Iloilo is not just about the beaches, the old churches, and vintage structures. It also offers a fair share when it comes to gastronomy. Ilonggos take pride on their cuisine and what makes it extra special is the fact that authenticity and fusion has become a satisfaction.
There has been a buzz on Social Media and on television about this fresh take on Ilonggo cuisine, and I myself stepped foot in Iloilo to check it out.
HOW TO GET TO LARS BUKO BATCHOY (MANDURRIAO)
From the city proper of Iloilo, you can ride a jeepney going to Molo, Mandurriao or SM Mandurriao, the usual fare is P12.00 ($0.30 AUD). Take a 5-minute walk at De Leon street where you will find the establishment which humbly started as an eatery in 2016. The restaurant’s facade is not your usual fancy space. On the outside, it looks like a normal canteen with heaps of coconut shells situated in one area. Nevertheless, just as the cliche, don’t judge a book by its cover, regardless of its frontage, Lars Buko Batchoy has been hailed as the “Best Philippine Fusion Dish” in December 2016; just on their 10th month in the business and instantly gained a huge following.
LARS COCONUTCHOY has been the restaurant’s best seller, as the Ilonggo traditional Batchoy is fused with coconut juice and coconut meat which adds to the flavor of the soup. It is served in coconut shells where you can dig in to more coconut meat on the sides as you take a spoon full of the hearty broth. As a matter of fact, because of my amazement, I found myself asking the owners, “Do you have plans to expand to other nearby islands or provinces in the future?” To any business owner, plans of expansion is always in the line, however to the owners of Lars Buko Batchoy, they will never compromise quality over possible expansions.
Recipes are very easy to execute and to a point, it makes it easy to expand anywhere. But what makes Lars unique aside from their originally owned recipes is that, they do not use artificial extenders and flavorings since the broth of each coconut-infused dish literally depends on the sweetness of the coconut juice itself. Thus, the owners are very hands-on in the kitchen. The moment I heard how the soup is prepared, I knew I was in for a total indulgence.
BUKO CHICKEN MAMI is another well-thought-of dish. Also served in coconut shells, the noodles are cooked in tasteful chicken stock with coconut juice, served with vegetables and eggs.
BUKO MOLO is a combination of chicken and pork. I am personally a big fan of Molo Soup. To those of you who are not familiar, it is in fact in Molo, Iloilo where this pork “dumpling” soup originated. For someone who grew up in Manila, I always look for Molo Soup even in local Filipino restaurants. Even when I moved to Australia, I always find Molo Soup as one of my comfort foods especially on cold winter days. Lars gave it a twist as the broth is infused with coconut juice and coconut meat, which made it extra delightful.
LARS COCO MUSHROOM BURGER is definitely for those who are not into soups in the middle of a hot day, but looking for a twist on their favorite classic beef burger. The burger is not just big in size, it is big in components and flavors too. The beef patties are served in sesame buns and comes together with cheese, carrots, lettuce, sunny side-up egg, onions, pickles, cucumbers, tomatoes, mushrooms, and of course slices of coconut meat, topped with thousand island dressing to complete the assembly. (This is making me drool as I am writing this! LOL)
LUMPIANG SHANGHAI WITH BUKO STRIPS is another dish that caught my already “undivided” attention. These spring rolls look very classic, however, the flavors are indeed a fusion of originality mixed with brand new concepts. Lumpiang Shanghai is a Filipino favorite and is probably one of those dishes that we could all come-up during gatherings. Lar’s recipe is one-of-a-kind, and deserves an applause in the culinary world. My friends like it dipped in tomato ketchup or sweet and sour sauce, however I like it as is. The sweetness of the coconut strips just complements the tasty pork mixture of the rolls and is definitely a tiny bomb full of flavors.
Of course, the list will not be complete without coconut beverages to seal the deal. My friends and I tried their Buko Melon and Blue Lemonade which is very much refreshing for people like us who have spent the entire day walking around the city.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT LARS BUKO BATCHOY
Aside from their coconut specialties, they also offer dishes like Bihon Guisado and Lomi where you can choose if you want it plain or with a twist of coconut. The prices are surprisingly not as expensive as you think despite the huge servings and the wide variety of ingredients that they utilize. They also have desserts and shakes which is very much enjoyable especially on hot sunny days.
Indeed, a trip to Iloilo is not complete without a visit at Lars. Every dish is worth the effort and the travel.
Complete Address: 122 De Leon Street, Mandurriao, Iloilo City
Visit their Facebook Page here.