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Friday, April 1, 2016

Where to eat in Albay: Balay Cena Una

Daraga, Albay - You may have heard of Culinaria Albay in the news or saw it on any online social media. Albay through the leadership of Gov. Joey Salceda, has been very active when it comes to social media promotion of what is there to offer in the province of Albay. When visiting Albay, particularly Daraga, you might want to consider visiting this beautiful restaurant aesthetically and culinary wise. This is just a small part of Culinary Albay.

Balay Cena Una is a restaurant in Daraga Albay famous enough to be known as one of the best kept secrets. It's a secret since it's not located in the main thoroughfares of Daraga, but then again it's not really that far. The name of the restaurant basically means "Sinaunang Bahay" or perhaps a not so exact translation in English would be "(One of the) first house/s".

How to get there (lifted from the website of Balay Cena Una: F. Lotivio Street intersects Rizal St. near the Daraga Covered Court, Honda Motortrade, and Daraga Bakery. These establishments are all at the corner of  F. Lotivio Street. If you turn into F. Lotivio, the restaurant is about 250m from Honda Motortrade. It is across the street from the Abaca factory of Shelmed Cottage Treasures. Alternately, you may also turn into Arboleda St, with Caltex Daraga as the landmark. This street curves  toward F. Lotivio. The restaurant is at the very end of Arboleda street. 

Image Source: http://www.balaycenauna.com/

I am almost always mesmerized by old structures andhouses. Balay Cena Una is an ancestral house beautifully restored and converted into a fine dining restaurant. A traditional structure but with a world-class gastronomic menu awaits you. Dishes are beautifully presented, again both with a touch of being international but with sense of being locally flavored. Use of local ingredients is highly noticeable in this restaurant. 

From the outside, the house is already lovely. The restaurant is on a corner road, easily noticeable as it gleans with so much story, just by how it stands with exquisite windows. We were at Balay Cena Una for an early dinner. After ordering, we decided to roam around the restaurant. Our table was on the ground floor near the collections of various kinds of the nativity scene (btw, we visited one December Saturday afternoon). We were told that the usual displays are miniature and wooden toy cars. They also have a collection of different kinds of owls. Seems like it that many are even sourced from abroad. According to one of the staff, kids who visit the place would usually count the number of owls on the display. 

The whole place is air-conditioned. I just love how the management is able to maintain the "freshness" of the place. This really is an Albay gem, no need to go to Vigan or even Intramuros just to have a feel of an old but exquisite place. One more thing that makes it more attractive for me is the coolness of the place plus the smell of the wood, makes me feel like I'm in Baguio too. The smell may not be that of a pine tree but it's the same feeling anyway.

House Chef's Salad
All available in-season greens, tomatoes, cucumber, ham, cheese, and other ingredients that the Chefs deliciously create for an appetizing healthy opener.

Now let's go to the menu. Balay Cena Una might be a fine dining restaurant and you might be thinking that the tags might be pricey. Well personally, with this kind of set up and ambiance plus the serving size of the food and friendly staff? The rates per dish are surprisingly decent and still affordable. They serve Appetizers, Salas and Soups, Entrees and Desserts.

Of no doubt nor to exaggerate, the food that we have tasted were darn good. Truly unique flavor using local ingredients partnered with international culinary practices. Close to perfection!

Pasta Bolognese
Italy's favorite dish from Bologna. The secret for authentic cooking is the long simmer in milk of ground beef and lean pork combined. Notice the soft, cotton-like texture of the sauce. Pasta is al dente and, if preferred, freshly made from our kitchen.
I had this Pasta Cena Una Especial, and boy this is DEFINITELY A MUST TRY. You won't find this in ANY restaurant in BICOL.
Pasta Cena Una Especial
The sauce is not the usual, but a perfect marriage of coconut milk and saffron, thus the brilliant golden color that gives it is appetizing look. With a shrimp on top to complete the dish.
Chicken/Pork Adobo in Rosemary
Exclusive from Cena Una, this is a take-off from France's famous Coq au Vin. Their version has additional secret ingredients that make it taste more like a local dish.

Beautiful stairs with intricate wood works are all around you.

I was with my Bicol Bloggers family last December and we really enjoyed dining at Cena Una.
Even though it was my first time to dine in Balay Cena Una, this experience was totally different from what we have here in Naga City. Locals say that they also serve the best desserts in town. Hoping that I'll be able to visit Cena Una again in the future. I might be biased in saying that it is the best restaurant in Albay, but hey can you blame me? I had a very nice experience in this restaurant and as of the moment, yeah they are the best in town.

 A seat for two, perfect for partners. Romantic, really.

Sunday Lunch buffet as of March 2016 starts at P420 as posted on their Facebook Page with more or less 15 or more dishes to choose from.  Imagine a buffet with all the best from their menu. I bet this price will be justifiable. 

Thank you Balay Cena Una, it was really a fun and heartwarming experience in Daraga, Albay because of you. Hope to dine again with you soon!

Balay Cena Una
F. Lotivio St. Bgy. Bagumbayan
Philippines 4501
Restaurant Hours: Monday to Saturday: 10:00 am to 10:00 pm
Sunday: 11:00 am to 9:00 pm Sunday Buffet: 11:30 am to 2:30 pm
Tel: +63.52.435.4338
Mobile: +63.917.827.9520
Visit them at: www.balaycenauna.com


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