It was the best halo-halo that I ever tasted in my life.
The Poor Traveler and his poor friend stared at each other as we had our first spoonful. And with the kind of smile that cut across our face, we knew having a stopover at Casa Rap for breakfast was totally worth all the time and the trouble.
Casa Rap, sometimes called Cafe Casa Rap, is a restaurant tucked in a residential area along the highway in San Jose, Batangas. It was not very easy to find. None of the people we asked going here knew about this cafe or where it was located exactly. Armed with information it was located in, we still boarded a jeepney and requested the driver to let us know when we enter Barangay Banay-banay. Unfortunately for us, the driver was forgetful. Thank God I spotted the inconspicuous wooden signage erected along the highway despite it being almost concealed by leaves and vines. Wondering whether I saw it right, it took me a couple more seconds before I asked the driver to stop. We had to walk a hundred yards back.
Casa Rap is nestled in a residential garden. The whole place actually looked like an old greenhouse with cluttered tables and chairs of varying shapes and sizes. But it was a good kind of clutter as it added character and a very “organic” feel to it. We had to walk almost the entire length of a covered pathway to the cafe, which we did not mind at all as little colorful flowers decorated the path. When we reached the place, we found ourselves alone. We were the first customers of the day and we were the only ones at the time.
“Slow food cafe” written on the cover of the menu was the first to grab our attention. The note explained how they value the discipline of slow food cooking and it managed our expectations. Since it was around 8am, we decided to get their breakfast meals. Let the waiting begin!
Luckily, waiting proved to be not a difficult thing to do at Casa Rap. There was so much to look at. From the plants that served as the restaurant’s living ornaments to the figurines of angels to the framed broadsheet cutouts of favorable reviews of the restaurant hanging on one post to the calming messages posted all over the area, the restaurant fosters a relaxing and positive atmosphere that any customer will surely appreciate. It was like an art gallery meets a greenhouse meets a garden restaurant. Heck, even their restroom looked inviting.
Wood and pebble dominated the overall ambience of the floor. The restaurant ground is strewn with gravel from which wooden posts rise. The place is not equipped with aircon but who needs that when you’re surrounded with nature’s best airconditioning system — trees! It was a breath of fresh air quite literally. At one point a chicken walked towards us and then around the restaurant. It was an amusing and refreshing sight.
The waitress served our hot chocolate first. We were a bit let down in the beginning upon seeing it as it was contained in a rather small cup. The hot choco, however, was phenomenal. It might not be that big of a serving but it was thick and rich and delicious.
It wasn’t long until our orders were served. I had Tapang Casa Rap, which reminded me of the usual Tapang Taal (P130), my favorite since I was a kid. Unlike most tapas we have here in Manila, Tapang Casa Rap is pork and sweeter. It was fried and, yes, a little bit oily but the meat was tender and really tasty.
My friend Celine ordered Longganisang Hubad (P130) and she was kind enough to share some with me. The taste of the garlic was really strong, which I loved, and there was not much fat (unlike what I was used to). Both of us, however, had the same verdict — it was too salty for our taste. We just kind of forced ourselves to finish it.
For dessert, we had that legendary halo halo. Different from the usual halo-halo we see in the streets or those served in urban restaurants, this halo-halo did not have much ingredients. In fact, it only had three major ingredients — macapuno, pinipig, and leche flan. And yes, ice and milk, of course. But they were enough to make it the most mouthwatering, most unforgettable and the best-tasting halo-halo I have tasted anywhere ever. And you shouldn’t take my word for it. Drive to Batangas and try it for yourself.
I had always wanted to come back to Casa Rap since the moment we left the place. There were just so many items on their menu that I found interesting. Unfortunately, we had so little time at the moment so we had to split right away. I promised myself to come back with more friends this time and try some of the other dishes that failed to meet my poor, always-rumbling tummy.
How to get there: If you’re commuting from Manila, take the bus to Lipa City and alight at the Lipa Bus Stop. There you can take the jeepney going to San Jose. Casa Rap lies a kilometer before the San Jose Y junction. Watch out for KM 90. If you’re driving, take the Star Tollway and exit at Tambo. Go straight ahead until you reach Brgy. Banay-Banay in San Jose. Casa Rap is on your right.
Km 90, Barangay Banay-Banay
San Jose, Batangas