Meeting Isidra

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Friday, June 27, 2014


DON'T let the simplicity of the façade fool you. This unassuming nook right along a corner in Capitol Site has been the target destination of food lovers the past few months. Adorned with basic fixtures against its red-coloured walls, it hardly intends to impress diners with fancy interiors, but rather it’s there simply to provide what it promises on its name—comfort food. Good ol’ comfort food.

Opened in March of this year, Isidra Comfort Cantina was put together by a group of friends who describes themselves as “hearty eaters” led by chef Lor Torres and April Rama. The idea came to mind when they challenged Lor, whose background was mainly in gourmet dining, to integrate her expertise in preparing familiar, home-cooked meals.

The challenge was accepted and now, Isidra has been known for its varied selection of comfort food as interpreted by its chef. In Filipino food alone, it offers dishes originating from Ilocos to Iloilo to Cebu to Sulu; as on the international side, it serves fares inspired by Mediterranean, Chinese, Tex-Mex, Indian and Chamorro cuisines.

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There, one can have a go at specialties such as the poki-poki, Lor’s take on an Ilocano eggplant salad; or the kûlma, her version of a Tausug delicacy chicken stew that uses ingredients imported from the region. Fares like adobo and sinigang are also available, and have been given their own twists—the adobo cooked twice to make it juicy and tender, the sinigang made with fresh salmon.

Though Isidra offers sinfully delicious appetizers like the spicy sisig and deep fried mascara, on the other end there are also options for health-conscious folks such as salads, sandwiches and pastas. The bestseller so far, April said, has been the pasta provençal, a vegetarian dish basked in tomato and basil.

Generous servings at reasonable prices—April likens the place to somewhat to a carenderia, but with the amenities of air-condition and a clean restroom, and with proper food plating. The cantina has been gaining ground for its daily lunch buffet that’s at only P149 per person, while its ala carte offerings generally range between P65 to P200.

“(We also) observe assisted self-service. Every peso saved on manpower goes back to serving customers affordable and great tasting food at hefty portions,” she said.

Isidra was named after Lor’s grandmother, who first introduced her to the wonders of cooking. Growing up, she had always been lured by her grandma’s palatable home-cooked meals, and later decided to take it as a profession. Lor studied and practiced the craft in Singapore and upon her return to Cebu, dabbled as chef and consultant in some local establishments.

Lor said her newly opened cantina is somehow reminiscent of that particular time in her life, of her childhood days spent in her grandma’s kitchen.

It’s cozy and warm, and with distinctive familiar flavours that only those who experience it will remember and crave for, for a very long time.

Isidra Comfort Cantina is on the ground floor of Oftana Bldg., in the corner Don Mariano Cui and Jasmin Sts. in Capitol Site, Cebu City. It is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Mondays to Saturdays.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 28, 2014.

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