Last Saturday, my family and I planned to have dinner at Hokkaido Ramen Santouka in SM Mall of Asia. However, because the restaurant is situated at the veranda, dining customers have to pay an additional fee (PHp 750-PHp 1500 per person) even if they are not watching the pyromusical competition from 6:30PM onwards. Hence, we resorted to dining in Lugang Café, since we had been wanting to try their food for so long.
Lugang Café is a restaurant under the Bellagio Management Group of Companies based in Shanghai. Today, it’s considered as the best contemporary Taiwanese restaurant in Manila. Aside from Taiwanese food, this stall has been also drawing rave reviews for its healthy mix of Szechuan and Shanghainese cuisine.
Review of Lugang Café (SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City)
I told my dad recently that there are more and more restaurants nowadays that have sleek and modern interior designs as compared to before when decors were nothing grand and the emphasis was only on food. One of the most eye-catching units in a restaurant must be the ceiling. And that’s exactly where your eyes would wander the moment you step into Lugang Café. Those elegant lights can’t go unnoticed for sure!
Just like in its other branches, Lugang Café in MOA has an ambiance that’s very relaxing and upscale. Judging solely from the design, no one might easily recognize it as a Taiwanese restaurant. The tables and chairs, the counter and even the staircase are arranged neatly. Impressive and captivating are two words that are best used to describe the overall feel of the place.
Lugang Café in SM Mall of Asia rarely has a few customers. Despite the busyness of the place, good customer service was maintained throughout our stay. Staffs were knowledgeable on the menu, polite in recommending must-tries and were attentive in requests by guests.
Many people are already familiar with bola-bola siopao, meat dumplings or just plain meatball, but not many have tried xiao long bao yet. If you’re one of those who haven’t, please do yourself a favor and try it now! I bet that once you do, you’d be hard-pressed to go back for another order. 🙂
Lugang Café is quite known for its xiao long bao as it comes in different flavors:
Steamed Crab Roe and Pork Xiao Long Bao (PHp 288),
Steamed Angled Loofah with Shrimp Xiao Long Bao (PHp 228),
Steamed Taro Xiao Long Bao (PHp 228),
Steamed Chocolate Xiao Long Bao (PHp 288),
Steamed Kimchi and Pork Xiao Long Bao (PHp 268) and
Steamed Pork Xiao Long Bao (PHp 248).
Sadly, assorted flavors cannot be taken in one order just like what Paradise Dynasty in Singapore offers. With that said, if you want to try them all, you have to get the eight pieces in the same flavor as a set one by one. And that’s exactly what I’m planning to do, since I’m very intrigued on how they taste. :’> On second thought, this plan might ruin my diet. Oh no. Cannot. I’ll just have to take it slow then. Nobody is pressuring me anyway haha.
Officially, we got one down (five to go in my next visits)! Lugang Café’s Steamed Pork Xiao Long Bao (PHp 248, 8 pieces) or “Soup Dumplings” was made with meat filling swimming in flavorful broth, all wrapped up in perilously thin dumpling skin. In the tonging process, you’ll get a burst of innards full of piping hot soup to warm your soul and a pork ball.
I know it’s difficult to make xiao long bao, seeing the chefs perform live through the transparent glass from outside the restaurant.
Because each piece is so tiny that it can easily fit into the mouth, I suggest swallowing it as a whole. Lugang Cafe’s version of the soup dumplings was delightful. So nice. Like a dream.
The next dishes we had are all safe for pescetarians. Since Lent season is coming up, you might as well take note of these dishes for your own liking.
We especially recommend the Taiwanese Salt and Pepper Squid 台灣椒鹽魷魚 (PHp 290). We love fried calamari of all kinds, so it’s no surprise that this one also became an instant favorite. Seasoned with salt and pepper, the squid chunks were lightly battered. The coating was crispy and the pieces were just tender and not rubbery. The squid, as you can see in the picture below, is not ring type like those typically in Filipino pulutan or pica-pica. Vinegar was served as perfect condiment.
Second dish was the Spicy Garlic Fish in Claypot (PHp 340). The main ingredients included tofu and fish—skin-on, a little wobbly but plenty rich in flavor. The sauce was spicy but not so much intense that it would fire up your taste buds. A pro tip: request for chili sauce if you sense that the taste becomes monotonous.
The Kung Pao Tofu (Vegetarian) (PHp 280) consisted of chunks of crispy tofu that stayed crispy even when they’re soaked in sauce. With lots of chili, this dish was really spicy. Want complexity? Adding black vinegar will improve the flavor.
Finally, we had the House Special: Pineapple and Shrimps Stuffed in Crullers (PHp 290). What is a cruller? A quick search via Google revealed that “a traditional cruller is a fried pastry often made from a rectangle of dough, with a cut made in the middle that allows it to be pulled over and through itself producing twists in the sides of the donut.”
I didn’t appreciate the presence of the crullers in this dish, and I’m not sure if they were there. What’s guaranteed is that the pineapples and shrimps made a good pairing. I’ve learned that these two are normally threaded on skewers and tossed on the grill for a fun luau-inspired dish. With mayonnaise, Lugang Café’s version almost seemed like a hot prawn salad.
Price for Value: ★★★★☆
All in all, Lugang Café is a very solid choice for Taiwanese food! I’ve always had the impression that food prices here are exaggerated. Now I can say that it’s a misconception. Prices of food are decent and reasonable. Food quality is their forte and there’s no issue with anything. Sit in for a meal if you ever get a chance; you won’t regret it. Bring a friend or two since the dishes are good for sharing. 🙂 Have a blast!
- Ground Floor, Glorietta 2, Ayala Center, Glorietta Complex, Makati City | +63 9064555879, 02 4033303
- Second Floor, The Block, SM City North EDSA, Quezon City | 02 3328725, +63 9157469693
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- SM Aura Premier, C5 Road Corner 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City | +63 9064555873