For the longest time, I’ve been hearing about Wooden Spoon. This restaurant isn’t new. It’s not gimmicky or flashy like the recent additions to the local restaurant scene. So why then does it constantly have a long line of people waiting for a table?
When we arrived for dinner at around 7PM, we were already 8th in line on the waitlist. Normally I don’t like waiting that long to eat because I’m impatient (lol) but the turnover seemed pretty fast so I just went with it. After maybe 10 minutes or so, we were seated. That’s not so bad.
The restaurant isn’t incredibly big since it is located inside the Rockwell Mall, but the space can cozily fit in maybe ten or twelve families? There are also tables outside but since lots of people pass by there it can be a bit noisy. Besides, the ambiance is much better inside.
Can we just take a moment to appreciate the wooden spoon chandeliers? Love it!
As I was snapping photos of the restaurant, to my surprise, I spotted Chef Sandy Daza himself manning the fort. I remember reading somewhere that the celebrity chef is often at the restaurant to make sure things are running smoothly, but I wasn’t expecting to see him on a Sunday night to be honest. And yet there he was.
Even though the original Wooden Spoon at the Katipunan branch was closed down, 2 other branches in Rockwell and Kapitolyo opened in its place. As far as I know, both continue to enjoy lots of popularity and success, and that says a lot. Longevity is pretty difficult these days in the restaurant scene, but I suppose it helps that it is owned by an icon in Chef Sandy Daza. A meal here will tell you that the man really knows what magic to weave on food.
Despite that, the restaurant isn’t without its hiccups. The servers are polite and quick on their feet, but when they brought me some filtered water, I noticed what looked like remains of a lipstick stain on the rim of my glass. That’s not exactly a great way to start the evening, but requesting for a new and clean glass isn’t all that difficult either. I just wish the staff would be more careful and vigilant about these kinds of things next time.
In any case, I was hoping that the food would compensate for that incident big time.
Shrimp Pampango (Php 270) 🌟
Small shrimp fried to a crisp, served with a side of thick and creamy taba ng talangka or crab fat sauce. For those of you unfamiliar with this kind of fried shrimp dish, yes indeed you can eat it from head to tail. You don’t need to remove anything and I promise there will be no sharp edges that will poke you as you chew.
I think most people would love this dish just for the simple fact that it’s a) fried, and b) addictive to munch on. The
sinful crab fat sauce coats the shrimp completely and invites you to pop the whole thing in your mouth at one go. Crunchy, tasty, and a bit rich, this makes for a great appetizer to get your tastebuds on-track.
Boneless Chicken Sinampalukan (Php 245) 🌟
A version of sinigang featuring shredded tamarind leaves alongside other veggies, and using boneless chicken as its main meat. This soup is not for the faint of heart!
As a lover of tangy and sour things, this was absolutely heavenly for me! It has all the things I look for in a sinigang, and then some. The kick doesn’t just come from the lightly spicy broth, but also from the sourness provided by the tamarind. Every spoonful of soup wakes up the senses! And when you get to the chicken and veggies, you will find them to be juicy with some delightful asim as they have absorbed some of that soup.
Fiesta Rice (Php 199)
Chinese chorizo, salted eggs, tinapa or smoked fish, tomatoes, and spring onions crown this fried rice dish. With that many toppings, it really is a fiesta!
Despite the impressive appearance of this rice, I found it to be a bit lacking in the flavour department. I mean, of course you will get a hit of the chorizo and/or the tinapa when you happen to get bits of them on your spoonful, but the rice itself doesn’t seem to be evenly seasoned. From the photo, you can see some white spots on the rice here and there. Lots of other restaurants cook their own Pinoy-style fried rice really well, and sadly this one wasn’t very memorable for me.
Stuffed Pechay (Php 195)
Pechay leaves are rolled around a stuffing made up of tinapa (smoked fish) and minced meat. Simmered in a mildly spicy coconut-based sauce to give it lots of flavour.
I’m a sucker for anything cooked with coconut milk, particularly when it’s veggies, so it wasn’t that hard for me to like this dish. I love the idea of stuffing pechay with tinapa, but the sauce does overpower the smoked fish a little bit. Nonetheless, I was very happy drizzling on lots more of that coconut sauce with every serving I got. It is rich and creamy, with a nice light spiciness.
Dinuguan na Bagnet (Php 245) 🌟
The Filipino signature pork’s blood stew gets an upgrade with crunchy bits of deep fried pork belly. One of my most memorable dishes of the meal!
Normally for dinuguan, pork meat and innards are used together in the stew. Using just pork belly isn’t exactly new to dinuguan but I haven’t really eaten one that I can honestly say is as good as this. The bagnet skin remains delightfully crunchy even though it’s completely covered in a sauce that is just the right amount of sour with a barely-there sweetness. Great with rice, and great just off the spoon! My only gripe is that there seems to be too little meat in here. More dinuguan-covered bagnet please!
Laksa Puso ng Saging (Php 175)
Inspired by the famous spicy coconut-based Asian soup; this sauteed vegetable dish features puso ng saging (banana blossom) cooked in a smoky and lightly spicy way.
I was expecting to get blown away by this dish but I was not. I struggled to find that promised laksa note because it was so light-handed here. The laksa description was mostly present in the colouring and the creamy texture of this dish. There was a slight smokiness but that’s about it. Many other people raved about this so maybe the chef was just having a bad day when we dined here or something. Luckily, I love puso ng saging, so I ended up eating a lot of this in the end.
Pandan Crepe (Php 155) 🌟
Fragrant pandan-flavoured crepes filled with ube ice cream and slices of mangoes. Drizzled with chocolate syrup, a generous sprinkling of two kinds of peanuts plus crunchy puffed rice round up this shareable dessert!
This was a great way to end the meal. The crepe is pretty long– maybe as long as a forearm– making it perfect for dividing and conquering. It’s a really classic dessert but I love that pandan touch on the crepe. Filling it with ube ice cream and Philippine mangoes really grounds it to local flavour.
Most of all, I love the addition of spicy chopped peanuts on the top. There are normal peanuts and puffed rice bits on this too, but the spicy peanuts add a little something that nicely contrasts with the cold ice cream. Ugh I want to order this again!
Reyna Blanca (Php 85)
A light and refreshing coconut custard with strands of fresh coconut within; topped with toasted rice puffs for some crunch.
This dessert is pretty straightforward in that it’s basically a sort-of coconut panna cotta. It’s not as solid as a jelly and you can easily slice through this to reveal actual coconut inside. It’s actually mild tasting rather than sweet, really relying on the coconut to do all the work. I love how creamy the mouthfeel of this dessert is.
A drizzle of coconut milk completes this, along with some crunchy puffed rice for contrast against the silky soft custard. All in all, if you like coconut, then you should give this a go!
There’s a reason why Chef Sandy Daza’s Wooden Spoon is still going strong despite being around for years and years, and it’s because he has perfected how to serve good food at affordable prices. I couldn’t believe that we paid only a little over Php 1,500 for this filling meal, and there were 6 of us! Granted, my family and I are not super heavy eaters, but that’s still a pretty impressive price point for 9 dishes that are good to share.
I want to point out that they only take cash transactions here, but since the prices are so abot-kaya, it shouldn’t really be a problem. You simply can’t go wrong at Wooden Spoon if you’re hankering for homey and delicious Pinoy dishes with clever twists that fits in with your budget.
Overall Rating: 3.75 out of 5
Full disclosure: This post is not sponsored in any way and opinions are 100% mine alone.