Hello Everyone and welcome back to an all new Review Sunday! Today’s post is on a restaurant that can be found along the Sta. Clara Bypass Road in Sta. Maria, Bulacan. My cousin first introduced me to this place when we were visiting the Philippines last month. I told her that I wanted to dine at local eateries that are special Bulacan and this is where she took my family and I. If I am not mistaken, itik is quite popular in Bulacan as there are also many balut hatcheries in the area. For those of you who do not know what a balut is, it is basically a developing duck embryo (fertilised duck egg) that is boiled and eaten in the shell.
Anyway, I could not appreciate the atmosphere at the time that we went with my cousin for it was during dinner and although the place was well lit, it felt dark to me. So my mother, my two sisters, and myself decided to come back to this place for lunch and the ambience had a bigger impact on me than it did the first night we dined at BR Nina’s Itikan. I think the fact that we were the only table there as well made a difference for it was less noisy (I mean, excluding the traffic along the bypass) and we had the whole place to ourselves. The place is an outdoor restaurant with a main dining area upon entering, and a few bahay kubos at the back where you could also dine. A bahay cubo is known as the national shelter, native house of the Philippines and is made from using indigenous building materials like bamboo and nipa. Its name is said to have originated from the Spanish word, cubo, which means “cube” because of the bahay kubo‘s rectangular/cubic shape. Nowadays you’ll see many eateries adapting the bahay kubo into small, private eating huts, big enough to seat between 4-8 people.
When I first had dinner at this place, I was very much intrigued by the ‘crispy’ part of the name of this dish, only because I’ve never had kare-kare before with crispy meat. The sauce, even though for me it felt like it was straying away from a traditional kare-kare, was nice and flavourful. The sauce tasted like it had coconut milk in it and didn’t taste so much like the peanut buttery goodness that I love; it was still creamy though. The vegetables were cooked to perfection, as in it wasn’t overcooked, and though some of the cuts of pork meat was cooked well, some were a bit hard and overdone.
The first time we came here we had the fried itik as recommended by my cousin. For me it was just okay, nothing much special to it other than the fact that it’s an itik and that it definitely tastes different than any normal fried chicken. The meat was quite dry and because there was no sauce to go with it either, besides the very basic condiment of soy sauce and calamansi, the overall dish was very dry. If we didn’t have the bulalo soup to pair with it, it would’ve been a very dry meal.
Since itik is their speciality here in this restaurant, we decided to order at least more than just one on their specials menu and experience itik cooked in many different ways. The itik was really tender and flavourful. It was so tender that it was fall-off-the-bone perfection. It also had a little bit of spice to it as well. This dish is one that I very much like from their specials, even though it doesn’t look very well presented – but this is pretty much home-style cooking.
Though it doesn’t look as appetising (let’s face it, pretty much everything you’ll see here doesn’t look appetising), it tastes better than it looks. However, compared to the kalderitik, this dish was quite dry. The sauce came as a side with the dish, but because the itik was deep fried, it was quite dry. Also, I felt that there was a little bit too much garlic on the dish. It did have that adobo flavour to the itik though!
Sisig is a Filipino dish traditionally made from parts of a pig’s head and liver, seasoned with calamansi and chilli peppers. I love me a good sisig dish. I never fail to have a flavourful sizzling plate of sisig whenever I visit the Philippines. I was drawn to this dish only because I’ve never had itik sisig before, I’ve always and only have ever had pork sisig. This sisg dish is by far my favourite of all sisigs I’ve ever had in the past. The flavour was on point and the addition of fresh chillies on top added that extra kick of heat that the dish, in my opinion, needed.
Sardinella tawilis, or known by Filipinos as just tawilis for short, is a small freshwater sardine, reaching up to 15cm and weighing less than 30g. On its own, it doesn’t actually have much flavour to it. But all your really need is the salted egg and tomatoes on the side to go with it and you have a match made it heaven. Even with just a little bit of achara to go with the crispy fried tawilis and you’re pretty much hooked on it. You can eat the fish whole as well, yes, including its head, tail, and bones!
Besides their specialities, this bulalo soup is by far the tastiest of all bulalo soups I’ve had in the past. The broth is harboured all the flavours from the meat, and what’s good about it also is that the broth doesn’t have a lot of oil in it and isn’t very fatty at all. The meat was very tender and the vegetables still had a bit of crunch to them. It was definitely much better in terms of flavour than the bulalo soup that I cooked myself.
BR Nina’s Itikan have quite a lot to offer on their menu beside their specialities of various itik dishes; many also praise their crispy kare-kares from Facebook comments and reviews that I’ve have seen. Overall, I thought that the food that we’ve had at this place were generally quite good. I haven’t had any major issues with any of the dishes only that the fried itik and the adobong itik itself are quite dry, but other than that, everything else were pretty much on point for me. I love love love their duck sisig, and for that I’d say that their food is a sure 7 out of 10 for me. Ambience 8 out of 10 and service is variable between 7 to 9 out of 10. I say this because there are only two waiters running the floor and serving probably a total of 10 tables. So when the place is packed, it’s quite hard to flag down a waiter when you’re ready to order or wanting to request for more water or tissue for your table – that’s the downside. Otherwise, they’re friendly and always quick on their feet. You’ll see then running around trying to get to every table and fulfilling every customer’s requests. It’s also relatively cheap so therefore a good value for money, where their specialities of itik only costs about AUD$5.00 – a whole duck for just $5.00? Quite impossible ain’t it? That is, if it were sold in Australia.
BR Nina’s Itikan & Restaurant
Bypass Road Sta. Clara
Sta. Maria, Bulacan
– Ally xx