Candon City is a populous, progressive city in Ilocos Sur. The national highway cuts through
the centre of town -- it winds through the church, the munisipio, the many business and commercial establishments .... traffic always slows down to a crawl every time we pass through Candon.
Slow moving traffic is actually a blessing because you can get off the stream of cars and buses and turn into the Four Brothers Compound (turn right if you're coming from Manila and left if you're coming from Vigan).
While there is a supermarket and even a wholesale mart -- the real object of your pit stop is a meal
at Bistro Candon. This in my opinion, is one of the Top 5 places to eat in Northern Luzon.
We arrived mid afternoon on our way to spend a long week-end in Vigan. The restaurant was
nearly empty and the cool air-conditioned interiors were a welcome respite from the warm Ilocos sun.
Bistro Candon was opened in the late 1990s by native son, Swiss and CIA trained chef Nick Rodriguez. Much has been written about both Chef Nick and the Bistro since that time and
the restaurant is highly rated on food and travel sites.
A giant Christmas tree stands in one corner, decorated with wreaths, candy canes, stars ... all made out of bread! Even the star at the very top made of a flatbread that looks crisp enough to eat.
There is a chiller with small individual cakes and other desserts. I later found out that Bistro Candon's Brazo de Mercedes is one of the restaurant's specialties. They are probably the ones in the long white boxes. Note to self: try it on my next visit.
Bistro Candon serves a blend of Filipino, western (Kansas Ribs seemed quite interesting) and of course Ilocano dishes. The chef's recommendations include this appetiser called Lechon Baka Pockets. Tender strips of lean roast beef are generously stuffed in pita bread. The beef was tender, moist and was complemented perfectly by the light and creamy sauce.
There is a slew of Ilocano must-haves on the menu -- I was sorely tempted to try the "Deliciously
Different Bagnet", the sinanglao and the pakbet but since it was merienda time, we decided to
order the pizzas -- in unique Ilocano flavours.
This is Bagnet on Poqui Poqui pizza. The pizza crust is ultra thin -- crisp yet with a slight chewy texture.
Instead of tomato sauce, the base is Poqui Poqui -- roasted eggplant sautéed with eggs, onions and tomatoes. So many textures and tastes in one bite -- crunchy, deep fried pork-y goodness of bagnet mixed with the smoky, soft mouthfeel of poqui poqui!
We also ordered the Sunny Vigan Longganisa Pizza. I love the fact that the Ilocano pizzas do not use tomato sauce or paste. The local ingredients are given star billing and made to really shine. The garlicky, spirited flavour of Ilocano longganisa is what you really taste with every bite.
The pizza has a surprise waiting for your tastebuds. A perfectly cooked egg yolk not too runny, not too hard -- just the way I like it -- is hidden at the tip of each pizza slice. It explodes in egg-y goodness all over my mouth. Longganisa and egg are made for each other and are faultlessly paired in Bistro Candon's appropriately named Sunny Vigan Longganisa pizza.
For my second slice, I ate the pizza starting from the crust -- making my way down to the egg yolk at the tip. Keeping the best bite for the last.
Bistro Candon's pizzas aren't just good -- they are distinctively delectable! Food this good is really meant to be shared -- with companions on the table and with you, my gentle readers who have stumbled on this post. Next time you pass through Candon City, you know where to make a stop!
Chef Nick Rodriguez was quietly having a late meal at the table behind us. I had to keep all my impulses in control to stop myself from going to his table and "fangirling" all over him.
I have so much admiration and respect for his passion for Ilocano flavours and ingredients -- he is both culinary traditionalist and innovator!
Thank you Chef Nick for sharing your good food with all of us. Dios ti agngina!
NB Thank you to my son Gani for two of the photos in this post!