TUCKED in a “secret” nook in the outskirts of Mandaluyong City is a no-frills garden restaurant that serves delicious comfort dishes that are either traditional Filipino favorites or international fares Pinoys have come to love through the years. It’s at the corner of Fatima St. and San Rafael St., and it’s called St. Nicholas Restaurant.
Owned and operated by Chef Nick Pelaez, St. Nicholas started as a catering business twelve years ago. Coming from a family who loved to eat and cook, the then 26-year-old Pre-Med graduate put up the catering business, and his first catering service was for the debut of his niece. After running a successful catering business for twelve years, he thought of adding a restaurant component to his business. So he utilized the spacious garden area of the Mandaluyong property and turned it into a simple, no-fuss garden restaurant with tables simply covered with plastic and notes from satisfied customers displayed under it.
The food that accompanies the simple garden restaurant setup is refreshingly good. The menu is extensive, with a wide selection of rice meals that range from Php55 for the Sisig Rice, Chicken Teriyaki, Chicken Pork Adobo, Bicol Express, Chicken Curry Rice, Sweet and Sour Fish, Tocino and Pork Steak; to Php65 for the Corned Beef, Beef Tapa and Pork Hamonado; to Php99 for the Lechon Kawali Chopsuey, Liempo Binagoongan, Fish Fillet Chopsuey, Ala Cubana and Ebi Tempura Rice.
For groups of diners, there are even more choices. The to-share dishes come in generous portions good for 3 to 4, and there are so many prawn, chicken, pork, beef, seafood, vegetable and sizzling dishes to choose from. The problem is that sometimes, you cannot really make up your mind what to choose because you want to try them all.
Must-tries, however, include Sweet Chili Garlic Prawns (Php199), Ebi Tempura with Suka Dip (It’s a Filipino thing to dip the ebi tempura in vinegar instead of the usual tempura sauce, and what’s surprising is that it’s good!, Php199), Adobong Manok at Baboy sa Dilaw (the ultimate Filipino signature dish cooked in turmeric, Php199), Tinolang Chicken sa Pakwan (yes, watermelon was used as the unique twist to this traditional chicken soup dish, Php199), Crispy Pata Bawang (crispy pork knuckle cooked with lots of aromatic garlic, Php399), Paru-Parong Tilapia with Sweet Tamarind Sauce (butterflied St. Peter’s fish fried to a golden crisp and served with sweet tamarind sauce, Php199), Okoy Gulay (Chef Nick’s version is composed of basically Baguio beans, carrots and singkamas or jicama, Php99 for 4 pieces), and Poqui Poqui (eggplant dish that originates from the Ilocos region, Php99).
St. Nicholas also carries an entire line of Sizzling dishes as well as Exotic Pulutan dishes that are good for 2 to 3 persons—Sizzling Pork Sisig (Php99), Sizzling Bangus Sisig (Php149), Sizzling Fish and Tofu (Php199), Sizzling Boneless Bangus (Php199), Sizzling Crocodile Sisig (Php249), Tapang Kabayo (Php249), Tapang Baboy Ramo (Php249), Tapang Usa (Php249), and Adobong Crocodile (Php299).
Chef Nick pays attention even to the rice that accompanies the dishes, as he offers four kinds to choose from: Plain Steamed Rice (Php20), Fried Garlic Rice (Php99), Bagoong Rice (Php99) and Fried Java Rice (Php99).
Since the restaurant operates the whole day, it offers merienda fares of pasta (Spaghetti “Pinoy Style” and Carbonara), Pinoy noodles (Pancit Canton and Pancit Bihon), all at Php55 per order; and sandwiches from as simple as Peanut Butter Toast (Php55) to gourmet choices like Clubhouse Sandwich (Php119) and Spanish Sardines Sandwich (Php135).
Desserts are also big at St. Nicholas Restaurant, with native fares like Buko Pandan (Php55), Maja Blanca Cheese (Php55) and Turon de Tsokolate (Php75), and sinfully delicious cakes, such as Temptation by Tablea ala Mode (Php179), Chocolate Lava ala Mode (Php199), Brownies ala Mode (Php79), and Honeyed Fruit in Ice Cream (Php199).
And the best way to end a relaxed meal at St. Nicholas? With a cup of freshly brewed Civet Coffee! The exquisite gourmet coffee, also known as Coffee Alamid, is priced at an affordable Php135 per cup (sold at an average of Php500 in most restaurants), but if you’d rather have a cup of simple brewed coffee, it’s only Php55.
(St. Nicholas Restaurant and Catering Services is located at #1 Fatima St. corner San Rafael St., Mandaluyong City; with telephone numbers 535-7637 and 788-6426.)