My family was in Balay Indang again early this month and it was a total gastronomic experience as usual. If you haven’t heard of the place, it’s the subject of a feature article (“Peace and tranquility at Balay Indang,”? May 17, 2007) that was published in this paper. In a nutshell, Balay Indang is an inn and getaway to soothe city-weary nerves “? guesthouses, pavilion and cabanas scattered over huge Zen gardens…
We arrived on Saturday, May 2, in time for a late afternoon snack. There was homemade suman, some stuffed with chocolate, others with mango strips. Then, there was turon covered with sesame seeds, traditional ingredients for halo-halo like red beans and macapuno hidden inside the bananas.
We were shown to our room and after setting down our bags, we were off to explore the Zen gardens that we missed so much. Armed with four cameras, an assortment of lenses and a video camera, we made the most of the remaining daylight to capture images of the grounds. It was the perfect opportunity too to digest the merienda we just had so we wouldn’t feel too full by dinnertime. Dinner, we knew from experience, is always the highlight of a Balay Indang weekend.
Dinner was unforgettable. Served al fresco under multi-colored canopies and soft warm light, the food parade began with a delectable consomme and fresh garden salad. Then the main courses arrived and I got flustered not knowing what to do first “? take photos of the food or start eating. There was a dish with tuna seasoned subtly like teriyaki but with a hint of wasabe too. The very light sauce of the pasta with clams was a mixture of clam broth and wine. The shrimp kabobs were topped with mango salsa. And, the most memorable dish of all, hickory-flavored pork spare ribs so tender that the meat was falling off the bones. But the feast didn’t end with the main courses. Dessert was chocolate fondue with mini-marshmallows, diced pineapples, apples and bananas. After-dinner tea was a wonderfully surprising pot of fresh mint leaves steeped in hot water.
After shower and a game of Scrabble where we all lost miserably to our 15-year-old daughter Alex, we slept in our well-appointed bedroom that echoed the overall theme of Balay Indang “? casual shabby chic that never intimidated but, rather, imparted an aura of restfulness.
Breakfast the next morning had a decidedly Filipino theme. Chicken adobo, tortang talong (eggplant omelet) and crisp fried fish were served with garlic fried rice and tomato and salted eggs salad. Too ordinary? Ordinary is unheard of in Balay Indang. The fried fish was not the usual daing nor the paper thin sun-dried danggit or tuyo. It was something in-between “? butterflied biya fried to a perfect golden crispness that even the heads were perfectly edible. The salted eggs and tomato were tossed with snipped cilantro that gave the salad a piquant aroma and flavor.
We skipped the mid-morning snack so as not to ruin our appetite for lunch. Between breakfast and lunch, my 16-year-old daughter, Sam, and I did what we like to do best in Balay Indang (next to eating the wonderful food, of course) “? take photos. Then, it was lunch — salad, pasta, baked fish with Parmesan, fried lumpiang ubod served with a delicious sweetened vinegar that defies description, embotido, chicken smothered in gravy and, for dessert, ice cream. We were so full we didn’t even ask for coffee anymore.
Did we overeat during our Balay Indang weekend? Probably. In a place like that and with that kind of food, it’s hard not to. And what’s really great about the food in Balay Indang is the lack of pretense. There is no attempt to prettify the food to make it appear more delicious than it is. The food presentation is always thoughtful but one has to eat the food to really experience it. Balay Indang’s manager, Marge Tan Natalis explained the food philosophy in one sentence, “We don’t serve food that I wouldn’t eat.”? She comes up with the recipes and the kitchen staff executes them. The result is both creative and inventive “? an indefinable mix of comfort food and casual élan that has become the benchmark of Balay Indang. My friend and fellow lawyer Sam Sabalones-Celiz who first recommended the place to me describes the food as “to die for”? and I wholeheartedly agree.
Balay Indang is located in Indang, Cavite, a short drive from Tagaytay City. From Aguinaldo Highway, turn right to Mendez Road and go straight until you hit the end of the road. Turn right and 3 km. farther, you will see a wooden gate with the number 88 painted on the wall. You may inquire and make reservations at 09178374261.
Updated on May 31, 2009 at 11.00 p.m.