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Spoil her on Mother’s Day

Chef de Cuisine Edmundo San Jose of Haliya at City of Dreams elevates Filipino food with masterful twists on classics such as his appetizer of pulled pork called Binalot na Cochi or his mashup of the bibingka and cheesecake called Chichingka.

DINE WITH FLAIR Chef de Cuisine Edmundo San Jose of Haliya at City of Dreams elevates Filipino food with masterful twists on classics such as his appetizer of pulled pork called Binalot na Cochi or his mashup of the bibingka and cheesecake called Chichingka. —contributed photos

Mother’s Day is coming up, so if you’re wondering where to treat your mom next Sunday, may I suggest Haliya at the City of Dreams? It’s the kind of restaurant that offers familiar flavors but with flair. Now, the bill might also be with flair but every once in a while, we can allow ourselves to splurge, and Mother’s Day is always a great reason to celebrate!

Chef Edmundo San Jose, who developed his kitchen skills at Four Seasons in Dubai, knows how to welcome guests with his appetizers. His seafood appetizer called Lumpia Dinagat is the most exquisite take on lumpia I have ever seen. First, instead of a wrap, it kind of resembles a pie crust filled with crab and prawn mixed in aioli. On its own, the body of it is spectacular, with the umami of the crab accented by the hint of citrus from the calamansi mixed in the aioli. But it becomes so pretty with its “hat”: a very intricate crystal-clear leaf that is – gasp!—a malunggay chip! It’s just gorgeous. You won’t even need the aligue dip on the side but once again, it’s another accent to behold. This is an incredible creation that made our table ask who the chef of the restaurant is.


Another great appetizer is the Binalot na Cochi. Initially, I thought it was something wrapped in a banana leaf, as they would at the fast food chain Binalot. This is not inspired by that at all. Cochi is short for cochinillo. The chef uses pulled pork from a suckling pig. The pulled pork is placed atop butterhead lettuce leaves, alongside adobo flakes and achara (grated pickled papaya). It is recommended that you eat this with your hands. Now refreshing is not a word you would use to describe pulled pork but this is a surprisingly refreshing appetizer —again, a marvelous, imaginative creation of the chef.


For mains, the most highly recommended dish by regulars is the Escabecheng Tanigue. Unlike the usual escabeche, this one is crusted and served with a beurre blanc sauce. It’s the favorite of City of Dreams’ Charisse Chiudian.

Worth every penny

Aside from the chef’s creativity, the splurge is worth it because of the generosity of ingredients. The chef’s classic take on the kaldereta was made special with the generous pour of olives. His pinakbet is also an indulgent feast with large slabs of pork belly. The adobo has chicken liver the size of an espresso shot wrapped in a thick slab of bacon!

There are some items that triggered my sense of humor. For example, the adobo has a slice of pineapple that made me think it should be called Hawaiian adobo (seriously though, the sweetness is a welcome break, especially after pouncing on the chunk of chicken liver in bacon). And on the menu, I laughed out loud when the sinangag (fried rice) was highlighted by the words golden crispy bawang, which, come on, is its essence. Welcome to the world of the rich and fabulous where plain rice is elevated to Steamed Jasmine Rice and the fruit platter is called Katutubong Prutas.

But Chef Edmundo must be given applause for his inspired creations. The kare-kare was another stellar dish, using squid instead of ox tail or bangus (the usual ingredient for seafood kare kare).

And it was made even more memorable by the fact that the squid was char-grilled and you can really taste the difference.

For dessert—although the truth is that it’s almost a meal on its own that I would have for Christmas morning or merienda cena—a must try is their Chichingka, which is a hybrid of a cheesecake and bibingka. The coconut and salted egg shavings on top are a real treat. This goes well with black coffee or strong tea.


Overall, Haliya is a wonderful splurge experience. Make sure to come with friends or family because the servings are for sharing. Then spoil your mom (or yourself) silly with a bottle of the Bend Merlot to pair with your meal (apparently 2018 was a great year for California!) and maybe you can even staycation at the hotel for the full Nuwa/City of Dreams experience. It would be a treat well-deserved!

(Haliya landline at 88008080; open Monday to Friday for dinner starting 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.)

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TAGS: first class, food, Mother’s Day

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