February 6, 2023

These past two weeks have been windy and cold up here in Baguio City and what comfort to get a hot bowl of clear beef soup with lots of onion leeks while you wait. This is the Bruno’s way of welcoming diners at Camp 7. There is no fear for health protocols because the place is well ventilated and spacious.

There is something about menus that tell you what region the owner is from. This restaurant immediately sounded like meals I had while I traveled to Tuguegarao and when I saw the Bruno’s batil patong on the menu, this had to be owned by someone from that area.

I was right, Chef Rex Bruno, 28, comes from Hilig, Isabela that’s why he knows how to make that unique noodle dish. We were warned that pancit Cabagan was not available because the noodles for this is unique to Cabagan, Isabela. The noodles for this Cabagan dish are dark and the strands thinner than the regular canton noodles.For now, the pandemic has not allowed travel between the regions yet.

Let’s begin the gastronomic journey with the bagnet that colleague Mark raved about. Chef Rex says that he developed his own recipe for this pork preparation. Bagnet is supposed to be half kilo chunks of any part of the pork that is deep fried. Often the skin is crisp and the meat chewy. But the Bruno’s version has a crunchy skin, soft and juicy fat and tender meat in every bite. These are fried in bite sizes and served with the Ilocano favorite dip of fish bagoong, tomatoes and onions. This and rice should be a carnivore’s heaven.

Bulalo in this corner has the heart stopping marrow that makes you ohh! The meat is tender and the spoonful of that flavorful fatty yummy stuff lingers in your mouth. Local beef never tasted so good. The chef says everything he serves is sourced in the market by himself. He says this way everything must meet his standards. There is corn and some cabbages in the soup. There is no cholesterol to harden as the soup cools.

Pakbet and the lowland veggies topped with the crispy bagnet is salty, sweet, and bitter. It seems like this dish is spared from the shrimp paste and has fish sauce instead. But I could be wrong and my taste buds a little too blissful with the juices of okra, ampalaya or bitter melon, beans, eggplant, squash, and tomatoes in each spoonful of the dish.  There is something about ampalaya that balances dishes like this. As the chef guarantees, the veggies are the day’s produce.

Bruno’s batil patong isn’t influenced by the Chinese cuisine at all. It is a class on its own. This dish is made with minced beef and beef stock. The minced beef is the main ingredient in the sauteed vegetables base with cabbage strips, carrot strips, and sweet peas in this edition. There is an excess stock from the vegetables where the fresh miki noodles are cooked and from where the egg drop sauce is taken. When the noodles are cooked from this stock that simmers with the vegetables it is placed on the bowl, topped with the vegetables and onion leeks then the smaller bagnet chips crown it. A sauce made from the beef stock and vegetable stock mix with soy sauce to flavor it and some pepper is then boiled again with an egg to make an egg drop kind of sauce. This sauce is what is poured over the noodles when you are ready to eat it. Some like a little chili and a little vinegar to spike the noodles.

As you venture into the places around Tuguegarao, there are varied ways this noodle dish is prepared but the sauce is the last to be poured over the noodles and veggies.

Bruno’s is another adventure with large servings fit for groups of four. I need to go back because there are other dishes that must be sampled like the tinapa rice, crispy pata, pork pulpog, ginataang hito, and a lot more.

Clients have kept his kitchen busy through the pandemic and Chef Rex doesn’t mind the seven-days work week because it is much easier than the farm field work, he used to do in Isabela. What a comfort to know that there are no days off for this young father of two who married a Benguet lass.