“Imagine an old colonial house made of solid wood and stone, cathedral ceiling and adorned with exquisite carvings by skilled Filipino artisans. This old mansion located in the quaint neighborhood of Little Baguio in San Juan has been carefully renovated and restored to become the beautiful setting for a unique restaurant called Bulan. It offers the finest European cuisine, the first of its kind in the Philippines and more likely the first in Southeast Asia. ” *
Happy Valentines Day! I must admit that I’m not as harassed by V-day than before. I remember planning for a surprise Tagaytay picnic for lunch during office hours. Of course, you need to have everything in place: the red roses, the valentines gift, chocolates, love cards, and I have to buy a picnic basket (the ones you see in the movies). As they say — what counts is the effort. These days, I realized that Valentines is a marketing hype and an excuse to increase prices on this love day. For me, every moment that you are together should be a Valentines day and the 14th of February simply becomes an occasion for us to try out those expensive new restaurants.
On V-day, we decided to try out Bulan (meaning Moon in Indonesia). This European Cuisine cum Antique and Arts Place in Little Baguio, San Juan just recently opened last Feb. 5 and will have its grand opening on March 15. “The restaurant features exotic Asian decor and furnishing. Hardwood flooring along with stone walls and magnificent chandeliers from India supply the warm setting that showcases the finest, most exquisite Asian art and furniture.”* The restaurant is owned by Marlene Aquilar (sister of the Freddie Aguilar and multi-awarded art book publisher). The Master Chef, Antonio P. Aguilar, is a “Filipino who lived and worked as a master chef in Europe for over 15 years. He holds European culinary awards and has taught European cuisine in Sweden. “*
I must admit that we were intimidated by the beauty of the place and its nice ambiance amidst the antiques. The restaurant setting is in a 3 storey mansion in San Juan that used to be a showroom for Jo-Liza’s Arts and Antiques. The food was ridiculously expensive and my wife was not happy about the food. Imagine P1,000 for a main course and everything else was around P500/ soup/ salad or pasta and the food was not even close to Antonio’s in Tagaytay. Although, they admitted that this is the first time that they served a huge group and they are still fine tuning their kitchen operation.
It also has a snobbish oldies crowd ambiance — or you could say old rich. Marlene Aguilar was there entertaining her guests and did not even bother to welcome other patrons. You would feel that if you complain about the food and how expensive it is, they would tell you that you’re a sour grape and you’re not rich enough to be their target market. Their P1,000+ seabass tasted like grilled hard tanguingue, and it was replaced by cod that was also mushy raw — (I’m glad that they did not let us pay for it). The service people were very nice (thank you!). Sometimes, you might see Freddie Aguilar dining with his friends, as we did last night.
Overall, this was a good place to impress your special someone. I wouldn’t go back in Bulan not unless OAP readers would rave about their food.
Checkout this BULANtines Day experience…
Welcome to Bulan! This colorful old church door 6 inch thick and some 100 years’ of age, transports you into the antique mansion setting.
The centerpiece of Bulan is this antique hardwood bar. “The counter is inlayed with a pattern of alternating ebony and ivory at its perimeter. The center of the counter is inlayed with bird and butterfly designs made of ebony and bone. The yes of the birds and butterflies are set with amethyst, peridot, and ruby!”
This is the perfect place to reserve, the table right beside the bar. Be mesmerized by the chandeliers from India which comes in Green, White, and Blue colors.
“All furniture is Asian hardwood, of varied design, some antique.” The restrooms are cleverly hidden behind the cabinet.
As you go up the stairs, you see the wine collection and this mezzanine table setting which gives you an eerie feeling. Or maybe, it is just the black napkin.
As you go up further, the third floor can seat a few more guests and they were fully booked for that night. Perhaps, one of the reasons for you to go up these stairs is to see the magnificent bathroom doors.
This bathroom door is customized from Tibet, painted with Dragons. The Bathroom sink counter is made of fine Philippine marble.
Who wouldn’t want to go to this restroom? If there is an award for best restroom door design, this would be the champion!
Last night, a saxophonist serenades with guest with love songs classics.
Bulan’s European Finest Cuisine Menu:
Cioppino (P380++). A Seascape of prawns, mussels and fish fillet with Sauvignon, saffron and lemon. I love the creamy sauvignon sauce and perfect blend of the seafood ingredients. My wife finds it too salty.
Tolkelberg (P495++). Our Home Made duck liver pate enhanced with the mushy aroma of almond dressing. We heard that this is the favorite of Marlene. The duck liver pate is smoother and more refined in taste. Honestly, we are not sure how to distinguish a good home made pate from a canned one.
Grilled Seabass (P880++) with potatoes and vegetables with a choice of hollandaise, lime-sabayonne, or cream Sauvignon sauce. The vegetables are fresh, crunchy and sweet. It goes very well with the yummy Sauvignon sauce.
At first, my wife asked me, “Is seabass suppose to taste like tangingue?”. Having eaten and ordered Seabass in the fine dining restaurants I’ve been too, I’m confident on what to expect from the P1,000 peso Sea Bass. For sure it should not be hard and dry. We decided to return it and insist to get our money’s worth.
Crystal’s Flambe (P580++). A pasta Menage-a-trois. Linguine with 3 kinds of mushrooms blended with blue cheese, sprinkled with herbs and served with sour cream. One of the best mushroom pasta we have ever tasted!! The blue cheese sauce blend was very tasty, and complemented well with the rosemary herbs. You need to eat the pasta with a mushroom piece to get the best experience. How we wished all the dishes tasted as perfect as this…
Cod (P880++). They were kind enough to replace the seabass with the cod. But the cod was mushy raw and reminded me of the mahi mahi dish in Charley’s. I hate the lighting of this photo.
Achilles (P980++). Grilled Lamb marinated in an assortment of herbs and oranges, served with ratatouille, olives and feta cheese with an undertone of massala wine sauce. The lamb meat tasted well done and ordinary.
We are starting to suspect at this point that it is either they have a problem with their source of meat/ fish or the chef is not in the kitchen!
Bulan, The Restaurant
Of course, we won’t pass the chance to get a photo op with Mr. Freddie Aguilar.
I was impressed by the art books of Marlene Aguilar. I want to collect these Philippine coffee table books!
How I wished I could read these interesting book on the Myths and Legends of the Philippines.
Antonio P. Aguilar, Master Chef
Bulan, The Restaurant
No. 3 Gen. de Jesus St. near corner J. Abad Santos St.
Little Baguio, San Juan
Tel: (+632) 725-8496
From Wilson coming from Greenhills, go straight until you see Alex III. Turn right on Alex III and this should be J. Abad Santos St. Go straight for a few minutes until you see Jo-Liza Arts and Antique shop. Immediately, turn right to Gen. de Jesus St and you should already see Bulan to your left.
Bulan is by reservation only.
Bulan is absolutely NON-SMOKING.
Bulan is open everyday serving lunch, 11am-3pm and dinner 6pm to 10pm
Bulan strongly discourages its dining patrons from bringing children below the age of 12.
Most of the Arts and Antiques are for sale.
* Bulan Restaurant Marketing Brochure
16 thoughts on “a BULANtines Day!”
I appreciate how frank you were in your review, Anton.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your wife!
Those are ridiculous prices for mediocre food. Similar to what Lori said, thanks for the candor in your review. For kitschy out-of-the-way dining (that’s affordable) it’s Cafe Juanita for me. =)
What a small world! Freddy Aguilar (and his family + musicians) was my guest for one day in Gent (Blgium) when he performed there years ago (ten years?). His song “Anak” was a huge hit in Belgium. Quite odd since nobody understood what the song was all about. I could write a book about their adventures in Belgium…
Freddy Aguilar is a nice man. Alas I lost track of him years ago.
It is a bit strange to specialize in European food in such an exotic Asian décor.
No wonder Bulan was campaigned to the expats in our company. Individual invitations were given to them. And I saw in your pic the husband of the owner! Hahaha! Yup, the expats can afford such meals…
Thanks for the warning! I pass by this place and have often wondered what it is like. However, to me, any place that bans children below 12 years old is not a happy place to visit.
By the way, did you get the tea na? 🙂
You need to get a new camera that can cut it in low lighting situation. Try the king of low light camera — Fuji F30.
I think tangigue is actually a type of sea bass.. Sea bass has a wide variety but the local sea bass here actually costs $20/lb..so I guess the price of P880 is reasonable, haha.
I agree with Sidney, it’s a little weird that they have Asian decor and yet serve European cuisine.
By the way, Bulan is also “moon” in Ilocano 🙂
Sorry, I meant to say “moon” is “Bulan” in Ilocano.
Gosh, that bad huh?! I agree with wysgal, i just adore Cafe Juanita!
I agree on Cafe Juanita! Love the Sunday brunch buffet and the unusual but delicious Asian dishes they have.
I could accept those prices IF the food was truly outstanding. But even then, P580 for a mushroom & blue cheese pasta, especially with that portion size, is ludicrous. And P195 for an espresso?!?! Thanks for warning us about this place, Anton.
Bulan is a fine dine restaurant inspired with asian antiques and european cuisine. What do we expect from that? Hmm, let me tell. Very expensive meals and wonderful furnishings, paintings and other decorations. So it’s obvious that when we go to this kind of places we bring a big amount of money and don’t bring our children with us.
COMMON SENSE. 🙂
The owner has a penchant for asian antiquities and the cook has been a head chef in sweden for years, hence the merging of the two.
…..non smoking….a good healthy sign of a place to dine in….
i’m surprised at the negative review… my hubby and i tried it there last night, and while the food was very pricey, it was actually pretty good. then again, we were the ONLY table there last night, hehe 🙂 [it’s a weekday, so it was empty]. maybe it was the valentines crowd that marred your experiece there. too bad.
we had the set meal– soup + main + dessert. hubby had cream of mushroom and tenderloin, while i had french onion soup and duck. mmmmm. i loved the mushroom soup! the duck was good too, and the sauces were superb. still, quite expensive, and definitely a “special occassions” place only. the waiter/staff service was superb as well.
Bulan means Moon also in Cebu…