Restaurants

Of All the Kare-kare Joints in Manila

Lee Anne Tobias | Jul 26, 2013

Never mind the funky Thai ambiance, the vibrant and contrasting colors that greet you in every corner of the restaurant. Never mind the creative presentation of the Kare-kare ni Juanita bowl, complete with sitaws knotted to perfect elegance. This kare-kare will make you drink the dish like soup.

In fact, whenever I go to Café Juanita, I find myself carbo loading (which is rare because I barely eat rice), pouring a heaping amount of sauce like it were champorado, and it’s all because of this one dish.

A food blogger once wrote that a kare-kare’s charm is all in its sauce. I totally agree. It’s what makes the dish deliciously unique, making it one of our nation’s favorite dishes.

On a personal note, it’s mainly why I love kare-kare: the creamy, well-balanced, peanut-y and savory taste. Café Juanita’s version hits extremely close to home, not veering off from the traditional recipe (served with bagoong, as usual) and with tender oxtail, tripe, and vegetables that add a crunch to each bite.

In terms of variations available in notable restaurants, which have also been dubbed as the “best kare-kare” dishes in Manila, what makes this a winner is its honesty and simplicity. All the traditional ingredients are there, it doesn’t go overboard in its presentation: it's served just as stew is originally served, not separating the ingredients to make it all fancy looking.

This particular version also doesn’t add extra ingredients that change the taste or make it “outstandingly different” (i.e. a hint of sweetness from a banana). Neither does it highlight one ingredient and turn the meat into a roast masterpiece while foregoing the quality of the rest.

Cafe Juanita's kare-kare is just simply a perfect mix of the good stuff. What makes it stand out among the rest is also its regard to tone down on the oil factor, elevating it to fine dining quality.

Cafe Juanita Kare-kare

For Php 500, this bowl for 2-3 persons will surely make your stomach full and happy, and your heart warm and fuzzy.

Photo credits.

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