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[Review] Netong's Original Lapaz Batchoy

There's a never ending debate on which restaurant actually first came up with the now iconic Lapaz batchoy and it would seem that a lot of them proudly proclaims that they are the "original." Of the numerous contenders for this distinction, 2 big Lapaz batchoy restaurant chains stands out: Deco's and Ted's. Each boasting of their modest roots at the heart of the Lapaz public market. While Ted's and Deco's have since expanded their way into various malls and stand alone shops all over Iloilo City and beyond, there is no denying that Netong's Original Lapaz Batchoy have a unique and authentic feel to it since their main shop is located still at the heart of the aforementioned public market. Friendly locals will gladly point you to the direction of the restaurant somewhere inside the oftentimes crowded and maze-like narrow interior.
Netong's Original Lapaz Batchoy, a must try when you are in the Lapaz district in Iloilo City

Being an Ilonggo and having grown up in the district of Lapaz itself, I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I have only first tasted Netong's when a friend of mine was having a backpacking trip through Visayas and was in town for a day. I just so happen to be in town visiting my mom. She asked me what would be an interesting meal to experience while in Iloilo City. I thought it would be a great idea to bring my friend and her group of friends to the Lapaz public market to try out Netong's Original Lapaz Batchoy which I have heard so much about.

The experience did not disappoint. The servings were generous, the clear broth was very flavorful and had a depth of flavor that can probably be attributed to having the bone marrow broth simmer and develop for a very long time. The egg noodles was still firm and springy and the chopped pork innards and crushed chicharon completed this wonderful dish from my childhood (I grew up eating Lapaz batchoy at Ted's). OK I admit there may have been some nostalgia effect happening there somewhere but I think I can objectively say that it was one of the most satisfying bowl of Lapaz batchoy I've ever had. Too bad that they ran out of puto manapla since I think it is the perfect accompaniment to Lapaz batchoy.  

So with this high expectation in mind, I was pleasantly surprised to find a Netong's branch in SM City Iloilo SouthPoint (Leonito's by Netong's). I ordered the house special which is the bowl with all of the condiment options (the works). The place was on its soft opening so there were not much customers eating even though the neighboring restaurant were packed (it was Christmas season and the open area had a lot of people enjoying the beautiful tree and lights). I thought this was not a good sign but brushed it off as not many people probably know of it yet.
Facade of Netong's in SM City Iloilo Southpoint

When the big bowl of Lapaz batchoy finally arrived (with a second bowl of extra broth), it was such a big letdown that I even quickly looked online to see if this is the same Netong's as the one in the Lapaz public market. I can't really fault the speed and friendliness of the service, nor could I fault the serving size (the different batchoyan typically give free extra servings of broth when asked so I thought that it was nice of them to give me the extra bowl without even asking). The ingridients and other condiments were also OK. The broth however is a different matter. It lacked flavor and tasted almost like one of those Lapaz batchoy flavor instant cup noodles.
The Netong's Lapaz Batchoy at SM City Iloilo SouthPoint - not quite meeting my expectations 

I do hope they can do something about the consistency of their food offerings if they are planning of opening up other branches in the future. As for me, the next time I'm in the area and wants to have a nice bowl of Lapaz batchoy, I'd head over to Ted's Original Lapaz Batchoy at the main mall area.

If you want to experience Lapaz batchoy at its finest, I suggest heading to where it all started at the Lapaz public market.      

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