If you’re looking for a decent place to have a bite to eat and relax in the Laguna area, one option is Sierra Hills Exotik Restaurant. Like Balaw-Balaw in Angono, and Everybody’s Cafe in Pampanga, the restaurant has gained fame primarily for serving “exotic” fare, attracting curious foodies and tourists interested in trying out something unusual for novelty’s sake.
Fair warning for those who want to check out the place for themselves – the place is a bit of a tourist trap. Its location along the National Highway in Longos, Kalayaan makes it a perfect catch basin for road trippers, especially those doing a Visita Iglesia tour to churches in Rizal area during Holy Week.
We had just taken a road trip to Tatlong Krus, a pilgrimage site in Paete by motorcycle when we decided to stop by the restaurant for lunch. Unfortunately, it seemed like every single motorist in the vicinity had the same idea. The parking area was full of vans and cars, while tourist buses were lined up along the side of the road. As expected, service was pretty slow and it took a while to get a free table and order food.
Even with all the people, the place was relaxing especially after the long drive. The restaurant complex is nestled within serene and green surroundings on the slopes of the Sierra Mountain Range, thus its name. Several gazebos and dining areas are interconnected with concrete walkways. Capiz lights hang from the trees which provide shade in the different pocket garden areas. All the landscaping, hanging vines and flowers in bloom make the place very peaceful.
One thing I’m not a big fan of is the mini-zoo and aviary within the premises. There was a peacock tied up in the front lawn, a few wild birds in cages, and a monkey behind bars. I think the restaurant would fare well even without these animals as “attractions.” Near the restaurant’s entrance is a small shop that sells souvenirs from nearby towns including woodcarvings from Paete, buko pie, and other native delicacies.
Meanwhile, the dining area’s interiors are a mish-mash of decor reflecting the “exotic” theme of the restaurant. A couple of stuffed monitor lizards were perched above a large aquarium of fish in the main lobby while mounted deer and wild boar heads gave the place a cabin in the woods type vibe.
When we finally got to order, I found out that while they do serve a few unusual delicacies, their menu is now dominated by typical Filipino fare and native food. Because of environmental laws protecting endangered species, the menu offering for exotic food are not as extensive as it once was. The few dishes that do sound out-of-the-ordinary, are seasonal and not always in stock. Thus, we were left with mostly typical Pinoy fare, which while decent, was a bit overpriced.
The most unusual dishes I could find on the menu were snails, frog, eel and stingray. Diners can choose the method of cooking they want for most of the dishes. For frogs, you can have it either fried, sizzling, adobo sa tuyo or adobo sa gata; stingray can be cooked with oyster sauce, gata with malunggay or chili sauce and eel can be cooked with oyster sauce, sizzling or adobo toyo/gata).
We still planned on driving to a few more sites after the meal, so Outside Slacker suggested that we order something “safe.” We settled on fried tilapia and ensaladang manga (yeah, pretty adventurous!) While waiting for our order, I took a few shots of the food of the group at the next table who had ordered ginataang kuhol (snails cooked in coconut milk) and fried frogs among their regular dishes.
The gulaman and sago drink and dessert were also pretty refreshing. All in all, it was a pleasant meal in a place with nice ambiance. We may not have been able to try the exotic dishes this time, but it was still a pretty good place to relax, eat and rest a bit before riding out into the scorching noontime sun again.
If you’re in the mood for a long ride out of town to just get away from Manila, it’s not a bad place to ride to. Getting to the place takes roughly a roughly a 2-hour drive away from Quezon City by motorcycle if you just pass the Antipolo-Morong Road (not Marikina-Infanta).
Sierra Hills Exotik Restaurant is located along the Highway, Brgy. Longos, Kalayaan, Laguna. Telephone Number: (049) 820-0086, Telefax: (049) 820-0187. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Price range is about P200-300 per dish. [MAP & directions]