Dining at Liliw

The town of Liliw sits along the foot of Mount Banahaw, tucked away in a remote corner of the province of Laguna. Despite becoming famous in recent years for its footwear-making industry, it remains a small and charming town situated quite a distance from the major highways of Southern Luzon. It was no small surprise therefore when we discovered that in this unassuming town we could enjoy our favorite spaghettini with aglio de olio together with dulce de leche cheesecake for dessert washed down with mocha Arabica coffee.

the interior of Arabela Restaurant in Liliw, Laguna


A few years back we were amazed to discover that two of the top restaurants in Laguna are in this small town. One of them, Arabela, serves Italian fare. Visiting this restaurant for the first time in 2012, we were a bit wary about the claim regarding the Italian dishes here but after several visits we can honestly say it is quite close to the real thing.

Arabela’s House Salad and Seafood Pesto Spaghetti
L: Arabela’s House Salad; R: Seafood Pesto Spaghetti

Arabela’s menu is pretty intensive with salads, pasta, pizza and fish, chicken, beef and pork dishes. Service was reasonably fast even though the place was packed every lunch time we were there. (You have to be here early if you want to be able to grab a table immediately; sitting is limited and hordes of tourists flock to this resto.) Prices are also reasonable.

Eggplant Parmigiana and Penne Arrabiata
L: Eggplant Parmigiana; R: Penne Arrabiata
Sirloin Fettuccine, Shrimp Pomodoro and Spaghettini with anchovies, black olive and tomato
Clockwise from bottom left: Sirloin Fettuccine (creamy pasta dish with servings of beef); Shrimp Pomodoro (pasta with shrimp in Pomodoro sauce) and Spaghettini with Anchovies, Black Olive and Tomato.

If you’ve already taken lunch elsewhere you can have coffee and dessert at Arabela. On several occasions we did just that and got to sample their line of sumptuous desserts in their fancy presentations.

Blueberry Cheesecake and Strawberry and Mango Cheesecake
L: Blueberry Cheesecake; R: Strawberry and Mango Cheesecake
Dulce de Leche Cheesecake, Bread Pudding, Strawberry and Mango Cheesecake
Clockwise from top left: Dulce de Leche Cheesecake; Bread Pudding; Strawberry and Mango Cheesecake

Arabela’s cozy interior is adorned with artworks on the walls but beware the low headroom. Guys 6 feet tall and above will have to stoop to make their way inside. This restaurant is set on the ground floor of a renovated century-old structure. Structures of this type in the Philippines traditionally use the ground floor as a storage facility with the living quarters situated upstairs, hence the low headroom.

Exterior and interior shots of Arabela restaurant in Liliw
Exterior and interior shots of Arabela restaurant in Liliw. Arabela is located at 503 Plaza Rizal Street in the town center of Liliw

Chef Mau Restaurant

Named after its founder and owner, Chef Mauro Arjona Jr., this restaurant is located just outside the town proper – on the road to Magdalena town. Chef Mau is a Liliw native and award-winning executive chef who co-owned and operated 18 restaurants at different times. His is an inspiring story of a footwear-making employee (at one of the tsinelas shops in Liliw), who subsequently became a dishwasher in a restaurant before moving on and becoming a chef and restaurant owner in Metro Manila.

Chef Mau Restaurant exterior and dish

It is no surprise therefore that many of the dishes at Chef Mau Restaurant are native Filipino fare prepared with a creative twist, although some are typical Filipino dishes still prepared in the old, traditional way.

Paco or Fiddlehead Fern Salad with salted eggs and Stuffed Eggplants
L: Paco or Fiddlehead Fern Salad with salted eggs. R: Stuffed Eggplants
Crispy Biya or crispy fried goby fish and Thai Tilapia
L: Crispy Biya or crispy fried goby fish – a small fish that has become rare in Metro Manila’s markets; R: Thai Tilapia – a common local fish fried with salty, sweet, sour and spicy sauce; it has become a favorite here.

The food at Chef Mau are not only excellent, the prices are also remarkably cheap for such quality.

Humba or braised pork belly and Crispy Pata
Dishes that were part of our “sinful” past – L: Humba or braised pork belly; R: Crispy Pata or deep fried pig trotters or knuckles
Sizzling Sisig and Laing
L: Sizzling Sisig (parts of pig head seasoned with calamansi or Philippine lime and chili peppers); R: Laing (spicy taro leaves in coconut milk)

Chef Mau is located at Barangay Bungkol, not too far from Liliw’s town center and on the main road going to Magdalena town.

White House Bistro 1938

exterior and interior shots of White House Bistro 1938

White House Bistro is the new kid on the block, relatively speaking. It used to be one of the iconic old residences along Gat Tayaw St. until last year when we did a mid-year visit to Liliw and realized that it had been turned into a restaurant. Although its menu is not as extensive nor as fanciful as Arabela’s or even Chef Mau’s, its no-frills dishes – the ones we tasted at least – were quite good.

Lucban longsilog and Pansit Habhab
Breakfast at the White House Bistro included Lucban longsilog (sausages from Lucban with fried egg and rice) and Pansit Habhab (stir fried noodles also from Lucban which are traditionally eaten from a small piece of banana leaf without utensils – the noodles are eaten directly from the banana leaf).

Recently our medical conditions have narrowed our food options quite drastically but even then these restaurants still manage to give us a range of healthy food choices. That is if we can help it.

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