TUESDAY this week gave everybody a splitting headache, not due to the lack of classrooms as reported on TV or quandary as to where to find sources for a kid’s daily school allowance. Or maybe the yearly school problem just compounded the spicy tricks of the mild El Niño phenomenon. Mild sounds like a misnomer, because the extreme heat is drying up farms and there’s nothing mild about that.

The heat was becoming overpowering when the family decided to have lunch at Joven’s Grill, and see who would drink the most bottomless iced tea.

Joven’s does not pretend to have finesse or show off an artsy side, but the food is almost always good and that’s what draws people here. Plus, the fact that people can linger after they had a filling meal.

The buffet lunch varies every day. That hot Tuesday they featured several seafood choices, traditional meat dishes, soup, veggie side dishes and fruits for dessert. The rule of the day was “no rice when you go to an ‘eat all you can’ restaurant” because grain fills up space and you don’t get to eat more of the other dishes for your money.

Although the day was hot, the fish-clam soup was inviting enough. The conclusion was, well, it was not bad. There was nothing jarring about it or off about the seashells, which were in fact very fresh. The first round of iced tea came in.

Done with the soup, everybody in our party tried the embotido and as far as embotidos go, Joven’s gets three stars. It had a good mixture of ground pork and extenders like grated carrots. Uncle Gustave consumed six pieces in one sitting, and then stood up to get more. He and Illustracio ordered a second glass of iced tea.

Uncle and Tita Blitte paired the embotido with the coleslaw, done just right, and alternated this with the achara, firm and not too sweet nor too sour.

Instead of rice, nieces Joy and Krystalle, cousin Dona and her husband Peetong had bam-i, which had a pleasant flavor. No one tried the grilled anduhaw as it was outshined by the escabeche nga mulmol. The flesh was white and very fresh. The chef knew how to fry seafood because the fish retained its moisture although it was crisp on the outside. Illustracio and uncle had another round of drinks, while the girls had their second round.

The escabeche sauce was made sweet by the pineapple tidbits, of which there were plenty. Adding color were the sliced bell peppers, carrots, white onions and ginger.

Dona wanted more ginger but Krystalle liked the sauce except for the ginger, while Joy wanted the trimmings except for the pineapple tidbits, which just goes to show that people have different tastes. It did show that Illustracio could drink like a camel for he had his fourth glass of iced tea. The girls had their third round of iced tea.

There was kinilaw nga tangigue, the kind you expect but at least it was fresh and not too sour. Illustracio had his fifth iced tea, maybe to wash down the sour taste.

As for the lechon kawali, there was enough meat and pork ratio, and the rind was still crispy. Even those who had dietary restrictions tried it and concluded that it was worth the risk. The waiters looked worried when Illustracio had his sixth iced tea, and uncle had his fourth, and another serving of embotido.

Everyone concluded that the embotido, and surprisingly the iced tea stood out. Are we going back? We sure are.