What is Comfort Food?
It is a dish that our mother or our lola used to make us during our childhood – it can be that good bowl of Sinigang, Arroz Caldo, mac & cheese. Regardless of what the food is, it soothes our souls and comforts us in such a way having that dish makes everything seem okay. A dish that provides emotional comfort to us and linked us to a place or time when we were kids when situations and life weren’t this complicated.
When I was just 5 or 6 years old, my granddad would always take me to buy Pares to this place just 2 blocks outside our house back in the mid-1980’. We have it to go and bring back home for dinner. On Sundays, my mother would take us after church to the same Pares House to reward us for sitting steadily for 1 hour without whining while listening to the Pastor’s sermon. It has been in business for more than two decades. People from all ages and all walks of life come to this place to enjoy a good set of stewed beef brisket.
The Original Pares Mami House is at the corner of N.S. Amoranto (famously known as Retiro). Red and white walls are scruffily faded and the bright orange bowls are readily available to welcome patrons. The place is simple, again scruffy, and raw. But you can see the old hardware of aluminum, paint on the wall, faded old menus that it is a heritage restaurant and the tradition of eating at this place had been passed on from generation to another.
I have lived in Mayon for only a few years after we transferred to the southern part of Metro Manila. As I was growing my craving for Pares always brings me back to this place. My siblings and I would drive from Bicutan to Retiro at 2 AM just to satisfy our cravings. It has been in business for more than two decades. It is amazing how this humble fast food/eatery attracts people from all walks of social class, from taxi drivers, students, millennial young professionals, Chinese businessmen. The food here satisfies everyone. They grew up eating the same Pares meal with their parents and now they’re adults they carry it out then shared with their children.
The beef Pares is slow-cooked beef stew, a bowl of garlic rice with bits of chorizo and scrambled egg, and paired with soup. They boil the beef briskets in a pot with water, salt, and onion. Cooke until it is soft, tender, falls off easily. They put soy sauce, brown sugar, star anise, and pepper. Simmer everything to perfection. The sauce is thick that wraps around the beef brisket with the just the right ratio of meat and fat.
As I ended my stressful day at work at 10 pm. I decided to drive all the way from BGC, the Fort (Taguig) and go to Retiro. Purely out of whim and I was reluctant about certain aspects of that week. A lot of things going thru my mind. I need a meal that will remind me of the good things. A meal that reminds me how my mom would feed us for comfort. I arrived past 10:30 pm and saw this huge crowd gathered around the service area.
People order what they want. The food is served fast and hot. They sit down, do not talk and just enjoy a good meal of Pares. Everything runs efficiently in this place, even the patrons know that they need to eat their food fast as there are other customers eagerly waiting their turn.
SUV’s, pedicabs, motorcycles and taxi cabs are parked strategically around the restaurant. As I have mentioned earlier, everyone here is equal. In our country that is pretty subdivided by socio-economic class, this is quite a rare site.
I have to give credit to their service system. They have this lean efficiency of order taking, serving your food up until you get your tab. They are assigned per area of the diagonal space, take your order stick the order sheet and total bill behind your table then in less than 10 minutes you’ll be served with your order. A pitcher of complimentary distilled water with ice will greet you while you wait. The way the service staff moves is like a choreographed dance that is well rehearsed.
There are other restaurants serving Pares:
- Jonas Pares (La Loma ,BGC fort), One of the 1st establishment who serves Pares. Grew up eating here as well, but over the years the recipe seems off and different. They weren’t able to maintain their original recipe.
- Pares Retiro (P.Tuazon), one of the new ones who even copied the name to confuse people that this is the Original Pares place in Retiro. But they are not connected at all. Good cuts of beef and affordable.
- Pares Mami House (Espana Blvd.)
- Best Friends Pares Mami House (Mandaluyong), sweeter taste. Not comparable.
- Kumpares (mostly peppered in Las Pinas, Market Market Taguig), this is. Nevermind. Don’t even try.
But none of these competitors or copy cats can battle out The Original Pares Mami House.