There's a nice new breakfast and merienda spot on the corner of Aguirre and Banzon called Lugawan Republic, a great place to stop when you're in need of comfort food. Cat and I stopped by for a snack and got to chat with Attorney Jojo Salomon, one of the owners, who told us the interesting stories behind each dish.
We had the Pilugaw, the aptly named Goto Hell, a very crunchy version of Tokwa't Baboy, and Crispy Tofu. As we learned from Salomon, the whole concept of Lugawan Republic is to offer the classic Pinoy favorite in a new way; yep, it's lugaw with class. The Pilugaw, their flagship product, is truly a deluxe congee, tinted and flavored with either annatto or kasubha, and topped with tender goto (tripe), wood mushrooms, quail eggs, crunchy fried garlic bits and green onion shoots. Very flavorful and filling! The wood mushrooms (tengang daga) add a touch of the exotic, raising the humble lugaw to a whole new level.
On Atty. Salomon's urging I also tried the Goto Hell, a product with a humorous story behind it. It seems that when Lugawan Republic was first started in Timog, partner Gladys Reyes mentioned it on a TV show and her co-hosts jokingly told her she should make a porridge named Goto Hell. The next day, the restaurant was deluged with requests for the fictitious product. Reyes took up the challenge and concocted the chili tripe with chili congee recipe over the next few days. Was it as infernally good as advertised? One spoonful and ... woohoo! This stuff would be a hit in Singapore! As a confirmed spice addict, I have to say I'll definitely order this again.
To go with our congees we had the Tokwa't Baboy, and as with everything here, there's a little twist added to make the dish unique. Traditional tokwa't baboy usually consists of boiled pork, with the crunch, if any, coming solely from the tofu; Lugawan Republic's version adds quite a bit more pork, and fried crisp lechon-kawali style. It's double, no, triple, the crunch of mom's tokwa't baboy, and I'm loving it. But as Cat and I are too crunch-happy, we also had to try the Crispy Tofu. This was fresh tofu fried with panko breading, so it's really crunchy on the outside, silky soft inside; it's served with a sweet and sour sauce. Good stuff, and if your kids don't like tofu I'm sure this is going to convince them otherwise.
Lugawan Republic shares premises and in fact has the same management as Iago's Grill so it was no surprise that the water served was again pandan water. It's also possible to sit in Lugawan Republic's quiet, air conditioned space and order from Iago's, or vice versa. I like that. Cat and I will definitely be coming back, and one of these days we're bringing the family.