HERE'S a little secret: somewhere in the heart of the city, is a small restaurant where one can dine in cozy, selfish comfort. Nueva Cafe at the 24-room The Suites on Calle Nueva was where Team Tikim had dinner. The restaurant is tiny but can adequately seat 20.

You might ask: Where in the world is Calle Nueva? If you check your city map, you'll see a small street on the Gatuslao side of La Consolacion College that will lead you to the parallel Locsin Street. That's Calle Nueva. The Suites now occupy what was once a short row of single-storey apartments. Its facade is a light yellow - a popular color of the Mediterranean landscape. Now, I can almost hear you saying "Ah, yes."

Don't be fooled by the hotel's "smallness". The rooms are so well-furnished that it caused a friend whose family is also into the hotel business to remark that the rates are so affordable considering its quality and good decorating taste. Aside from the usual air-conditioned rooms, telephone systems, hot and cold shower, a guest can enjoy the LCD cable television, 24-hour security with CCTV monitoring, stand-by generator and free WiFi internet access. Of course, a hungry client can go to the cafe for his fill of cosmopolitan cuisine.

The menu at Cafe Nueva was created by Italian-trained Chef Miner del Mundo who hails from Iloilo. He's a very talented chef who had gathered extensive experience for 3 years in the competitive culinary world of Milan. Below are some of the dishes the Team had tried.

Highly recommended is the Walnut Rocca Insalata which is a bed of mixed lettuce drizzled with spiced balsamic dressing and a sprinkling of candied walnuts, roasted bell peppers, mushrooms, and parmesan dressing.

Mediterranean food lovers will be happy to know that the cafe has couscous salad on its menu. Couscous is a dish of spherical granules made by rolling and shaping moistened semolina wheat and then coating them with finely ground wheat flour. The finished granules are about one millimeter in diameter before cooking. The dish is a traditional staple throughout the Maghreb with it's origins from the North African country of Algeria.

It is also popular in the West African Sahel, in France, Spain, Madeira, in western Sicily's Province of Trapani, as well as in Greece, Cyprus and parts of the Middle East. It is particularly popular among Jews of North African descent such as the Moroccan Jews, Tunisian Jews and Algerian Jews, and is eaten in many other parts of the world as well. At Nueva Cafe, the starch is served with cucumber raita and tomatoes, chicken kebab, and fried pita. I think this is the only restaurant that offers couscous.

The Sauteed Seafood Curry is a 3-alarm dish. Squid, shrimp, and fish cubes are cooked in hot chili pepper and curry. We couldn't tell if it was supposed to be a soup or a saucy dish since it was prepared in a bowl and the seafood was swimming in a lot of liquid. Whatever it was supposed to be, lovers of hot food will enjoy this. Just specify to the waiter that you wish it to have a stronger curry flavor if you want. Ours sure needed a stronger dose of the spice.

Some locals who aren't used to spices do not like it strong, hence, the cafe is cautious about putting in more.

Lovers of Middle Eastern food might want to try the Persian Sampler which is composed of beef, chicken, and cream dory kebabs, home-made pita, garlic and chili sauce with a yoghurt base. You may also want to ask the waiter to add more cilantro to the Persian Sampler. Again, the cafe is playing it safe so as not to intimidate the uninitiated.

What I failed to try but will do so in the future is the Reema Rice which is beef and chicken kebab on turmeric rice, garlic sauce, chili sauce and tabouleh salsa. The Tabouleh is a Middle Eastern salad made with fresh vegetables, olive oil and spices.

The Cafe also has good old Pinoy fare on its menu. One may have the tuna ceviche (kinilaw), sinigang, calamares and gambas rebosado, Bistek Tagalog, and lechon kawali.

The curious can check out first The Suites website with the rather long address: www.thesuitesatcallenueva.com (translated and typed as: the suites at calle nueva). Sorry, we didn't take pictures of each dish. WE forgot! Forgive us!