Located at the second floor of UP Town Center, one of Quezon City's newest foodie destinations, Pinac Heirloom Capampangan Cuisine owned by Angel Pelayo-Ty, features the Pelayos' time-tested heirloom recipes passed down from her grandmother to her mother, and now, to Angel herself. With Pinac being the Kapampangan word for swamp, particularly the Candaba Swamp in Candaba, Pampanga, the restaurant pays it tribute as Candaba is where most of Pinac's fresh ingredients come from.
Stepping inside Pinac feels like stepping foot into a heritage home in Candaba, Pampanga. Photos of Candaba's farm life donned the restaurant's walls, while tables and chairs are Pampanga-made. There's also the warmth and hominess in the place mixed with an equal dose of elegance. And with the ambiance set, I was more than ready to immerse myself into what Pinac Heirloom Capampangan Cuisine can offer.
To start our dinner at Pinac, we were first served with appetizers.
When I first saw this plate of Lumpiang Ubod Taquitos, I was immediately reminded of nachos. And why not? They're somehow like lumpiang ubod served the nachos way, with julienned ubod (hearts of palm) mixed with shrimp, beans, shiitake mushrooms and carrots on a bed of fried wontons, drizzled with light peanut sauce.
|Lumpiang Ubod Taquitos (P185)|
One of my favorite dishes at Pinac is this plate of Crispy Hito Balls, Mustasa at Buro. It's a fun and tasty appetizer with shredded catfish coated in breadcrumbs and fried into small balls, which you smear with some salty-sour buro (fermented rice) and wrap in a mustasa leaf (mustard green) before dipping in Pinac's vinaigrette.
|✓ Crispy Hito Balls, Mustasa at Buro (P235)|
Although I personally won't order baked oysters at a Kapampangan restaurant, I actually found this serving of Baked Oysters with Crispy Kangkong really sulit! For the price, you can already get seven big pieces of oysters baked with cheese and topped with bacon bits. An order also includes crispy-baked kangkong which is a quite the treat.
|Baked Oysters with Crispy Kangkong (P235)|
We were also served with this Fried Kesong Puti Ensalada which had breadcrumb-coated and fried kesong puti (Filipino white cheese) balls, lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes that comes with Pinac's signature vinaigrette. And while I didn't eat a lot of this, I find it a light and quite refreshing salad that really makes the kesong puti balls stand out.
|Fried Kesong Puti Ensalada (P145)|
After whetting our palates, it was finally time to move on to the entrées.
First served on the table was the Smoked Tadyang with Yellow Mango Chutney, a good-for-sharing fall-off-the-bone smoked beef rib dish with ripe mango chutney and native corn salsa. Although I didn't find this dish too Pinoy, I definitely found myself getting a second and even a third helping. The beef was just so savory, tender and succulent, while its colorful accompaniments provided a nice light and sweet contrast.
|✓ Smoked Tadyang with Yellow Mango Chutney (P625)|
Next, we got to try Pinac's Crispy Pata -- a Pinoy favorite made with boneless pork knuckle poached in aromatics for six hours, then deep-fried to perfection. And yes, just the whole process of preparing this dish alone is enough for it to bear the restaurant's name! With such meticulous preparation, we expected it to be really good. And we were not disappointed. The pork meat was super tender, while the skin was extra crispy.
|✓ Pinac's Crispy Pata (P545)|
Served along this sinful pork dish was the Atsarang Capampangan, Pampanga's take on pickled vegetables which included the unusual (for a Manileño) eggplant, ampalaya and kangkong combination. And this surprisingly paired well with the crispy pata.
We got to experience more of Candaba with the Adobong Hito sa Alagaw, which is one of the common ways to cook catfish in the municipality. Simmered in a soy-based sauce infused with alagaw or fragrant premna leaves, this dish oozes with savory flavors perfect when paired with white rice. My only gripe though is the sauce was a little too salty for my liking. However, I'm still impressed at how the humble hito was transformed into something extraordinary. So don't let its exotic look hinder you from ordering it. Try it!
|Adobong Hito sa Alagaw (P185)|
The Lunch Specials
We also got to try other mains, but as lunch specials. They are set plates with your choice of entrée served with roasted vegetables and garlic fried rice.
Unbeknownst to many, I've long been a fan of Lengua Con Setas. And fortunately, Pinac's take didn't fail to impress. This Filipino-Spanish dish made of ox tongue is braised in red wine and shiitake sauce, and is served with a light and creamy mushroom gravy that goes well not just with the lengua, but also with the garlic fried rice.
|✓ Lengua Con Setas (P255)|
We also got to try the Beef Salpicao, a Pinoy classic made of beef tenderloin cooked in butter and Worcestershire sauce, then loaded with toasted garlic bits. As much as I enjoyed the succulent beef pieces, it was quite unfortunate that I found the dish a little too salty. If only the saltiness was tempered, this would've been one of my favorites.
|Beef Salpicao (P265)|
Desserts and Drinks
We had a lot of food, but a trip to any restaurant won't be complete without desserts.
For dessert, we had the Dulce de Leche Cheesecakle -- a slice of layered plain cheesecake and cream drizzled with dulce de leche. We also had the unsual (at least for me)-but-works combination of Brazo de Mais and Salabat -- brazo de mercedes tediously shaped into a corn with corn paste-infused cream filling, served with ginger tea.
|Dulce de Leche Cheesecake (P195) and ✓ Brazo de Mais and Salabat (P185)|
For a heavier kind of dessert, there's the Suman, Mangga at Tsokolate -- a platter of breaded suman (rice cake) pieces served with ripe mangoes and thick chocolate sauce.
|Suman, Mangga at Tsokolate (P140)|
As for beverages, these two were unarguably our tables' favorite drinks. Both of them are bright, refreshing and perfect for a hot, sunny day. However, I prefer the Cucumber Mint Dalandan Shake a little over the Kamias Kalamansi Shake since it was less sweet and higher on the refreshing scale. Nevertheless though, both are solid thirst quenchers!
|Kamias Kalamansi Shake (P85) and ✓ Cucumber Mint Dalandan Shake (P85)|
Pinac is a good addition to the list of Filipino restaurants in the metro. It might not reflect Kapampangan cuisine as a whole, but it definitely gives a taste of how Filipino food is like from Candaba, Pampanga and from the Pelayos -- tasty, hearty and homey. Actually, dining at Pinac Heirloom Capampangan Cuisine does feel like eating at a family friend's home. And with good-for-sharing portions, Pinac is indeed a good place to bring family and friends to for a coming together while enjoying good, hearty Kapampangan food.
Taste - 3.5/5
Ambiance - 4/5
Service - 4/5
Price - 4/5
Overall Value - 4/5
Ambiance - 4/5
Service - 4/5
Price - 4/5
Overall Value - 4/5
Pinác Heirloom Capampangan Cuisine, UP Town Center
2/F UP Town Center, Katipunan Ave., Loyola Heights,
Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines