When in Bacolod: 21 Restaurant
It was my first time in Bacolod and I was told to pack loose clothing. Apparently, 90% of the trip would consist of eating (the 10% is for driving to places for eating). While preparing my itinerary whilst asking recommendations from friends who have visited and/or lived in Bacolod, one restaurant appears constant on their lists: 21 Restaurant.
Named such because of its location at 21st Street corner Lacson (a main road in Bacolod), this family restaurant has been around since the eighties. Back then, it was smaller and had a shorter menu, primarily focused on serving Negrense favorites, like batchoy. Around 2005, the establishment underwent a major renovation and was even called Bar 21. Now, it is simply called “21,” a name synonymous to delicious comfort food, affordable prices and a family-friendly atmosphere.
Inside 21The place is owned, operated and managed by siblings Chef Richie Gamboa and Rica Gamboa, along with their cousins, Paolo Araneta and Antoni Espinos---it’s like a family legacy that has been passed from generation to generation.
Take, for example, 21’s Original Batchoy (P80), which they are really famous for--it’s like an heirloom that is carefully guarded and preserved for future generations to enjoy.
Original BatchoyServed warm with a fresh egg cracked into the hot broth upon request, the soup is teeming with pork cracklings, fried garlic bits, liver slices, and small pieces of pork. Prepared for 3-4 hours, the broth is the secret weapon, and definitely comfort food for the soul. A bowl can easily fill a hungry tummy, and may even leave some to share to a friend. Good for merienda or a late night snack, it truly is the best batchoy I’ve tasted.
Crablets with sinamak
Chicken Inasal Lollipop with atchara and sinamak
Fried Isul served with mushroom gravy
Crab Sticks with Talangka Sauce
For those who want to indulge in heavier fare, there’s a myriad of choices offered in 21. Their menu is huge, it’s impossible to sample all their offerings in one Bacolod weekend visit.
Lamb with Curry Rice
Porkchop Bicol Express
Grilled Squid and Lemongrass
I highly recommend the Moist Chocolate Cake (P115) to cap your meal with. It’s the recipe of Antoni, one of the owners, and it definitely lives up to its name.
Moist Chocolate Cake
Since 21 Restaurant used to be Bar 21, they couldn’t let go of their cocktails and other alcohol-laden beverages. Their specialty is the Iced Tea 21 (P70), which looks and tastes like laced orange juice but doesn’t contain a drop of it. The drink is brewed tea, combined with “secret ingredients” I wasn’t privy to. I didn’t need to know, it was delicious, refreshing and a tad intoxicating, just my kind of drink.
Iced Tea 21
Frozen MargaritaOther girl-friendly drinks are the Cosmopolitan (P90) and the Frozen Margarita (P155). The former is strong, with the kind of hit that creeps on you at the last minute, while the latter, is light and a little fruity.
When in Bacolod, thou shall not miss 21 Restaurant—not only for their batchoy—but also for the authentic experience of dining in a family restaurant that has been well-loved by Bacolod locals through the years.