By SOL VANZI
The first marital dispute in our household 41 years ago involved avocados, which my American husband insisted was a vegetable eaten with mayonnaise or a vinaigrette. I, of course, grew up loving avocado ice cream and therefore classified it as a fruit.
Without a warning, I subjected him to a blindfolded taste test at a popular restaurant in our neighborhood. He had spoons filled with various ice cream flavors: strawberry, buko, cheese, vanilla, and avocado. His favorite? Avocado. Debate settled.
That restaurant was Milky Way, which continues to serve homemade avocado ice cream in its branches, along with well-loved family heirloom dishes guarded by the Gamboa family and enjoyed by faithful clients from all walks of life.
The Milky Way Malate branch has long closed so recently I visited their newly renovated Power Plant Mall restaurant run by executive chef J. Gamboa who, along with his sister Malu G. Lindo helms the business established by their mother, the late Julie Araullo Gamboa.
Though the combination of black and white provides the area with a modern feel, nostalgic accents pay tribute to the brand’s history which dates back to 1962.
A mural with Milky Way in the’70s and ’80s dominates the wall. A door leading to the kitchen, made of vintage wrought iron grill, reminiscent of Milky Way’s first store located along Aguado St., San Miguel, Manila across Malacañan Palace.
With its expanded offerings, Milky Way Café Rockwell has become more like an extension of its main branch along Arnaiz Avenue. “It now has more dishes to choose from.” Chef J. elaborates. “More desserts, shakes, sundaes with Milky Way ice cream and buko lechias sherbet.”
“Aside from the Filipino favorites Milky Way is known for, we also serve the classic Filipino cold salads—fruit salad, buko salad, and macaroni salad. Plus lumpiang ubod and the famous Milky Way Sandwiches in four variants—chicken asparagus, ham salad, adobo cucumber, and club sandwich.”
A major attraction is special halo-halo, overflowing with homemade sweet beans, leche flan, ube, macapuno, gulaman, pinipig, finely shaved ice, and topped with a scoop of Milky Way Ube Ice cream.
But the most popular dish is oxtail kare-kare, ordered for both dine-in and take out by 80 percent of customers.
Options listed on digital screens in front of the cashier are hardly noticed by customers whose attention is immediately diverted to the mouthwatering spread behind the glass counter, turo-turo style, just like the original Milky Way.
One will find an average of 12 hot viands daily presented in unique and colorful cast iron vessels inside a temperature-controlled warming cabinet. Among the bestsellers are adobong pusit, sinigang na salmon, lechon paksiw, and dinuguan. “Our recipes are classics and part of our heritage,” he says. “They have been standardized and perfected using the best ingredients and employing the latest cooking techniques. It’s comfort food for the typical Pinoy and always a treat for balikbayans.”
Large portions to share with family and friends are available: assorted Milky Way Sandwiches (28 triangles per tray), chicken galantina with potato salad, mini pork BBQ, or chicken lollipops. For parties there are Spanish dishes such as paella and cochinillo from the family-owned Cirkulo.
Shelves are brimming with pasalubong: bottled bagoong, atchara, or dikiam na manggang pajo, packs of chicharon, garlic peanuts, or Azu Thai peanuts. Frozen viands to go are chicken tocino, embotido, lasagne al forno, and beef belly flakes.
Milky Way Rockwell is located at level P1 of Power Plant Mall, Rockwell, Makati. (02) 756 5026 | Facebook: @MilkyWayRW