Place: Amply spacious. The furnishings are quite hard to be homey. The music is a little too loud. And the air inside needs to be cooler.
Food: Generally, the food is delicious, but not impressive or unforgettable enough to make one come back.
First on our table is the Pancit Molo (Php 120): pork and shrimp dumplings swimming in chicken broth. The soup is delicious and hearty. Its garlicky flavor is pronounced but not overpowering. The dumplings are packed with a clean, well-seasoned meaty taste.
Next, the Okay Sarap (Php 120): shrimp and sweet potato strips, combined and fried with a light batter. They're served with a vinegar dip. The tastes are authentic. The sweetness of the sweet potato complements the flavor of the fresh and juicy shrimps. No need for the dip, actually. Delicious!
Next is the Pancit Canton na may Lechon Kawali (Php 290). This dish features stir-fried egg noodles, vegetables, seafood, and meat, topped with deep fried pork belly slices. The flavor is punctuated, nothing too salty or reeking with MSG. The noodles though are too soggy. But those lechon kawali pieces! Crispy, juicy, GOOD!
Then, the Lechon na Crispy Pata (Php 590). On the menu, it says "roasted pork leg." What's on our table is something fried. In other words, it's not lechon but the ordinary, normal crispy pata. The deception notwithstanding, we cannot deny the juiciness of the meat and the crispiness of the skin. The lemongrass and leeks add vibrancy to the dish. The dipping sauce is a little too sour though.
Next, the Pianggang (Php 290). It's a Tausug dish that [supposedly] features grilled chicken in coconut milk that is flavored with Tausug paste (aromatics and burnt coconut). We're expecting to taste layers of flavor, just based on the description. We can only sense chicken curry, but good chicken curry. Still, chicken curry, and none of the burnt grill taste nor the nutty coconut. Just curry. The chicken is tender though.
For our rice, we have the Alab's Fried Rice (Php 180). It's fried rice with turmeric, chopped seafood, and peanuts. It is tasty and has subtle gingery undertones. Quite good, actually.
For drinks, we have the Alab Iced Tea (Php 70). It's iced tea with pandan flavor. That pandan taste gives a good flavor twist to the regular iced tea. Para kang umiinom ng sago't gulaman juice.
Finally, dessert. We have the New York Cubao Cheesecake (Php 140). It's bibingka with a twist.
The bottom layer is a crust that is crumbly and buttery. The bibingka itself is light and teeming with salted egg slices. It needs more margarine or butter flavor though.
The shredded fresh coconut meat adds some nuttiness.
Price: Considering food quality, taste, and serving size, food here is a little overpriced.
Service: It needs improvement. The family next to ours is complaining because they're been waiting for than 20 minutes for their food. The waiters are a little disorganized and confused, though warm and friendly.
Alab is on the 3rd floor of UP Town Center.