I GOT invited to lunch. I said yes. Who would decline a chef’s invitation for a meal? If there’s something you can be sure of, it’s a spread nothing short of fabulous.

The chef-host said, “In the spirit of Kadayawan, I wanted to show you how it's like to have a fiesta in my home. I’ll be serving the all time Pinoy fiesta favorites of pansit, lumpia and of course, the lechon.”

Okay. Sounds like an all-meat spread. I’m in trouble. I don’t eat meat.

“The lechon will be the highlight of the banquet.”

Teary-eyed now. I can’t eat lechon.

“It won’t be just like any other lechon. It will be very special because it takes hours to prepare it.”

Catatonia. Just like in a cartoon strip, I saw red meat swirling before my eyes.

What am I to do? I can have a quick bite before heading to Rekado or just order my favorites from the menu.

It turned out I didn’t have to.

Chef Pauline prepared Rekado’s all-time favorites with the Davao touch, non-meat dishes I fell in love with—the Spicy Tuna with Mango Salad and the Tofu and Mushroom Sisig. (Confession: I enjoy eating the latter with rice.)

Another bestseller was set on the table, the pomelo and danggit salad. Then came the lumpia. Not just any lumpia but tuna lumpia aka Rekado Tuna Roll (shredded tuna loin and marinated in aromatics, rolled in a lumpia wrapper and fried to a perfect crisp. Served with our seasoned vinegar and sweet chili sauce.)

The pansit was something I can enjoy as well. Cheers to a long-life!

The bam-i, a mix of sontanghon and Canton noodles, was a winner. If there was any meat in the dish, I am safe because I went for the noodles only.

By now, I was grinning so much that my cheeks were hurting.

Out came the most awaited dish.

Three hours in oven turned the pork belly roll into a mouthwatering sight. The red-orange skin looked perfectly baked to a crisp (and it was) and juice oozed from the tender meat as the chef sliced the round lechon loaf to serving sizes.

“Enjoy this with the mangosteen sauce,” said the chef.

The accompanying sauce highlights two Davao products, the Malagos wine and the magnosteen fruit, shared the chef.

“The sauce is a Malagos dessert wine reduction with mangosteen pulp sauce. The sweet and sour flavors of the mangosteen is complemented by the fruitiness and acidity of the wine. A hint of muscovado sugar ties the two perfectly. The Malagos wine also gave my sauce a beautiful deep red color.”

As my friends dug in, I secretly pinched on the lechon, dipped it in the sauce and slowly chewed on it.

Yes, it was good and was very tempted to have more. Having a fill of my non-meat favorites saved me from devouring an entire slice.

To end the meal churros was served. I enjoyed mine dipped in chocolate sauce made from Malagos tablea while the others preferred the salted caramel dip.

It wasn’t a pinch of a meal for me after all. That’s what I like about Rekado’s menu, there a lot of non-red meat dishes to feast on.

But if you’re a meat lover, go for the Rekado lechon. It’s the new entry on the menu, but you have to order it the day before you visit.

Email me at jinggoysalvador@yahoo.com. For more lifestyle & travel stories, visit ofapplesandlemons.com and jeepneyjinggoy.com