Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday, June 22, 2013

O U T - O F - T O W N



Pampanga, being the culinary capital of the Philippines, is frequently visited by neighboring citizens for its wide array of unique restaurants and food joints. Having been invited recently by Tune Hotel-Angeles City to test its new facility, I did not waste any time scheduling a reunion of sorts with a former college classmate who has a restaurant in the same province.

Co-owner of Nona's Kitchen in Pampanga, Lejah Gallardo has been calling San Fernando City her home for  years now. She and her co-restaurant-owner-husband, Jesse James, are on top of the operation of their rustic business location from the secret recipes to the dining decorations. It was surprising that the couple's earlier venture into the food scene was in the form of a hardcore sports bar in Baguio City, billiard tables and all. The seasons changed for them and the arrival of their son, Wolf, brought Lejah back home where her food caterer mom, Nona, was and still is based. Soon enough, Nona's Kitchen was born.

A Lovely Surprise Beyond The Bouganvillea

When visiting Nona's Kitchen for the first time, don't be deceived by the restaurant's simple-looking entrance. Beyond its trellis of bouganvillea by the entrance is a quaint space for lush and unique dining choices.

Expecting the predictable inside the restaurant, from the signature dishes to the interior design, is the last thing that you needed to do. If anything, the feel of Nona's Kitchen is eclectic. During my visit, a dentist chair was positioned in one corner from across wooden chairs. Next to my table was a vintage television set that's just a few feet away from a large ethnic jar. There were chimes of different designs that dotted the ceiling of the main dining area's entrance.

Hands On Goodness

The signature dishes clearly defined the restaurant's unpredictable image as well. Lejah is at the helm of things in the kitchen which makes her mom's secret recipes her own now. She's also managed to innovate a few significant culinary favorites on her own. As a matter of fact, the iced tea that I chugged under the Pampanga sun during my visit was brewed by Lejah herself.

In between sips of iced tea, we shared memories of studying in the same university, a few opinions on current events, and one-liners about the the gastronomic number that she prepared for the day. The food served were not hefty but highly selected to reflect Lejah's casual but passionate approach to maintaining the restaurant.

She was ultimately proud of her Lamb Burger (P165) with a patty that could rival the thickness of Jollibee's Champ. It was served with home-made crispy shoe-string fries on the side which did not only looked good but also tasted fancy.

Since her husband is a highly respected biker, Lejah has also mastered the tasty art of the pulutan. This skill of hers has never been more obvious in her serving of Liempo Cracklings (P110). The unique texture of this number was crispy and tender in just the right places. The saltiness was remarkably moderate which appealed well to my palate. It was not too greasy as well.

I was also served with an interesting plate of Beef Stew (P175) that was enhanced with potatoes in its sauce.

Lastly, I enjoyed the restaurant's Vietnamese-inspired Fresh Lumpia (P85) which was served with fresh, leafy veggies that were grown by Pampanga's small-scale vegetable farmers.

Amazing Two-Hour Commute By Bus

Just as my lunch date with my friend was ending, I was glad to have realised that commuting by air conditioned bus to Pampanga from my base in Metro Manila was no longer the urban legend of lengthy travel time. It actually took me only two hours to reach Pampanga for this food tasting appointment. Going home was just as short. The province's roads have been highly developed to facilitate the passage of travelers to Bataan, Tarlac, and other destinations in the north.

V I S I T I N G   N O N A ' S   K I T C H E N

Commute from Metro Manila: Board any Balanga or Mariveles-bound bus then get off at SM San Fernando. Next, ride a tricycle to Greenville Subdivision.

Address: A. Castro Blvd., Greenville subdivision, 2000 San Fernando, Pampanga

More Photos Below:

Nona's Kitchen co-owner Lejah Gallardo with son Wolf

My travel stamina partner, Laminine   +   My personal blog, New Self    +   Pasig City Natin


  1. I would go all the way to Pampanga, too just to sample these dishes. Mukhang masasarap! And parang nagbyahe lang ako nyan pauwi sa Montalban, 2 hours lang pala??

    1. I found that fact amazing, too. I thought I was going to have to sleep inside the bus. The trip was a breeze.


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