up town center may have expanded into a maze of shops and restaurants (seemingly sprouting a new block of stores every season), but pinac, one of the originals on the very first wing, is still there to serve their spin on kapampangan food.
i found the restaurant itself cozy, clean, and welcoming. it felt like a place you would go to with family.
though they have always offered their dishes a la carte, they recently opened up a dinner buffet featuring their bestsellers, from monday to friday 6-9 pm for only P359 per person. and if you love dishes like crispy pata and chicken skin, then this is a dinner deal for you.
they change the menu up sometimes, but this was the menu on the day we went:
suam na mais
(dessert) buko pandan
what i liked the best was the tortang balasenas, which was like lasagna, except the main ingredient was eggplant. it had bits of ground beef and red sauce, and was very delicious!
the suam na mais was a clear soup with bits of white corn. it seemed simple, but i thought it was good. it tasted familiar and my sister brought to my attention why. it tastes similar to the knorr cream of corn soup mix, but with a natural consistency and bits of the local corn. (maybe this just means knorr actually got a flavor somewhat right!)
and, as i’ve said, if you like crispy pata, then you’ll love it here. the meat is soft on the inside, kind of crunchy on the outside, and had pockets of fat here and there. and they have the usual soy sauce-vinegar sauce!
the chicken skin dipped in vinegar is enjoyable like chicharon.
i liked that their kare-kare had actual meat in it, and not just tripe as in other places. however, there was something different about its flavor, like a tanginess i couldn’t quite place.
i felt i could only eat a bit of the chicken pastel, because it was too creamy and salty. like all of the dishes above, as filipino food is usually very tasty, it would probably go well with plain white rice.
you can actually order white rice, at no extra charge. this is included in the buffet price. just as a waiter.
i didn’t care much for the paella. i didn’t like that there was an extra-tangy taste to it that could get a bit nauseating.
i love buko pandan, but found that their cream part was waaaaay too sweet. i still ate the jelly, though, and just left out as much cream as possible.
to drink, i had the cucumber mint dalandan, which was recommended by the waiter. (note that this is NOT part of the buffet price of p359, and costs p115.) it was served in a big cocktail glass. it was slushie-like, and tasted like i imagined. the cucumber was very distinct. it felt like a sherbet. i think its refreshing taste is supposed to help cleanse your palate of all the extra-tasty dishes. i wasn’t fond of it, but i can see how others could be.
all in all, i thought their dinner buffet was a great deal. for only p359, you get to eat all you can of very well-thought out dishes. their dishes—though sometimes salty (as is usually so with usual filipino food)—had a lot to offer, and i think anyone can easily find something to like about them.
pinac in up town center is the only branch they have now, but we found out from the owner that they will be opening up two new branches in the south. also, from the passionate way she talked about their restaurant, i believe pinac can only get better.
the owner also let us try some of their other bestsellers that were not part of the buffet.
the salted egg paro looked like a bit like tempura, but with a creamy covering. it wasn’t my type of dish, though, because, aside from the saltiness, the covering had that grainy feel of maalat na itlog.
there was also the pako salad, which was delicious. the vinagrette-like dressing was just right, and it didn’t taste too leafy.
the flat top smores was not only cute, but also a yummy dessert. you could visibly see the flat tops sitting under the blobs of marshmallows. it was sweet sweet lovely flat top chocolate with gooey sticky white marshmallows leveled out with nice graham crackers. i don’t think there’s enough graham crackers for all the chocolate and marshmallow, though.
will probably take my family to try pinac, too!pinac
2nd floor, up town center, katipunan avenue, diliman, quezon city
(located next to s&r new york pizza)