Dining Revolution: Kartilya

8 months ago


AS A PRODUCT OF BICULTURAL ROOTS, I OFTEN ASSOCIATE FILIPINO FOOD WITH MY FAMILY, MY GRANDMOTHERS IN PARTICULAR, WHO FONDLY PREPARED MY FAVORITE DISHES AS A CHILD—from adobo and mechado, and during special occasions, lengua and bacalao, which are of course Spanish-inspired. Filipino cuisine is so much more than just food.

As an adult attempting to cook the dishes my grandmothers once did, I realized that it’s more about the legacy, the methods of preparation, and eating customs represented in each recipe.


Taking its inspiration from the Katipunan, the Philippine revolutionary society founded in 1892 by Andres Bonifacio and others, Kartilya ng Katipunan served as the primer that listed its rules and principles for new members of the society. In the same way that the Katipunan gained independence through revolution, Kartilya, the restaurant, is revolutionizing and setting the standards for the new Philippine taste.

“As written in history books, the style of cooking and the food associated with it 
have evolved over several centuries, dating back to the pre-Hispanic era. Today, we are continuing to evolve, and Kartilya is adapting new ingredients and cooking methods, that are still acceptable and familiar to the local palate,” explains Pat Giron, marketing manager of Kartilya.

Dishes range from the very simple mea l
of fried salted fish and rice, to the elaborate paellas created for big gatherings of Spanish origin. Popular Filipino dishes include lechon, longganisa, adobo, kaldereta, kare-kare, pinakbet, crispy pata, and lumpia among others. One of the star dishes is the Corned Beef Kansi, which is made with house-cured corned beef, lemongrass, green nger chili and other local aromatics. It reminds me of the Thai tom yum soup but this version uses kamias as a souring agent giving each slurp
a tingling savory sensation. The Liempo Queso Fundido, another show stopper, is grilled pork belly accompanied by a 3-cheese mornay sauce that’s torched to perfection. The sizzling Tofu Sisig is my personal favorite. It’s Kartilya’s healthy take on the sisig that’s so full of exciting flavors, you will forget that the dish is vegetarian.


Leading the dining revolution is executive chef Lica Ibarra who takes her passion for cooking into Kartilya’s kitchen. Armed
with family recipes and a successful stint in Master Chef Asia Season 1, she innovates by marrying local traditional dishes with new ingredients and modern techniques, creating unique flavors.

At eight years old, Lica started cooking
and baking, alongside the excellent and talented cooks in her family. She knew then that she wanted a future in the world of food. She dabbled in corporate jobs, but her heart remained true to its yearning. As known to many, Lica was the last Filipino standing in Master Chef Asia Season 1. Her signature dish, the Queso de Bola Soufflé was her entry that qualified her in the competition. In the end, she placed ninth among 15 aspiring home cooks from all over Southeast Asia. There’s been no stopping her since. Her playful imagination is also evident in another sweet ending such as the White Chocolate Carioca—crispy rice our balls stuffed with white chocolate, made more decadent with the coconut milk dipping sauce.

Kartilya’s dining revolution also includes bespoke cocktails and other beverages made by Proudly Promdi, a local drink purveyor specializing in artisanal spirits. Promdi comes from the phrase “from the province”— originally meant to have a negative connotation. Proudly Promdi supports
select winemakers in Adams, Ilocos Norte who make bugnay wine and tapuey rice wine. By pairing them with Kartilya’s signature dishes, such as the Homemade Tostados (homemade crispy corn tortillas topped with Kaldereta, Pulled Pork Adobo, and Sisig), these “promdi” products should get the proper and rightful recognition they deserve. “We hope that by introducing these drinks to the market, Filipinos get to embrace and create local products, to help preserve a part of our culture and tradition,” shares Pat.

The dining ambiance in Kartilya is truly special as it exudes the warmth of Filipino hospitality, and it is also nostalgic. The dishes taste familiar, but there are fresh and unexpected twists to them that will have diners coming back for more.

Words by Marga Medrano-Tupaz

Photographed by Ed Simon of Studio 100


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