There’s something about the word ‘home’. It’s a refuge, a last resort, and a place where you feel the most at peace. Sometimes, home isn’t a place. It’s just where you feel most comfortable, somewhere you almost instinctively go to. For Chef Baba Ibazeta-Benedicto, home is the food she grew up with, with memories intertwined in every recipe.
This is Nono’s – Chef Baba’s visual representation of a beautiful household in the suburb. To create this beautiful pastel-colored Palm Springs inspired place, the team reached out to Space Encounters, the same minds behind Jin Joo Korean Grill, and the recent modern rebranding of fast food chains Greenwich and Chowking.
What amazed me the most was the little details that you see all around the restaurant – the pastel coral pink and teal accents alongside an old cash register and a rotary-dial phone. This, aside from their Mac N’ Cheese, were my favorite things inside the restaurant. I guess I just feel very at home when things from the past and present are brought together harmoniously.
When we were young, we grew up with processed cheese blocks cut into strips, wrapped in lumpia skins, and deep fried until golden brown. Chef Baba’s own style of ‘cheese sticks’ involves the classic combination of honey and cheese. Mozzarella and cheddar cheese are wrapped in wontons and fried until they puff up like little pillows. These Fried Truffle Cheese Wontons (P155) are then drizzled with honey, truffle oil, and finished with walnuts.
Nono’s Oriental Shrimp Salad (P375) is from a prawn and walnut salad Chef Baba used to regularly order when she was still studying in San Francisco. We both agreed we missed Panda Express’ Walnut Shrimp, but this Oriental Shrimp Salad beats that any time. I loved the slight sweetness of the crispy shrimp combined with their honey lemon dressing. All this sweetness sits on top of crispy noodles, red and green cabbage, and romaine lettuce.
No comfort food resto is complete without a nice bowl of macaroni and cheese. This one in particular is made with shell pasta with gruyere, parmesan, and cheddar cheese as its sauce. This Mac n’ Cheese (P395) won’t remind you at all of your boxed mac n’ cheese recipes but it sure will bring you back to those times you took refuge in this creamy dish when life gets hard.
Honey and gravy on chicken? I’m sold. Nono’s Homestyle Fried Chicken (P565) is a loaded dish of perfectly crispy boneless chicken served with dinner rolls, corn on the cob, and fries (or rice) on the side. Take a slice of the chicken and dip it generously in some of Nono’s country style gravy and honey for the best chicken experience of your life. I dipped some fries in that honey too. I wasn’t disappointed.
Cap off a healthy meal with Chef Baba’s signature Nono’s Chocolate Oblivion (P135/slice) from her dessert line, Classic Confections. Nono’s Chocolate Oblivion is named after Chef Baba’s dad, which was actually a joke at first but then that naming news quickly spread around the family and she finally decided to keep it. I’m not going to lie, despite eating all those scrumptious meals, I knew I had some tummy space left for this chocolate cake. The chocolate whipped cream and candied walnuts will unleash your inner sweet tooth. It’s decadent, yet truly balanced in flavor.
There’s a dish that reminds us of home, and there’s a dish that just is home. For these dishes, it’s one bite into a world of memories of the past and another into the hope making new ones.