|Balay Cena Una|
|Entrance to European-Bicolano fusion cuisine|
Balay Cena Una (roughly translated as "old house" in English), a home turned into a fine dining restaurant opened last May 2009, is one of Albay's best kept secrets.
This beautifully renovated, 2-storey ancestral house, a restaurant and museum in one, has a homey and very romantic ambiance and offers good European-Bicolano fusion food coupled with warm Filipino hospitality.
|Table for eight|
|The grand wooden staircase|
A beautiful example of adaptive reuse, its interiors are impressive. The ground floor has colored stained-glass windows and a grand wooden staircase while the second floor has very nice, sliding capiz-shell windows and sumptuous hardwood floors that creaked when we walked on it.
Both have old photos and Old World-style fittings, with every decorative piece tastefully put together. A separate, spacious function hall at the back, a venue for private functions and gatherings, is also used every Sunday for buffet lunches (PhP325/pax, 11:30 AM - 2:30 PM). They also have a small but very cozy house where guests can stay overnight.
|Romantic table for two|
|Table for four|
Its varied menu includes the best of international cuisine (steaks, pasta, etc.) as well as local Bicolano dishes. Their service and the presentation were also great.
This cuisine was made possible by the culinary creativity of their proudly homegrown, world-class chefs, the husband and wife team of Diosdado (Dick) and Concepcion (Connie) Condeno, who were both trained in Europe but are Bicolano in heart.
|Cena Una marinated boneless chicken|
|Fresh lumpia ubod|
|Wild fern salad|
We tried out their fresh lumpia ubod (heart of palm) as appetizer, wild fern salad and, for our entrees, fillet of lapu-lapu in gourmet sauce (the sauce marries the flavor of fish and prawns for a long interplay of tastes), beef peeper steak (generously sprinkled with coarsely ground black pepper, sauteed in butter, and served with a sauce made from pan drippings, stock wine and cream flavored with brandy) and the Cena Una marinated boneless chicken (the smoky taste of chicken that's been basked in coconut cream and other local ingredients). All were served with Mayon Volcano-shaped steamed rice.
|Fillet of lapu-lapu in gourmet sauce|
Their rich, decadent and sinful desserts were to die for. We had assorted French pastries which included Mayon Volcano chocolate boulders (balls of chocolate rolled in chocolate sprinkles and topped with whipped cream), English vanilla cheesecake with blueberry sauce, and opera cake (made with layers of almond sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup, layered with ganache and coffee butter cream, and covered in a chocolate glaze).
One of the best value-for-money restaurants we have been to in the Philippines for quite a while, its prices are similar to average priced restaurants in Manila (PhP250 plus).
|Assorted French pastries|