Hello Everyone! Finally we are back on track with Review Sundays! It’s been a while hasn’t it? Anyway today’s review will be on a popular Italian Restaurant on the little streets of Liliw, well known as the shoe and flipflop capital of the province and the Southern Luzon area. The first time I visited Liliw was back in 2010 if I am not mistaken. My cousin introduced this place to me while my family and I were visiting his place in Lucena. I don’t remember how many pairs of shoes I bought for myself, but I’m guessing that we had at least 3 or 4 pairs of shoes/flipflops each between the 4 of us for under ₱1,500 (approx. AUD$44)! After shoe shopping, we’d head on over to Arabela for lunch. This has since become a must do every time we come down to Lucena to visit my cousin and my family; in 2010, 2012, and our recent March 2015 trip. Since our last visit in 2012, Arabela changed the look and colours of their interior from, if I’m not mistaken, pastel green to orange. They still kept their low ceiling which is what I love about this place – it makes me feel tall! People who are just a tad bit taller than me would have to bend over while walking around the restaurant, and be cautious when standing up from their table if they have forgotten how low the ceiling is.
But before I begin, here’s a little history on Arabela:
Bobby and Antonette Camello, husband and wife, owners of Arabela, named after their two daughters: Ara & Bela, started in 2002 with literally two tables. Back then, the two tables were not intended to be used by customers, but instead used for selling pasta dishes & pastries to buyers within the neighbourhood. The couple were then inspired to set up a formal food business as they gained an increasing number of customers that keep on coming back. The business, transformed into a coffee shop/restaurant, opened in October 23, 2003 with 5 tables, a seating capacity of 15 persons, and a capital of ₱100,000. From there it grew beyond the owner’s expectations, and today Arabella can accommodate up to 40 persons with an array of dishes to choose from – steaks, pizza, pasta, pastries, coffee, blended drinks, and more. Arabela has earned its publicity through word of mouth and personal blogs on the internet which were all unsolicited. To date, they have been able to maintain their character and uniqueness – the ambience and of course the good food.
SPECIALTY DRINKS: STRAWBERRY FRAPPÉ (₱120.00), RIPE MANGO (₱100.00), & STRAWBERRY SHAKE (₱100.00)
An array of fresh fruit shakes, smoothies, and drinks to choose from on their menu; I went for the ripe mango fresh fruit shake and it was very refreshing even though it was a rainy day.
FRESH SALAD: CEASAR SALAD
Romaine leaves with bacon (₱200.00)
This was also a starter dish that we shared amongst ourselves alongside the four cheese pizza. A good dish, but again nothing too special – nothing quite stood out to me to really praise the dish for it great flavour.
PIZZA: FOUR CHEESE XL
Mozarella, red cheddar, romano & parmesan (₱325.00)
A great dish to kick off our feast at Arabela, but in my opinion there wasn’t anything special about the taste, I mean it’s just a four-cheese pizza.
PASTA (PASTA IN WHITE SAUCE): FETTUCCINE WITH HAM & MUSHROOM (₱100.00)
This was a dish that my cousin ordered, and when it came to her, she showed the plate to me and gave me a sad look – I understood her pain. It was a massive deep dish, that made the pasta look tiny and underwhelming. I’m not sure if it filled her up, but it certainly wouldn’t have filled me up! Even though I didn’t taste this dish, it looked quite plain.
HOUSE SPECIALS (OLIVE OIL): FISH IN WHITE WINE
Dory fish fillet cooked in white wine sauce serve with pasta (₱220.00)
From the menu, my mom wanted a pasta dish, and knowing her preferences, I ordered this for her. She prefers olive oil-based dishes as well as fish – so this was the perfect pick for her. At first glance, it almost looks like they overdid the garlic just a bit too much; garlic slices tossed through the pasta and minced garlic on top of the fish? Yeap, that’s quite a bit! Other than that, the fish was cooked well, still moist on the inside, but again nothing quite special.
HOUSE SPECIALS (OLIVE OIL): VONGOLE
Clam in olive oil with garlic (₱230.00)
This was the dish thAT I had, and at first I didn’t want to order this dish because I can make a good vongole myself; but nothing else in the menu stood out to me. Vongole for roughly AUS$6.00? That’s value for money there as the dish had a generous amount of baby clams! Taste was good, but again nothing too special for me.
HOUSE SPECIALS (TOMATO BASED): SHRIMP POMODORO
Pieces of shrimp with pomodoro sauce (₱230.00)
This dish I only got to taste a bit of, and I can’t remember what it tasted like so I asked my sister. She said that it was a bit salty for her liking (she finds everything she eats salty anyway so it’s hard to trust what she says), and that she didn’t like the biscotti because it was too thick for her liking (I liked it).
HOUSE SPECIALS (CREAM BASED): SIRLOIN FETTUCCINE
Strips of sirloin in fettuccine sauce (₱210.00)
I ordered this dish for my other sister because I’ve never heard of sirloin fettuccine before. I imagined a nice char-grilled sirloin steak, striped and tossed through a classic fettuccine in creamy white sauce – but no, it looked like boiled(?) strips of sirloin garnished on top of an ordinary plate of fettuccine.
HOUSE SPECIALS (BABY BACK RIBS): BABY BACK PORK 2PCS
Served with mixed vegetables and mashed potato or rice (₱200.00)
HOUSE SPECIALS (BABY BACK RIBS): BABY BACK BEEF 2PCS
Served with mixed vegetables and mashed potato or rice (₱230.00)
HOUSE SPECIALS (ANGUS BEEF): MESS OF SIRLOIN
Served with rice and mixed vegetables (₱200.00)
The three dishes that you just saw above I cannot comment on the taste just because my uncle and my cousins had these dishes. I saw the disappointment in my cousin’s face when his food arrived to the table – two tiny pieces of ribs for a person who could probably eat a whole rack of ribs for a meal. He had to order another rib dish to feel satisfied enough. But just by looking at the three dishes above, they don’t really look that appetising to me.
DESSERTS: CHOCO LAVA (₱110.00)
Probably my favourite out of the two desserts we shared – the cake was definitely molten and very rich in chocolate goodness.
DESSERTS: RED VELVET (₱135.00)
I am a huge fan of red velvet; I even made this cake for my birthday last year and it’s not that I’m being cocky or anything, but mine was definitely better. This cake was a bit dry and crumbly for my liking and the taste was average. The thing that was appealing about this was the design on the plate that surrounded the cake, or as my mom referred to it “the placemat.”
Most of the pasta (and even meat dishes) portion sizes were really small; maybe I’m just used to seeing bigger portions of food having lived and dined in and about Sydney for the past 4 years. Then I look at the price and I thought, yes, it makes sense now why the portions are relatively small – think approximately $3.00-$6.00 Australian dollars on average per meal from this restaurant.
You may have also realised that I’ve said for many of the dishes above that they weren’t anything special in terms of overall flavour; I don’t want this post to appear biased and end up being a comparison between Arabela’s menu to others that I’ve had in Sydney because in my eyes, Arabela cannot compare. So I’ve asked my sisters and my mom to give a fair and honest rating for the food, and they gave an average score of 4.6 out of 10. My mom said: “[the food is] very simple, nothing special, but for local Filipino’s, it’s probably something special for them because Arabela is the only of its kind within the area.” Which is very true because from what my cousin has said, a lot of the foreigners come to dine at Arabela, and every time we’ve been, we’ve had to queue up for a table. Ambience though is a sure 8/9 out of 10; like I mentioned above I find the low-ceiling concept quite a unique dining experience. Service: 8/9 out of 10 as well. Value for money is arguable in terms that for us it is affordable, but for an average Filipino on an average/below average income, this place is probably too fancy for them.
Arabela, Camello’s Bakehaus & Coffee Shop
503 Rizal Street
– Ally xx