Ilocano and Bicol Dishes with a Gourmet Twist
Seeing another 24/7 place open close to ABS-CBN and GMA is hardly a surprise. Media workers need some place to unwind in, usually during the oddest hours. It’s simply good business, which was precisely why two years ago Homer’s Bar and Grill opened on Sgt. Esguerra Street, right on the spot where Gerardo’s used to be.
The place has no door and is cooled only by electric fans. At one end is a stage for artists performing on its Wednesday and Thursday Acoustic Nights. Everyone inside the dimly-lit dining area has an almost unobstructed view of the street. A typical 24/7 beer-and-pulutan joint, by the looks of it, with a Wednesday.
What’s surprising about the place is the food, which seems better served in a restaurant with a more upscale interior.
Some friends and I dropped in one weekday night and took one of the tables on the sidewalk seating area. Without much deliberation, we agreed to order the Bicol Express.
I’d tasted one which was almost purely chopped up green chili pepper with some bits of pork added almost as an afterthought. The one we had at Homer’s was at least as spicy as non-Bicolanos could stand and it really had a lot more pork that you could sink your teeth into, making it more ulam than pulutan. We would have ordered rice except that we’d already had dinner.
A few days later, on a rainy Wednesday night, I got an interview with two of the owners, both of them handling the operations of the bar. Geth (a contraction Gerard Thaddeus, pronounced jet) Savellano and LaingLarah Lagman told a bit of background about the bar, appropriately enough at the little office at the back, behind the cashier’s cubicle.
They met through Dante Lagman, a friend of Geth’s since their days at the UP Integrated School. Dante happens to be a cousin of Larah’s., Then in 2009, they got together with Larah’s brother Grex Lagman, who was a Quezon City councilor, and sister Karina Lagman- De la Cruz, and put up Homer’s— all because they love to eat.
There is no guy named Homer.
“That came from the word home,” Geth said. “We want our customers to feel at home. So our tag is: There’s no place like Homer’s.”
“Geth is Ilocano and I’m Bicolana,” Larah said. “So we serve mostly Ilocano and Bicolano food. Most of the seafood we get from Albay.”
As it happens, Larah’s father is Rep. Edcel Lagman his cousin Dante is the son of the late Filemon “Popoy” Lagman. Larah herself works as part of his father’s staff at the House.
“I ordered Bicol Express pasta for you,” Geth said.
To our mutual surprise, we had met before. We happened to have been working in the same company years ago—Summit Media. He was a web programmer with the Interactive section and I was copy editor of FHM. We had played billiards at a nearby bar, where my wife happened to be part-owner.
Anyway, after leaving Summit Media, Geth took a six-month cooking course at the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management (ISCAHM) and worked for five years as a chef at Nestlé.
In 2007, he joined FHM editor-in-chief Allan Madrilejos, Monica Barretto, and Eric Enriquez to put up Route 196 on Katipunan Avenue, where he still shows up from time to time.
But back to Homer’s. The Bicol Express pasta, which I was having, was one of his ideas.
“This is good,” I said as I dug into my pasta. “Why don’t put in some bagoong?”
“There is bagoong in it. But just a bit,” Larah said. “We always try to innovate.”
So they serve hybrid dishes like Lengua Sisig (sisig with ox tongue), Pinaknet (pakbet with bagnet), Bagnet Ensalada, , Cream Dory in Gata, Laing Pizza, Laing Pasta, Fili Cheesecake Sandwich, and Lemon Butter Frogs’ Legs.
They also have the more familiar favorites like Dinakdakan, Vigan Longaniza, Callos, Crispy Binagoongan, Crispy Pata, Sinigang na Baka, and Pork BBQ.
Most dishes have wallet-friendly prices, ranging from between P90 and P200. A word of warning, though, for pulutan lovers: If you’re lactic intolerant or hypertensive, go easy on the dishes, a lot of which have gata or chili, or both.
The beer prices are reasonable enough to keep your blood pressure in check once you get the bill. It’s San Miguel country here, with Pale Pilsen at P32; Light and Red Horse Stallion at P35; Cerveza Negra, Strong Ice, and Super Dry at P38; and Premium at P62. A Jumbo Bucket of assorted beer goes for P360 which comes with a free appetizer, a choice of Crispy Quezo, french fries, tokwa, and chicken isaw.
Non-beer drinkers are likely to find something they like from a respectable list of wines, spirits, and cocktails.
Homer’s kitchen is good enough to get into catering, for which they have several regular clients, like the National Book Development Board, the Intellectual Property Office, Unicef, and some nongovernment organizations.
They also run a food stall, opened last February, at The Loop at the ABS-CBN compound. It’s called Gurumét, which rhymes with gourmet, which is an apt word to describe a lot of the items on Homer’s menu.
For inquiries, reservations, & catering services, please call 411-6917.