Recently, I've found myself falling in love for our national cuisine, both traditional and modern. It's quite fitting too 'cause August is Buwan ng Wika. And to start off the month, I've explored a whole new take on our beloved Filipino dishes. There may have been a lot of Filipino fusion cooking going on in the Metro, but this is the first time I've heard of subversive Filipino cuisine, only at Restaurante Pia Y Damaso in Greenbelt.
Located at the second level of Greenbelt 5, Restaurante Pia Y Damaso is a cozy dining spot possessing a sophisticated allure. It welcomes unwary diners with light and soft-colored interiors adorned with elegant chandeliers, frames and mirrors. Truly, the lovely ambiance of the restaurant caught me off guard as I was initially expecting a dim and quaint dining space. However, I definitely dig the classy French country-inspired décor. It really gave the limited space a relaxing atmosphere perfect for a catch-up session with friends over coffee and tea, or for simply enjoying good food with the whole family.
Prior to this visit, I really didn't know what kind of food Restaurante Pia Y Damaso serves. Based on the restaurant name, I was guessing they offer Filipino and Spanish cuisine, dishes reminiscent of Jose Rizal's era. I had quite a lucky guess though as this charming dining spot generously offers an array of subversive Filipino dishes -- modern and colonial takes on Pinoy favorites with a touch of history and literature.
The Meal Starters
You all know that I love my appetizers. And at Restaurante Pia Y Damaso, they have aplenty. From an array of savory hors d'oeuvres, and bread and dips, you're sure to get your much-needed appetite whetting session before finally indulging on the mains.
And to start off our lunch, we had the Filo Tarts with Pork Asado Apple Relish (P220) which is a plateful of pan-fried flaky filo cakes with sweet and salty pork asado stuffing served with caramelized apple and vinegar. I may not have cared too much for the apple relish, but that's because I just can't get enough of the filo tarts! They were delightful to munch and had a creamy flavor which went perfectly with the flavorful pork asado.
We then had a taste of the Crispy Adobo Chicken Skin and Tails (P160) which unlike other chicken skins, were even marinated in adobo sauce. And although I've been trying to cut down on my sinful food intake, I just can't pass up on this tasty and crunchy treat.
Although I'm not much of a salad kind of girl, I was actually impressed with the selection of unique and creative salads at Restaurante Pia Y Damaso. They have a total of six salad dishes on the menu, and we're lucky to have tried two among them.
First on our table was a serving of Elias (P450), an ensemble of mixed greens, tomatoes, crispy shallots, caramelized pineapple and seared crocodile meat drenched with a mango-cilantro vinaigrette. With just the mention of the marinated crocodile meat all the way from Davao, you know that you'll get your money's worth with this salad dish.
We also tried the Mixed Greens with Duck Confit, Red Onions, Apples and Oranges in Champoy and Prune Vinaigrette (P350). Yes, you've read it right. This salad item made use of the Chinese salted plum candy in its vinaigrette. And surprisingly, the mixture works. Every forkful is an explosion of fresh and light flavors with a hint of acidity.
Sandwich and Pasta
Before getting it on with the mains, we also sampled an item each from Pia Y Damaso's unique and truly Pinoy-inspired sandwiches and pasta dishes.
Our sandwich item for the afternoon was Kua Pao Pan De Sal (P250), a plate of two toasted pan de sal with flavorful pork belly braised in soya, anise and garlic, roasted peanuts, sweet mustard leaf confit, and some fresh cilantro leaves. True enough, this Tsinoy sandwich tasted like the Chinese kua pao but with crisp yet soft bread. It also has a sharper and more refreshing flavor courtesy of the leaves.
For pasta, we had the Creamy Tinapa Asparagus and Fish Fillet (P300), a serving of al dente-cooked pasta with sautéed fish fillet, tinapa (smoked fish) flakes and baby asparagus, with onions and leeks in milk and cream. And although tinapa in pasta is quite new for me, I definitely dig the salty, savory and creamy flavors of this delightful dish.
The Main Entrées
We've already sampled a lot of items before we even got to the main course. But with an enticing selection of seafood, beef and pork dishes, we really had to pace ourselves well.
We started our main course with the Placido Penitente (P400), a hearty dish of cuttlefish and fish roulade atop a serving of Chinese black rice (or sticky purple rice) risotto. As much as I found satisfaction with this plate's seafood toppings, it was the rice which caught my attention. Since I never had purple rice before, I initially found the taste quite odd. However, I grew to like its mild nutty flavor upon succeeding spoonfuls.
We then had the Fried Chorizo, Potatoes, Egg and Pandesal (P475), a plate of savory goodness with toasted bread on the side, which I felt very fitting for either breakfast or brunch. Being a chorizo, potato and egg lover, I found myself contented with this dish. And although simple, eating everything together makes for one satisfying comfort food.
One of my favorites among the mains was the Callos (P330), a classic Spanish stew of braised ox tripe, beef shanks and pork hocks, with bacon, chorizo, paprika and chickpeas, served with garlic rice on the side. As one who's had her fair share of callos, I can definitely say this is one of the most hearty and savory ones I've tried.
Last among the main entrées but definitely not the least, especially in size, was a serving of Ode to Heidelberg (P1,500), a tribute to the place where Jose Rizal finished the Noli Me Tangere. This German dish which serves three or more people, is composed of a succulent boiled smoked pork hock and four kinds of flavorful sausages, as well as some bacon and potatoes on the side. With a platter this big, a group can just order a serving plus rice, and they can already be all set.
A trip to Restaurante Pia Y Damaso is never complete without trying out their sweet treats. Even if it was my first time at the restaurant, I've already heard and read a lot of good things about their desserts which made me more excited to finally try them out.
One of the most famous cakes at the restaurant is Sisa's Dementia (P160), a truffle cake with white chocolate almond pastille, dark chocolate mousse and ganache. With a rich chocolate flavor and a lovely blend textures, just one bite and I was spellbound.
We also got to try the Bibingka Waffle (P150) with goat's cheese, quezo de bola, salted egg and coco jam, as well the Ube Langka Sans Rival which didn't only stayed true to its promise of ube and langka flavors, but also had a lovely crunchy and chewy texture.
Next on the table was a beautiful purple slice of the Ube Macapuno (P100) dessert which is an ube jalea sponge layered with macapuno strips and ube mousseline cream. This ube-licious serving is also topped with more macapuno and a ball of ube jam. Yum!
Another dessert item we had was the Tsokolate Eh and Toasted Ensaimada (P150), a perfect pairing of rich hot chocolate made from Davao cacao tablea and Malagos goat's milk, and warm toasted quezo de bola ensaymada. As for our beverage during the meal, we had Tubig ni Maria Clara (P230 per Pitcher), a light and refreshing concoction of cucumber juice, ginger syrup and citrus water perfect to cleanse the palate.
After this trip, I've come to realize that Filipino cuisine shouldn't always be boring. With a vision and a dash of creativity, we can enjoy modern and out-of-the-box gustatory masterpieces which still pay tribute to our origin, just like what they generously offer at Chef Bambi Sy Gobio's Restaurante Pia Y Damaso. And with a wide selection of delectable desserts, a lovely ambiance and courteous service on the side, I'm sure this won't be the last time I'll pay the subversive Filipino cuisine destination a visit.
Ambiance - 4/5
Service - 4/5
Price - 3/5
Overall Value - 4/5
Restaurante Pia Y Damaso, Greenbelt 5
2/F Greenbelt 5, Legaspi St., Ayala Center
Makati City, Metro Manila