy them for me i will pay later just let me know how much american dollars i have to send and please donate them to my other 'best' family which is my childhood 'high school' LIBRARY room thank you lol

Yes they are open on Fathers day! Better reserve now because I know a lot of people is reserving :)

grabeeee kakagutom talaga when i go check out your site =p nice to see rache, maong ang vivian too in your pics =) hope i could join you in some of your trips soon =)

Hi Barbie!


Sama ka next time ha.... 


Anton

thanks for sharing Anton, we will definitely visit the place.

Jenn, let me know how it goes by commenting back on this blog post.

Ive actually been there for an Us Girls taping. The place is awesome and its perfect for a romantic date. I love how its not widely known and people will mostly know it through word of mouth. Havent tried the food yet but it looks delish!

hi anton. I recently tried dining at isabelo's and i'm sorry to say that my friends and i were so disappointed both with the food and the cook/owner Portia. I don't know why she couldn't believe that we're from marikina because according to her, almost all of her customers come from Alabang and that indeed her restaurant is a secret place---fine! Not to brag, but I'd just like to say that I'm one of the first diners of the following secret restaurants: Antonio's Tagaytay, Sonya's Garden, Seasons at Ville Sommet, Bale Dutung, Ugu Bigyan's Pottery Place, Chateau Hestia, Vieux Chalet, etc . way way back before they even got famous. I just felt insulted that she couldn't believe that a Marikeno would dine at her so called "secret restaurant". She was a bit aloof when we met her and even more aloof when we left.

As for the food, we think it's overpriced compared to the taste. Her drinks are mixed with flavored syrups which is such a disappointment. We ordered strawberry iced tea and it tasted like lipps candy, no traces of tea flavor and a friend of mine ordered Watermelon sparkling juice which tasted melon drops candy. Her quattro formaggio and watermelon sorbet are fine but the rest of the food we ordered are not recommendable. It wasn't a pleasant experience for my friends and I.

Strange, I am a regular there and Portia and her mom, Stephanie, are very warm to their guests from day one and not only to regulars. Portia welcomes guests in her kitchen and I have never seen her use flavored syrups.

i needa visit this place!!!! to think we have a house in mkna to begin with ... super thanks anton for sharing this!!

Wow, Anton! Thanks for posting the link to my blog. Been a follower of yours for as long as I could remember! :)


Hi Jin,
Thanks ha and I like your article on Isabelo :)


Anton

Although the food taste great, the service sucks!!! The waiters are so slow and stupid! We're just asking for water and takes a whole lot of time to get it!!! I would recommend it for the food but the service is bullshit!!!!

Hi Anton,

Is it really hard to find? How is the traffic if we are coming from Makati? Planning a get-together with some friends, hope they don't find it difficult to go to. Thanks!

A bit hidden lang in a side street near the munisipyo. Traffic is bad on a Friday, otherwise it should be ok.

Anton

OA naman sa presyo. Le Cordon Bleu-schooled ba yung chef?

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