I am one of the proud to proclaim as a “promdi” (“from the province”) and one of my early memories was when the whole family undertakes a trip to Manila every few years to spend some time in the city during the Christmas season. We would always go to SM City as it was the first huge mall in the country and still spanking new. Daddy will always take us to the basement food court and if we are lucky we can get to watch a live episode of “Kuwarta o Kahon”. We will always order our lunch from the “Sizzling Plate” kiosk which always sports a very long line of waiting customers. I always wait in anticipation as Daddy and Kuya brings in the sizzling plates bearing different meat viands. Daddy always orders the sizzling porterhouse or tenderloin steak which in my young mind was very expensive (around Php35-45 I think).
Fast forward two decades, and I find myself in front of the “Sizzling Plate” kiosk in the SM Taytay food court. Neth is on her 6th day of the General Motors diet so she can only eat beef and vegetables. We were eyeing the tenderloin steak (~Php130) after confirming with the kiosk servers that it is indeed of the beef variety. While I was deciding on what to get, the servers offered their new Christmas sizzling plate: stuffed squid with a piece of pork asado and two pieces of fried bananas plus a small serving of coffee jelly for dessert, all of it for an affordable price of Php125. I like grilled squid so why not?
As sizzling plate orders are always prepared or finished off only after being ordered I waited for a few minutes to get our order. I asked Neth to scout the other kiosks for vegetable viands as she won’t be able to eat the rice that comes with her beef tenderloin order. First to come out was my Christmas plate. The squid was a bit small and orange-y in color but it is definitely stuffed. The pork had some asado sauce poured in it with a few strips of semi-fresh cabbage on top for garnish. I took it to our table as the sizzling plate and drinks was already crowding the tray. When I got back into the counter the sizzling tenderloin was already coming out and I was suprised at how tiny the tenderloin meat was. It was a good thing Neth already ordered one fresh lumpia to augment her meal. I proceeded to our table with the tenderloin and we settled in to have our lunch.
Everything went downhill after the first bite. The squid tasted bland even with the pork stuffing. Neth complained that her tenderloin tasted like it was a few days old and tasteless even with a healthy dollop of gravy. After a few more bites she pushed her sizzling plate away and concentrated on her lumpia. I took a few bites off the tenderloin and it indeed tasted like some leftovers that I have left in the refrigerator for a few days. It was that bad. I manned up and tried to finish my own meal which was an exercise in practicality (hey I paid for that food so it shouldn’t go to waste!) and futility. The pork asado, being served in that tiny portion already, had a large bone. I thought the coffee jelly was going to be the redeeming portion of the meal but I was wrong. I put it down after the first bite which amazed Neth as I rarely waste any served food. I said that it was literally coffee jelly: you can see the separation between what is coffee and what is jelly. She asked for a tiny sample which I obliged. She suddenly went to a Batanguenyo accent saying “Ala e, sa amin ay iniinom lang ang kape. (Ala e, in our place coffee is only being drank) to which I gamely responded in the same accent with “Ala e, sa amin ay tinitimpla muna ang kape at hindi ibinubodbod ng ganyan-ganyan lang (Ala e, in our place coffee is prepared first and not just sprinkled over food just like that)”.
When all has been said and done, both of us agreed that it will be the last time that we would be eating at Sizzling Plate. And there goes a memory that will only remain as such in the near and not-so-near future. What a waste of a good franchise.
 Habitants of Batangas which is famous for strong coffee