It is so hard to find a good restaurant in Albay, so when I learned that there’s a fairly new restaurant in town, I wanted to try it out right away. You really don’t have a lot of restaurant choices in Legazpi, which is sad considering that the city hosts many tourists since Legazpi is your home base should you want to be thrilled by the imposing beauty of Mayon Volcano and also your gateway to Donsol if you want to swim with its whale sharks.
When asked for recommendations, I always say Small Talk, which serves really good Italian-Bicol fusion dishes, but the place has also aged already, it has lost its charm on me.
I decided to meet my friend S and her husband Kuya A in Alvi’s, along Rizal Avenue in Daraga, when I went home three weeks ago. It is hard not to miss Alvi’s. The old house, which was turned into a restaurant, stands out in the neighborhood.
While waiting for my friends, I toured the second floor of the house, where the restaurant is. Unfortunately, this part of the house is only open for dinner so I had no choice but to have lunch downstairs in a small room they call Cagsawa.
I learned that this ancestral house belongs to the Imperial political family of Albay, the most popular member of which was former Congressman Carlos Imperial. The owners of Alvi’s, both politicians in Legazpi, are renting out the Imperial house.
It is easy to tell that a family with strong political lineage once lived here. The house’s structure and layout speak of a time when political parties of big proportions were hosted here and the huge dining tables suggest of gatherings that only involved the most notable statesmen.
Old furnitures made of fine wood occupy the space. There’s a French grandfather clock that hints of elegance but I find the restaurant’s Valentine design a bit tacky. Alvi’s could have thought of a better way to channel the V Day vibe without having to sacrifice the house’s sense of elegance.
Unfortunately, the Cagsawa room where breakfasts and lunches are served, lacks in details and drama that make the house interesting. Maybe the owners of Alvi’s wanted to depart from the vintage feel of the house, which I think is a wrong move because the biggest selling point of the restaurant is its ambiance.
Our dining experience would have been awesome had we been served food at the second floor of the house.
While Alvi’s offers a variety of choices, there is really nothing much to rave about their food (at least judging by the food we ordered). Their Chorizo and Mushroom appetizer (PhP140) was okay. There’s a certain saltiness to their chorizo which is good to the taste but I sensed something’s lacking in its flavor.
I ordered their Congressman Imperial Callos (PhP240) thinking that it must have been really special and “powerful” in terms of taste because the dish was named after the most popular member of the Imperial clan. However, there was nothing really special about this dish.
Kuya A ordered Lechon Kawali infused with Spanish Chorizo (PhP220) and it was what you’d expect your lechon kawali to be like. The spanish chorizo though, or at least the taste of it, was missing.
S, on the other hand, had Alvi’s Pineapple BBQ Ribs (PhP200). It sounded delicious but tasted just like our hamonado.
The restaurant’s possible charmer might just be their Bicol Express (PhP300). We originally wanted to taste Alvi’s Spicy Squid but it wasn’t available so we settled for this traditional Bicolano fare.
Surprisingly, Bicol’s most famous dish is given a new twist in Alvi’s – lechon kawali-ish meat smothered in coconut milk and garnished with slices of ripe mango. Winner! Do not order this though with your lechon kawali or vice versa, unless you want a lechon kawali overload or a quick trip to the hospital.
Anyway, you should trust Bicolanos to deliver their signature dishes in a fiery fashion. This is one dish that is sexy hot and spicy.
Hopefully I will discover some more interesting pieces from their menu next time. While I mentioned that some of their food leave nothing to be desired, I welcome Alvi’s operation to improve the dining scene in Albay. I spotted some Italian-Bicol fusion dishes on their menu, it could be promising.
The old house is attractive, especially at night, I was told. But the tacky love month decoration was just unforgivable.
But I will be back, that’s for sure.
Love and light, everyone. Go, juanderlust! 😀
- All photographs taken with a Canon 550d.