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The IRRI’s Cafeteria Changes the Game of How Everyday Food is Served and Prepared

February 9, 2015

Cafeterias are rarely known as a go-to place for food. Midway into the semester, you’re practically sick of the same old viand choices, undercooked pasta, and questionable renditions of classics like adobo and laing. When my sister told me some of her bosses go to the International Rice Research Institute’s (IRRI) cafeteria to have celebratory meals, I had to eat and see for myself what the fuss was all about. Could a cafeteria really be that good? And how did a well-respected institution that studied the country’s staple ingredient serve its food?

Irri4

Unless you find yourself in the UP Los Baños campus or in the Calamba area, you probably won’t end up at the IRRI. The IRRI is on the other end of the campus, isolated from the rest of the college buildings, and requires a bus or a long walk to get to the gate. But I didn’t mind getting lost while finding the correct path to the IRRI. The sky was the clearest blue I’d ever seen, mountains embraced the tree-lined paths that led me away or straight into my actual destination, and the wind was strong, cool, and crisp. By the time I got to the IRRI, I got an even better view of Makiling at the horizon and vast rice fields that indicated I was finally in the right place.

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The cafeteria itself is located in the building that’s marked by several flags. You can’t miss the large tables and groups dining in a spacious room in the building’s first floor. Unlike regular school or office cafeterias, IRRI’s appears sanitary and spotless even at first glance. All the empty tables have no left over food or plates; the counter for ordering is separate from the tables themselves.

Irri1

For a cafeteria, the IRRI has a wide variety of international and Filipino options. I arrived late at 1pm, so most of the popular orders were finished. I did overhear a few students saying that the pusit was worth the order; but even that order was gone when it was their turn behind the counter. Some of the listed items on that day’s menu included Filipino favorites such as Pusit Adobo sa Tinta, Upo Guisado with Spring Onion, Shrimp Okoy, and Grilled Liempo. Being an international institution, their foreign items were just as diverse: from no-fail options like Blue Marlin with Vegetable Stir Fry and Lengua with Mushroom, to specific foreign dishes such as Egg Curry and Garden Vegetable Tabbouleh Stew. Unfortunately all these appetizing items were also out of stock.

Irri3

For my visit, I ordered the chicken barbecue and a plate of bulanglang. Don’t let the tiny plate of bulanglang fool you: for what was probably less than PHP 50, I got more than enough green beans. The broth was also flavorful and the vegetables acted as a second viand to my rice. The chicken barbecue was also a level up from both cafeteria fare and fast food barbecue food. The leg piece wasn’t skinny and had enough meat to partner with the rice. The sauce was also thick, not too salty, and just had enough spice and that smoke flavor. I ended up only spending PHP 100 that day, and could probably spend PHP 300 had the other items been available.

Another commendable feature of the IRRI cafeteria is their self-bussing rule. All diners must clean out their trays before leaving the table, assuring incoming guests a decent place to eat on their next meal. It would be nice to see this kind of discipline and practice in more self-service restaurants in Manila.

The IRRI cafeteria may be way down south for many Metro Manila residents, but the relatively quick drive and commute, fresh air and greenery, and short respite from the city’s madness could make that quick visit worth your while.

Have you been to the IRRI cafeteria? What other cafeterias have stood out from your own dining experiences? Let us know in the comments section below.

Gela Velasco Gela Velasco

Gela is a young adult slowly settling into her late twenties. She likes to make a mess in the kitchen when no one’s looking, dance till dawn on long weekends, and dream about beef on lazy afternoons. On some days she learns how to write good in graduate school. Her life goals include sashaying somewhat like Beyonce and to write a cover story on Leonardo di Caprio.

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17 comments in this post SHOW

17 responses to “The IRRI’s Cafeteria Changes the Game of How Everyday Food is Served and Prepared”

  1. domesticatedanne says:

    How about their rice? Still cheap and delicious?

    • buruguduy says:

      the price of rice may be the same as your usual carenderia but the serving is more generous (i.e. half cup of rice = 1 cup of rice at Jollibee) plus they serve brown rice. 🙂

  2. buruguduy says:

    did you also drop by the IRRI Coffee Shop? they serve quality gourmet coffee there at a cheap cheap price. their green pesto in spanish sardines is also a must-try. I work at IRRI, by the way.

  3. Claire says:

    Are those baguio beans? They look like sitaw to me (not trying to nitpick; I’m just genuinely confused).

  4. Yasu says:

    Besides the great outdoor view while dining, there is also a wonderful piece by Vicente Manansala at the IRRI cafeteria.

  5. Tracee Alar says:

    This post made me miss their egg curry so much.

  6. Isko says:

    The mountain in the first picture isn’t Makiling. It’s actually Banahaw.

    • Tubong Laguna says:

      Actually, Its neither Mt. Makiling nor Mt. Banahaw… Banahaw is the taller mountain somewhere at the right of those two peaks. Banahaw is not actually clearly seen from that picture… just small part of it.

    • Tubong Los Baños says:

      Yes, it isn’t Makiling. It isn’t Banahaw either but a small volcanic peak near San Pablo City. Banahaw is further off and is much more massive and taller too.

      • Tubong Los Baños says:

        …and by the way, mt. Makiling is on the opposite side of IRRI on the western side actually and is much much closer. 🙂

  7. Tubong Los Baños says:

    Presently managed by Berris Catering of Bay, Laguna. One of the best in the area. They also manage Searca cafeteria inside UPLB campus and a few other smaller food outlets in the University. Their pastry desserts are also to die for!!!

  8. ronki says:

    Some Gov’t agencies’ cafeterias have the self-bussing rule, too. Just like in BSP.

  9. Marilou Griselda Sabio Acuna says:

    IRRI!!!

  10. JM Lit says:

    It is best to go to IRRI Cafeteria during weekends, either for brunch or early dinner. Their international menu (situated on the right side of the cafeteria) is definitely a must try — they offer Halal, Kosher and vegan choices. 🙂

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