Named after Gen. Carlos P. Romulo—the first United Nations president from Asia—the Romulo Café is ensconced at the corner of Scout Tuason and Dr. Lazcano streets in Tomas Morato, Quezon City. Even before it opened, the stylish, sleek façade was enough to make curious motorists stop and inquire when it would open. The aesthetic carries over to the restaurant’s black-and-white interiors, its’ walls adorned by framed photographs of the famed diplomat with prominent personalities like American presidents John F. Kennedy and Harry Truman. But, despite appearances, the food isn’t as cosmopolitan as you would think and instead, traces its origins back to family recipes cooked up originally in Romulo’s hometown of Camiling in Tarlac.
Given the menu’s provincial origins, we decided to ask one of Cebu’s most beautiful faces and proud probinsyana, Ellen Adarna, to sample the food, soak up the atmosphere, and just down a few mojitos with us and explain exactly why this place has become the talk of Manila.
What was your first impression of Romulo Cafe?
It’s very funky and modern. It’s very different from other Filipino restaurants.
You are from Cebu, where the food is one of the best in country. Any similarities between Visayan cuisine and Romulo Cafe’s predominantly Tarlac-borne recipes?
More or less it’s the same but I like how they creatively mixed the ingredients in a very traditional yet new way.
Regarding the food, what did you like the most and why? Anything in particular you enjoyed?
The Filipino nachos. It’s a guilt free version of the original nachos. The laing-esque chips tasted homey and comfortable. Crispy pata, the crispy pata, CRISPY PATA! What more can I say? Oh and the chocolate lava dessert- was PERFECTLY made not to sweet and not to cake-y.
How about the drinks? You seem to enjoy the cucumber and the Mojitos. One of our favorite actresses, Chanda Romero, even referred to the latter as one of the best. What’s your verdict?
I felt “as cool as a cucumber” after having that drink. The mojitos = PERFECT 10
Were the servings in your opinion substantial? You ate half a cripsy pata.
YES big servings! I was still full the next day. I had to skip breakfast and lunch ha ha ha.
What kind of dinner would be perfect for Romulo Cafe? A date? A barkada get-together?
It’s a place where I can bring anyone and I really think that it’s a perfect place where I can bring my family.
Anything else about the place you’d care to talk about? The music, the decor?
The black and white funky modern interiors made me feel like I was in a European Asian fusion restaurant, which I found really cool since it’s a restaurant that serves Filipino dishes. And they have a very good musician, he was able to make people dance and sing along with him.
What kind of people do you think go to Romulo Cafe? Just an impression. We bumped into ABS CBN’S Maria Ressa.
I think random people from the upper class and middle class would frequently dine here.
Do you think you’re coming back anytime soon? And why?
Of course and I’ll be bringing my friends from Cebu here when I come back. Cebuanos love good food and I’m almost certain that they’ll love it here.
Would you recommend it to your friends and family back in Cebu?
I already did! He he he Romulo Café should have a Facebook Fan page. (Now they do — Ed)
LITTLE BIG MAN
By his own admission, he was a small guy (standing only 5’4″ in his shoes), but his achievements nonetheless made him a considerable figure in 20th century world affairs. A Pulitzer Prize winner for journalism, a war hero who waded the waters in Leyte beside Douglas MacArthur when he famously returned and dubbed by his colleagues and peers as “Mr. United Nations,” he made light of his short physical stature but never allowed himself to be cowered because of it. “The little fellow is generally underrated in the beginning,” wrote Romulo.
“Then he does something well, and people are surprised and impressed. In their minds his achievement is magnified.”
Andrei Vishinsky, the chief of the Soviet delegation, once dismissed Romulo as a “little man from a little country” to which he replied that it was mission to be “like David, slinging pebbles of truth between the eyes of blustering Goliaths.” (They would later become friends.)
In his memoir, I Walked With Heroes, he begins the book at the moment he’s elected president of the United Nations and writing that he had to be “perched atop three thick New York City telephone books” just to be able to see above the podium, and to be seen by the rest of the delegates.
“I had to be outstanding,” wrote Romulo, “to make the greatest effort to win, to prove I was capable not in spite of having been born a Filipino but because I was a Filipino.”
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