TOBIAS FORNIER, Antique -- Those looking for a unique and rustic dining experience in the province of Antique should make a point to visit Alpas.
Named after the Tagalog word “to be free” or “to go beyond," this restaurant in the quiet town of Tobias Fornier, about 50 minutes from Antique’s capital town of San Jose de Buenavista, specializes in sustainable gourmet food within a beautiful all-bamboo restaurant.
Alpas is the realization of a dream of two individuals who worked and met abroad, but decided to settle in a province of the Philippines for a simpler way of life.
Professional chef Ken Cazeñas, a Filipino born in Saudi Arabia and raised in Los Angeles, and Kimberly Eng met while working in a restaurant in San Fransisco. At the time, Cazeñas was a sous chef and Eng was the office and events manager.
“We barely lived and mostly worked in Hong Kong for one year in 2016, realized our working conditions and non-existent personal life were not sustainable and looked for greener pastures. Ken’s father’s family is from Dao (now known as Tobias Fornier) and we decided to move here for a simpler way of life,” shares Eng.
Alpas, which can seat up to 65 people, is ideal for adventurous and open minded diners looking for innovative and tasty dishes. There’s no set menu here as meals are prepared fresh to order depending on available and seasonal ingredients. They source organic and local ingredients as much as possible. Sauces and dressings are made from scratch, so each dish is a unique creation of the day.
During our lunch visit arranged by Antique-based tour agency Katahum Tours (www.katahum.com), we were served an assortment of tasty dishes on wooden plates and bowls including sautéed cabbage and ampalaya with cured fish roe and sieved egg; grilled sitaw with fried cashew and achuete; green munggo with pickled okra and saluyot; grilled matambaca with malunggay oil and organic SRI rice (mix of red, brown & black) from ZIDOFA in Zarraga, Iloilo.
Lunch is served with two complimentary drinks per person for a price of P350 per person. Meanwhile, dinner service which is composed of snacks, vegetable sides, main dish, dessert and two drinks is P800 per person. A la carte dishes are not available. Alpas also serves an assortment of house-made cocktails and local mainstream beers.
Alpas is an ideal events venue for private gatherings and celebrations. Aside from the restaurant, Cazeñas and Eng also manage an organic garden and guesthouse for environmentally conscious travelers looking for a genuine local experience.
For couples, families or groups up to 5 who would like to stay overnight, the Consuelo Guesthouse contains two queen beds and one single bed, a private bathroom, fan and ocean breeze cooled, private beach entrance and private patio. Breakfast is included in their restaurant. Additional accommodations are expected by late 2019/2020.
Alpas supports other social enterprises in other aspects. They run a “sari not sari” store and gift shop selling souvenir items from social enterprises and local artisans. They also make a point to use natural and locally-made products and resources from nearby communities.
The restaurant is open from Wednesday to Sunday 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. (lunch) and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (dinner). They’re closed Monday & Tuesday except to overnight guests.
How to get there: Alpas Restaurant, Guesthouse & Organic Garden is easily accessible along the National Highway in Sitio Ban Ban, Barangay Paciencia, Tobias Fornier, Antique. Philippine Airlines now flies direct from Clark in Pampanga to the newly opened airport in San Jose de Buenavista in Antique three times a week. The Iloilo International airport is about 2.5 hours away from Alpas.