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Cuenca’s Azbok Grill After Maculot Climb

Adventure seekers out to conquer the minor challenge of climbing Cuenca’s Mt. Maculot – or any other visitors, for that matter – may wish to reward themselves for the exertions with a hearty meal afterwards at Azbok Grill, a homey little diner along the national highway in this quiet rural community at the foot of the mountain. This was exactly what I did last summer when I and a few friends went for a climb.

It was early evening went we finally arrived back at the foot of the mountain; and naturally everyone was famished. A friend had suggested to one of my companions that we tried this place called Azbok Grill.

The diner is modest at best: narrow space, bare wooden tables and plastic chairs. After the day’s exertions, however, esthetics was the least of my concerns.

I ordered a combo meal consisting of grilled liempo (pork belly), garlic rice, a side dish and iced tea. There was nothing spectacular about the liempo itself, which was marinated as most other restaurants would do theirs.

The barbecue sauce, however, turned the grilled meat into something memorable. This, along with the diner’s other signature sauces, are all originals by the diner’s chefs.

The vegetable side dish, on the other hand, was garden-fresh as one could only expect from such a rural community. It was evening when we went, mind; and the vegetables were still crispy as though they were just picked from a backyard garden.

Not only was the food excellent for such a humble little diner; the staff was exceedingly friendly, too. From the hospitable head-chef-cum-waiter Kim Dimaculangan, I was able to learn that the diner is jointly owned by the trio of Judeus Paralan, Maricon Cabasaan and Joward Reyes, good friends who are all residents of the municipality.

As the diner’s name implies, the house specialty is grilled meat. That the diner’s meat requirements are all fresh from the slaughterhouse is guaranteed given that everything is supplied by Cabasaan, who also owns a local meat stand. In fact, the space occupied by the diner is also owned by Cabasaan; and it used to be a store that sold cellular phones and accessories.

While grilled meat is the restaurant’s bread and butter, as one would expect of most diners in the province of Batangas, Azbok Grill also offers the traditionally Batangueño noodle favorites lomi and chami. The chami, I was told, was among customers’ favorites during Holy Week.

Perhaps, what I liked best about Azbok Grill was its open kitchen, which allows customers to see how their meals are being cooked. For those particular about sanitation, this diner lays the answers all out on the table with the open kitchen.

The diner’s combo meals are also considerate of those with tight budgets and offer excellent value for money. As such, among the diner’s regular customers are office employees from local establishments as well as faculty and students of a local school. Because of the diner’s location, it is also regularly visited by tourists and motorists.

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