The trip from Makati City was thankfully and surprisingly fast, given it was a weekday. Stopping at the GMA MRT Station I found myself at 122 Scout Dr. Lazcano, Sacred Heart, Quezon City – The Bagoong Club. Established in 2007, their was an invitation to sample their new dishes specially prepared for Christmas 2012.
Inside were my dinner companions for the evening sampling dishes old and new. What initially caught my eye and my taste bud was what seem to be a novel way of cooking chicharon bulaklak so much it seemed that all the greasiness was gone. This was of course a regular dish of the restaurant. As we were introduced to the different dishes – Puso de Coco; Balut Adobo; Tinapambutido; Liemponillo; Krismanok; Sisig Paella; and my favorite Mula sa Puso( a sisig dish made up of banana blossoms, onions, chili peppers and it seems a hint of liver) – the owners of Franciso R. Sevilla and Rosky R. Sevilla dropped in and thus began our dinner talk about bagoong.
According to Francisco and Rosky, the restaurant uses two types of bagoong – fish and shrimp. The fish bagoong was mostly used as a table condiment, while the shrimp bagoong was used mostly for cooking. And the bagoong comes from a master bagoong maker based in Malabon. The bagoong used is always fresh and has a salinity of sixteen percent (16%) – not too salty, as Goldilocks would say just right. The salinity is important in understanding why it is important that the bagoong be fresh. The normal salinity for fish sauces and fish paste would usually be at twenty-two percent (22%). Lower salinity would make it healthier but it would also shorten its shelf life.
The dishes at Bagoong Club has a subtle taste to them. I would not necessarily call it fusion or even new but it is subtle. Take for example the sisig variant Mula Sa Puso and the Chicharon Bulaklak, you would not mistake it for anything else but upon closer inspection there is a subtle way that it has changed.
Perhaps this is why the Bagoong Club has endured and thrived. Considering in the first few months when it opened in 2007 the road had closed for reconstruction. This was around five years ago and despite not being along the main road, Tomas Morato, the restaurant still commands a healthy number of patrons.
This in a sense is not surprising given the Filipinos love for bagoong. During the Philippine Revolution one of the main things included in the belt of a Katipunero was a small bottle/jar of bagoong. It was food to go with rice when travelling around and fighting for independence. One of the topics of conversation that came up during the dinner with the Sevillas. who were extremely knowleagable about the food and history of the Philippines. Not surprisingly since their family has been part of Filipino history and culture from Senator and Marcos Oppositionist Soc Rodrigo; food and culture historian Mila Enriquez and Mario Rodrigo Fernando the subject of Juan Luna’s painting La Bulaquena, which now resides somewhere in Malacanan.
The Bagoong Club is a treat for Filipinos and guests given the food and the subtle changes it has undergone, something familiar yet there is a pleasant surprise. But I think it is also a treat for foreign guests as well. The appreciation for bagoong and patis has been a constant in man’s history. In ancient times. the Greeks and Romans valued the similar condiments and cooking ingredients. They called it garum and liquamen. There were several grades of Garum and liquamen in Rome, people from all walks of life enjoyed; and because of the price their were differ types for each class or group. anIt is said that Pompeii became famous for its garum or liquamen.
So if you happen to pass by Tomas Morato in Quezon City and happen to crave for something familiar yet different take a few steps into Scout Dr. Lazcano and drop by number 22 and enjoy a dish or two at the Bagoong Club.