August 5, 2018

Fely J's Kitchen: Filipino & Asian Home Cooking

How was your family’s cooking when you were growing up? Mine was spectacular, even though home-cooked dishes were not as spectacular but they were always tasty, satisfying and always done with so much heart. The women on my father’s side were all great cooks, especially my grandma. This trait she was able to pass to my mother and all of my siblings. I’m an OK cook though, but I  can make one the meanest Sinigangs you've ever tasted, no joke! Hahahaha!

I often miss my grandma’s cooking and when she vacationed here in the Philippines, I really requested for her to cook for us Igado (Ilocano dish). It was glorious to say the least. And when she left, I always craved for it and wishing for the day that I can be with her again so I can eat all the wonderful dishes that she makes. Good thing my mom, my aunt and my siblings can replicate that for me for now. 

Fely J’s Kitchen is a restaurant dedicated to the memory of Felicidad de Jesus-Cruz, mother of the late restaurateur Larry J. Cruz, features Fely J’s treasured recipes which she picked up in her travels. The restaurant offers a variety of Filipino and Asian dishes served Fely J’s style: fresh, natural and attractive, just as she was herself, a pretty, adventurous woman who grew old gracefully without artificial touches.

Felicidad de Jesus-Cruz’s castle was her kitchen, a small one but always a festive corner whenever her friends gathered. She wasn't a great chef by today's standards but she loved to cook for family and kept treasured recipes of Filipino and Asian dishes she picked up in her travels. She was partial to Pampangan cooking, being, like Larry J. Cruz’s father, Abe, a true-blue Kapampangan. 

But Fely J. enjoyed a great variety of dishes she quickly adopted in her kitchen. Her food dictum: everything must be fresh, natural and attractive. That's how Fely J was herself, a pretty, adventurous woman who grew old gracefully without artificial touches. Fely spent her later years hovering over the LJC Kitchens with a critical eye and an appreciative palate. In the words of the National Artist Nick Joaquin, Fely J was a dainty morsel but was game and gutsy in the competitive life.

I was one of the lucky ones to sample her legacy dishes during a foodie meet up and here are the best-selling dishes that were served to us: 

Utan Ilonggo Soup - a healthy vegetable soup that makes use of any available vegetables from the backyard. This dish originated from the province of Iloilo in the Philippines. This tastes almost like the Ilocano dish Diningding but the unique about this soup is the inclusion of shrimp in the recipe. It has quite flavorful due to the various veggies in it and the shrimp. It is simple, low in fat, and full of vitamins and nutrients.

Thai Shrimps and Pomelo Salads - exotic blend of pomelo and shrimps with peanuts and mint. I’m that kind of person who likes her fruit salads made of fruits only and veggie salads made of veggies only. But I’m also up for anything. This pomelo salad is surely a refreshing break. The plump pomelo bits were a sweet and tangy addition to the rest of the salad ingredients: the succulent and fresh shrimps and the fresh, crisp lettuce. This had so much pleasant and fragrant aroma that makes it super appetizing. The dressing is distinctly citrusy which blended well with all the other ingredients. 

Tilapia with Sweet Plum Sauce - if Abe has Binukadkad na Pla-Pla, Fely J’s has an equally delightful way with St. Peter’s Miracle Fish. I don’t really eat tiplapia for personal preference but I tried this one for the sake of it. I took only a small piece of the fish meat (which was flaky and kind of sweet and creamy) but with a lot of the plum sauce. The sauce was viscous, sweet and sour and boasts a deliciously complex flavor.

Lengua Rendang - Indonesian style, fork-tender ox tongue simmered in spiced coconut cream sauce. I’ve always liked Rendang and Lengua, eating them separately of course. Not everyone likes Lengua because some irks with the thought of eating ox tongue. But I’ve like it since way before. This is my favorite of all the dishes that we got to try. For one, I like curry and coconut milk. The ox tongue was super tender and not at all rancid. The sauce was super aromatic, thick and sweet. The flavor profile of this Rendang is something that will mesmerize your taste buds!style, fork-tender ox tongue simmered in spiced coconut cream sauce.

Braised Beef with Radish - cooked beef ribs with radish and Chinese spices. This is truly a classic Chinese dish of braised beef brisket. The meat was tender with some added zest due to the radish and best eaten with steaming hot plain white rice.

Fely J's Temple Crab - fried alimango crab on a mound of rice, topped with golden fried garlic. The crab was quite huge and solid with meat. This doesn’t have much added sauce just only the light oil with the toasted garlic but OMG it was so delish! Just the right amount of seasoning and a little spiciness. 

Binagoongang Baboy - pork meat simmered in garlic and finished with just the right amount of sautéed fermented small shrimps. The pork meat was juicy and tender and the bagoong sauce that came with it is probably one of the bests we've ever tasted, it had the right taste of saltiness and didn't have that unfavorable stench or taste of fish or fermented shrimps.meat simmered in garlic and finished with just the right amount of sautéed fermented small shrimps.

Sisig Fried Rice - garlic fried rice with savory Sisig toppings. Garlic fried rice meets Pork Sisig equals a dining experience that explodes with flavors. This flavored rice mixed well all the other dishes for sure. 

Fely Jini - Fely J’s punch with chopped heart of palm (ubod), fruit cocktail and fruit juices, available in either passion fruit, mango delight, or kamias crush flavors. This was super refreshing!

Kamias Crush - called as tree cucumber in English and the fruit is blended with ice with some sugar syrup. This was nice combo of sweet and sour flavors in a cooling drink. 

Ripe Mango Shake - blended ripe mango shake and as always you can never go wrong with mango shake. 

House Coffee - Fely J’s coffee is on the string and bitter side and will surely perk you up especially on a lazy rainy afternoon. 

Snowy Mango - sliced ripe mangoes on shaved ice with mango ice cream. This is kind of like bingsu but with less of the sweeteners added. It’s meant to be eaten like halo-halo. I’m a sucker for mangoes and I like that the mango cubes here are sweet.

Cassava Bibingka - homemade tapioca cake with young coconut. Loved this upscale version of cassava bibingka. And I just can’t get over how pretty its presentation is. 

I enjoyed all that the dishes that we got to try and appreciated how Fely J's incorporated dishes that local and from our neighboring Asian countries in her home cooking. I can't take that Lengua Rendang off my mind. I might ask one of my siblings to cook something like that too at home or I'll just visit Fely J's Kitchen very soon again.

2nd Level, Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, 
Greenbelt, Makati City
Contact No: 02 2469069 ext:602
02 7288878 / 02 7288858

For more information, complete menu and restaurant reviews, check out their Zomato profile: 
Fely J's Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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