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Ilocos Series: 4. Unclassified Food Trips (Johnny Moon & La Preciosa)


ilocos norte travel laoag

Last in the Ilocos Series comes a smorgasbord of food—by smorgasbord, I mean like a hodge-podge of delicacies, best to name then Unclassified.

To spare you from more chaos, I have refrained from making breakfast posts, since they are not particularly interesting and are eaten out of obligation. And they could bore the city lights out of you.

 johnny moon la preciosa review

Back to the Unclassified, the remaining untackled Laoag restaurants were chosen out of hunger and logistics: Johnny Moon Café and La Preciosa.

 Pagudpud Blue Lagoon

As a finale/bonus/more Unclassified, there is also our Pagudpud Paluto Take Out Lunch Special—a name so long can only describe the choice left for travelers who never plan!

 review johnny moon ilocos

To start off, here’s a bit of trivia we got from the Juan Luna House tour guide:

The restaurant Johnny Moon is not an attempt at creating a cool-sounding joint; it’s an alias for Juan (Johnny) Luna (Moon), who is an Ilocano local.

Juan Luna Self Portrait ilocos

Here’s Johnny!

C-O-O-L. I will admit, even I hadn’t thought of that!

Still awed, we walked to Johnny Moon for dinner.

 Johnny Moon Review Ilocos Norte

Because of a parade (Ilocos Norte-cum-Flores-de-Mayo-cum-local-fiesta), most roads surrounding the Capitol were closed so we had no choice but to walk to Johnny Moon.

We actually had no idea where we were going and asked nearby vendors—who magically brought out a crumpled map of Laoag and directed us spot on. Amazing, these northern folk.

 Johnny Moon Cafe Ilocos Interios

Johnny Moon, as per the tour guide, boasts of the bagnet sandwich and bagnet empanada, which sadly, I met with a pork-er face. If she only knew I was after Juan Luna, she could’ve made up a Spoliarium Sandwich that could’ve gotten us to Johnny Moon sooner.

Having walked to Johnny Moon was a perfect excuse to have double carbs (or triple, including dessert), for dinner! I don’t regret choosing this place for our finale dinner in Laoag; it was Luna-art all over and the food just affordable!

 ilocos pasta

First was the Laureana Pasta Verde which is malunggay pesto with tinapa flakes topped with what seems to be danggit.

Fishy never became this awesome, seriously.

I absolutely love the texture that the crushed danggit provides, while the pesto gives off that comfort food vibe perfect for Juan Luna’s ‘hood. The serving is good for one—but enough to tackle other dishes—wink, wink!

 bagnet empanada

The Ilocos Empanada has 4 variants, if I recall. Two, I can’t really eat but must be bestsellers (longganisa and the winner, bagnet), the plain one and vegetarian. The difference between vegetarian and plain is the egg, and since I love breakfast for dinner, plain it was!

A newbie in the Emapanada-eating society, I had no mighty expectations and just recognized that orange-y crust that can only indicate something interesting inside its crisp, deep fried shell. For P40, I can afford the letdown.

A letdown is certainly was NOT, though. Oil aside, the empanada was delectable and the uncanny ingredients (papaya shavings, bean sprouts and egg) were a melancholy combination. Supposed to go with catsup (no thanks) or the famed Ilocos vinegar (amazing!), I savored it in its bare glory—yummy! This was my first empanada ever and I’d say, I’d be back for more—if Ilocos wasn’t so darn far!

Oh and if you were to ask me to design my own empanada, it would be the plain jane with cheddar cheese. Awesome! I can just imagine the melted cheese erupting after the first bite—purr-fection.

 dessert laoag

Being the finale, dessert cannot be overlooked. While I was already full from the carbo loading, I still went for the Johnny Moon Banana Split with Dragonfruit Ice Cream.

It was a creamy and fruity break from the oil and sodium, and it was a delectable ending for a tiring evening. While I can’t say that I can actually detect the full flavor of the dragonfruit from that wee serving (approximately a scoop), the entire experience was artfully satiating.

La Preciosa Laoag Review

You will notice that organization and order do not exist in my world, since I started with Johnny Moon (last dinner) while I neglected the 2nd dinner, so here goes: La Preciosa.

La Preciosa was chosen for its logistics, and more importantly, because it was recommended online—somewhere with a photo of a huge slice of carrot cake! Sold!

Of course before dessert, dinner had to be served.

 La Preciosa Ilocos Menu

We had more fish for dinner, the fried Bucto (appetizer), Boneless Bangus and Crispy Dinuguan (for the meat eater).

 seafood restaurant ilocos

The Bucto was meant to be a giant version of fried dilis, but I found it absolutely so huge, I think I only managed to eat a handful. Or maybe because the fish head did freak me out and reminded me of well, severed fish heads. I try not be visually un-inspiring, but even the lazy black cat knows when to say “no” to too much fish heads.

 Crispy dinuguan La Preciosa Review

fish ilocos laoag

The Boneless Bangus was my main course and was just so-so. I mean, how else could I possibly describe boneless bangus, huh?!

Don’t remember picking stray bones, so that makes this worthwhile, but the opposite of adventurous.

If any, you should be chucking a book at the monitor for the boredom I may be causing you. I’ll understand.

 la preciosa dessert

Which brings me to the highlight, the Carrot Cake.

The carrot cake can be spotted from a distance because it literally floats in a crown of shredded carrot. The cream cheese frosting holds all those carrot stays into this boulder of beta carotene goodness. Further scrutiny shows that the cake itself is studded with walnut and not much of carrot (seriously, no orange in the batter), but not that it matters—unless you hate raw carrots!

La Preciosa shines in the dessert-pasalubong department, and that carrot cake continues to radiate its orange shreds in my phone archives. Impossible to delete.

La Preciosa has other interesting looking cakes in its menu, just as visually resplendent, but I regret having been born with only one stomach. Maybe in the next life—9 stomachs too?!

 Welcome to Pagudpud Sign

Last but not the least is the longest entry in this post: the Pagudpud Paluto Take Out Lunch Special!

The story behind it:

Blue Lagood/Pagudpud was utterly filled with people; no cottages would take us in and we had to seek shelter in the remotest resort (so remote, its name is negligible). The only recourse for hunger is to go to the main “Paluto” section (near Hannah’s) and take out whichever fish we fancy.

 Blue Lagoon

It was a kilo of Dorado that caught our eye, grilled—with an awful waiting time of 45 minutes! Someone got extra hungry and bought a paluto-longganisa from a nearby vendor, while I had a banana. Boring, as ever.

paluto where to eat pagudpud

The Dorado was decently sliced and grilled, with a siding of tomato and onion—on the house. It tasted fresh and self-sufficient on its own, though a bit of kalamansi-soy sauce on the side did wonders as well.

From my tone (and awe), it may seem that I do not frequent Dampa in Manila—you got it!

Still, eating freshly grilled fish by the sea—in that remote cottage—was just so zen-inspiring and calming. Lunch on the sand, sans the unruly tourists, turned this Pagudpud meal into a stellar picnic.

pagudpud food

So this ends my Ilocos Series. It was a grand adventure, that turned me into a lazy BRONZE cat.

The color will pass, but the memories, always online and in my mental map of things to remember.

 Rocks shadow selfie

There were a lot of wrong turns, lost moments and spacing out while driving (not to mention a Buscopan incident), but all in all, it was a Labour Day Weekend, wonderful and well spent!

Now, back to reality, mates! Till the next holiday!


Ilocos Series: 1. The Sights

Ilocos Series: 2. In the Brick of Time

Ilocos Series: 3. Ilocan-Pizza and More

Ilocos Series: 4. Unclassified Food Trips (Johnny Moon & La Preciosa)


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Rue is Me! (Rue Bourbon)

I give myself a huge DUH on the forehead. Not an “L” but a duh. The Homer “Doooh!” could do too. As the name suggests Rue Bourbon is that place where you go Friday night for drinks, finger food and more drinks. It is not, I repeat, NOT, a place you expect to get your salad fill. What part of Rue Bourbon suggests veggie shots? Nada.

eastwood restaurant

Still, the name Rue was so catchy—the word synonymous to regret and lament—a visit was necessitated. Forget that the second word with twice as more syllables (and characters) happens to be Bourbon.

ancho ranch salad eastwood

With the “green” selection close to nil, there was no choice but to idiotically order the Ancho Ranch Salad with Buffalo Fried Shrimp. Idiotically, because the salad was sprinkled with bacon, I had to fish out the leaves at the bottom of the pack, which was not that many. The serving was small for its price, and despite this burgeoning of shrimp at the top, credit must be given to the Cajun batter—thick, crisp and zesty. It is the flavor that you know is so tangy, it must be filled with ingredients you would rather not inquire about. No wonder this place is a drinking haven.

eastwood lazy black cat

The Bayou, properly named, was a marchland of grease and batter. To those who do not know me, you might as well not date me and order the Bayou at the same time, because will have to learn the hard way how annoyingly obsessive I could get with the batter. The batter, in this case, makes up 50% of everything; we ended up filling a bowl with fried batter from the calamari, fish, shrimp and 4 giant onion rings. The Bayou may be a savory seafood serving, but it is also a breaded bayou of grease. Eat with caution, or then again, drown with drinks!

Being sober 100% of the time, I spied the grease and small servings of the food groups that matter in our biological system being served all over the place. But I can’t blame Rue, after all, health food isn’t in its menu and everyone seems to know that. Well I do too now.

Before getting  kicked out for leaving batter all over the place, a graceful exit was the only way to save face, and yes, stretch! With proper company and drinks, Rue Bourbon will certainly be the tee-totaler’s place of preference.

As for those seeking the greens, our quest continues.


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Starving at Sambokojin

Sambo Kojin (Eastwood), the smokeless grill, provides quite an appeal to those who want to grill their own meal, eat, eat some more, and leave the place smelling all fresh and dainty. Even those who have the aversion to cooking will find an interest at this proposition, this lazy cat included.

Why, my menu even included grilling the salmon, searing the tuna sashimi and bathing them with teriyaki sauce – sweet seafood fantasy!

All those plans flew out of the window when, upon being seated, the waiter dropped this chunk of butter on the grill.  Closer scrutiny revealed that it was not butter but something more horrid, as if butter was not bad enough: beef fat! Being part vegetarian and a firm believer that Japanese cooking favored less animalistic elements, this new information astounded me to the point where it can’t be helped.

Sayonara, grill!

I had to forego the grilling element and enjoy my sashimi raw. It was time to hang out at the cooked food station and deem the raw foods nothing but the beefy offshoot of that sinful grill.

This abstinence rather paid off, having enjoyed the cooked bounties of the seafood offerings. Tuna teppanyaki and the seafood with creamy egg sauce topped my list, while the fried salmon was a bit of a disappointment.

I spied tofu steak as well and had the audacity to pick out the tofu from the meaty mayhem. No one ought to complain since I got the part that people never really like. Poor tofu.

The chap chae glistened and beckoned my plate, but beef strips heralded themselves and I had to move elsewhere.

Other fishy viands were scattered around the place, breaded, steamed – you name it – but since they yielded the similar flavor, best to stay loyal to my tuna teppanyaki.

Wondering about the tempura? Well it’s got its own fried battered station with kani, ebi and the whole lot of vegetables. As always it was hailed the most populous spot in the buffet, which is why I had to steer clear of it for fear of getting my new open toed sandals sprinkled with tempura sauce. That, and I enjoyed my kani raw.

Sushi and maki rolls are also provided for in abundance, alongside the volume of human traffic concentrated in that dangerous region. Once again, I steered clear of the “rice” path and concentrated the tongs on the protein bearers, the the sashimi.

The dessert station was nothing exorbitant or ravishing – the usual fares you’d expect from Saisaki. There’s the ubiquitous ice cream and the line that stretches to the kitchen, the mini pastries with skyrocketing icing and fruits in season. No cheesecake, mousse or anything with green tea. In short, no dessert for me – but I had to make do with the fruit cup, as necessitated by my “complete meal” mantra.

This beef bias may be dissuading and most likely, discouraging for most, since 99% of the people I know wouldn’t care about beef fat, butter or whatever animal they are ingesting. If you are part of the 99% then good for you, grill to your heart’s content and savor your “moo-tiful” meal.

As for the minority, the cooked foods are quite a bountiful lot and yes, if you are as lazy as me, no need to don that invisible chef’s hat!

No more cooking – now that’s a catch!


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