EAT YOUR HEART OUT
Cocina Luna is a local's offering to her hometown
Finding a place for the first time seems like a pretty daunting task. But ask for Cocina Luna in Malabon and people can point it out faster than Waze can. The folks refer to it as the black restaurant, and you really can’t miss its pitch-black matte facade and eye-grabbing love locks fence that’s right in the middle of a busy residential area in General Luna. The place has a rather cute collection of framed quotes and DIY installations that give contrast to its very industrial vibe of uncemented walls and wooden furniture. Here, it’s Ladies’ Night every Wednesdays; wearing pink is optional.
Cocina Luna is the brainchild of chef Kat Alcala, who worked abroad for a time right after she had graduated from culinary school. When she came back, however, she had a surprising realization: there are no good places to eat at in her hometown. “Whenever I try to think of food within my area, I think of street cafeterias and eateries where my childhood friends and I would like to hang around and have some drinks. They were great and I have lots of memories there, but there are no real restaurants that stand out,” Alcala says. And so began her efforts in creating a good place with good food. She drew inspiration from European décor, industrial spaces, and Tumblr. Her graphic designer brother Carlo Alcala helped her fill the space with art and typographic posters. “With its quality and execution, my friends tell me I could’ve opened Cocina Luna in Maginhawa or even Makati, but I really wanted to bring delicious food to my neighborhood.”
Despite its Euro-pub-inspired space, Cocina Luna launched in 2014 with vamped up Filipino food carrying hints of American references. Alcala created items like honey-glazed tuyo for the menu. “I like experimenting on Filipino dishes, and incorporating some of the things I learned from the US into my own recipes.” Chicken strips with cereal breading, anyone? “I studied cooking, but before that, I was also able to study interior design. Cocina Luna is a merge of those two passions: food and space.”
The reception to Cocina Luna has been surprising for Alcala. In fact, it’s a stop on the Malabon food tour, and she is always asked to do some demo cooking for the participants. Still, she says Cocina Luna is a work in progress; the menu changes as much as Alcala does. “It’s been a wild ride for me. I don’t really think hard about it, but I’m pretty hands-on. If I find something new or improve on something that we already have, a new item is bound to be served soon. The restaurant’s future is promising, but for now, it’s simply a place for me, my friends, and my passions.”