This food trip started when a friend asked, “Which restaurant in Iloilo City serves the best KBL?” I haven’t ordered KBL in any restaurant, considering that I cook it almost every week at home. So, I asked five random people in my circle and, to my surprise, they all said they haven’t ordered KBL in a restaurant as well!
However, one of my friends said “the best KBL” is being served at Freska Restaurant in Ayala Technohub. If you ever hear someone utter this sentiment in Iloilo, then that’s a big claim to live up to.
We had to contend against Typhoon Hanna at its peak when we decided to go to Freska. Classes were canceled, and some of the city streets were flooded. But foodies will always be foodies, so off we went!
The original plan of taste-testing Freska’s KBL turned into an enormous food tryout as the three of us—Marc (who wrote a piece on one of Iloilo’s organic farms a few months ago), my husband, and I—went straight to the buffet. It’s also telling that the place was packed with people—locals and foreigners alike—despite the typhoon, and we almost didn’t get a table. If you want to gauge at how good a resto’s food is, then this was a good sign of things to come.
“This is way more than KBL”, said Marc. I was all giddy and euphoric at the sight of all the dishes sparkling bright within my reach. Is it just me, or do buffets really bring out the sleeping glutton in everyone? I feel this way at almost all the buffets I go to. “You have eyes bigger than your stomach” was the right idiom for this moment.
Now, for the “chronology” of that day’s taste-test, which I have rated using a scale of 0-10 according to how much we liked it. These were as followed:
1. Green mangoes with bagoong — It was a perfect appetizer. You can’t go wrong with it.
2. Kinilaw nga talaba — It was well-spiced, thereby minimizing the slimy consistency of the oyster which, in my opinion, was a good thing
3. Kinilaw nga pasayan — It had this sweet, tangy taste which made the dish almost perfect, except for the fact that it had been slathered with cream. All three of us had agreed that authentic kinilaw does not include cream as an ingredient.
4. Fried lumpiang shanghai — I am giving this one a very low rating because I was expecting to bite the lumpia with more texture in its filling. However, not only was it not crispy anymore when it was served to us, it was just nothing more than a roll of dry, finely ground meat.
5. Bacon potato salad — I’m a fan of bacon and a huge fan of potato (Hello, Princess Sarah!) so I’m giving this a 7.
6. Apan-apan — I’m happy to see this dish in the buffet table because, in this humble author’s mind, it’s the most “Ilonggo” in terms of how eating this dish tasted like home. The kangkong stalks, in particular, were on the dot in terms of their crunch.
7. Kare-kare — I rate this as a 5 because I prefer my kare-kare meat to either be pork shanks or hocks instead of liempo slices. Its taste, on the other hand, does not have the more peanut-y factor I was looking for.
8. Pinamalhan nga isda — This salmon belly is Triple S: soft, suave, and savory! I love it!
9. Squid adobo — It tasted good, but the squid was a little rubbery.
10. Crispy kangkong — The adjective says it all.
11. Pork sisig — Its texture was precise, and it was indeed delicious. It would have been more preferable if the sisig was sizzling in hot pan (but it’s a buffet, so stop the wishful thinking, foodie!).
12. Clams (Imbao) — It had this distinctive earthy taste, which might be strange for some. But I am giving it a 9 out of 10, nonetheless.
13. Malaysian fish fillet — I took a spoonful to know how it tasted like, and then I came back for my second plate. It’s delicious! I know one of these days, I’m gonna crave for it.
14. KBL — This was the main reason why we were here, so we were expecting it to be better worth the drive through the heavy rains and strong wind! So, here’s the verdict: 8. It had many pigeon beans as I hoped for, the jackfruit was sliced appropriately, and the soup is perfectly sour.
So, you think I was done eating after the amount of food I have engulfed? Nope! I claimed my dessert! I didn’t go for the cake and muffin, as gluten gives me migraine. I tried the Ilonggo ones instead: pastillas, butong-butong and yema. My foodie husband said their pastillas were bland, and I agreed. The butong-butong and yema were delicious, though.
To sum it all up, I can’t say that the dishes we tasted at Freska were really perfect, but it’s a pretty good restaurant if you want to get a taste of Iloilo’s standout dishes. If people braved the rains for it last week, then this place certainly deserves its glowing reputation.