Squid Wards: Garlic Squid Rice Topping, Carinderia Sefali

There’s a rule among gourmands and food lovers (of which I’m not one) that if a place has a lot of people eating in it, then the food must be good.  The rule itself is flawed; lots of people eat at a fast-food joint, but the food – if burgers qualify for food – is definitely not good.  Often, it’s the unassuming hole-in-the-wall place that serves great food.

Forty-eight hour weeks of writing web content does two things to me: it tires me out, and it makes me hungry.  I reserve Sunday nights for good eats, where I go around the metropolis looking for good food (counting out places like Dusit Thani and the swanky places in and around Greenbelt).  Tired and famished from a lunch out at Tokyo Tokyo Glorietta with my brother, I decided to head on over KNL for dinner.

I usually make a beeline for the carinderia-style eateries that serve all iterations of adobo (chicken, pork, chicken-pork, adobong sitaw, adobong kangkong, and so on and so forth), but I had plenty of time to explore.  After a few minutes, I settled for a quiet, unassuming little nook called Carinderia Sefali, just right by the main road of Krus na Ligas.

For a place that calls itself an eatery, Carinderia Sefali was a very sophisticated place to eat.  The ethnic decorations and the handsome wood paneling reminded me of La Azotea in my hometown of Baguio City, particularly Miss Virginia de Guia’s office at the second floor.  The place was rather sparse, and as I looked up the menu boards, I got the message.  The place was a rather pricey tapsilugan, with the lowest-priced meal at a flat P60, sans soft drinks.

Not wanting to hurt my wallet, but still meaning to eat anyway, I decided to go for the reasonably-priced Garlic Squid Rice Topping, which cost P63.  For anyone who knows how expensive squid can get (Italianni’s, anyone?), P63 is a very good bargain.  (And yes, I take horrible pictures.)  The order didn’t come with a free soft drink, which was a bit of a letdown considering the price.

It took me exactly 20 minutes to get served, which was a very important cue; here’s a 20 minute window to prepare and cook seafood, especially something as delicate as squid.  Undercooked squid isn’t very appealing (and can potentially harbor salmonella), and overcooked squid can force you to chew all day.  I was rather impressed with the impeccable timing of Carinderia Sefali, which serves every dish in 20 minutes.

When I got my order, I was rather intrigued; I was expecting squid rings swathed in bits of fried or roasted garlic, but I got squid rings with green chili peppers, although the thick brown sauce that topped the cup of rice had the unmistakable aroma of garlic.  It seemed to me that Carinderia Sefali was intent on justifying the rather ridiculous sum charged for something sold as “rice toppings.”

Like I said earlier, I’m not a gourmand or a food lover; I just happen to be a lazybones writer with the most rudimentary knowledge of good food.  I must say, though, that the pricey Garlic Squid on Rice was one of the better meals I had.  The chili peppers were not spicy, but they gave the dish the right amount of zingy heat to accompany the perfectly cooked squid.

The rice was another matter, since it wasn’t exceptional; I think all P63 worth of this dish went to the viand, and you might as well consider the rice free.

I have ranted about the price of this meal for quite a few paragraphs now, so I suppose the question is, “Is the meal worth it?”  Definitely yes, and considering the price of squid, I think that this is one of the better bargains you can get at a pricey place like Carinderia Sefali.

Three stars out of five.