Monday, August 3, 2015

A Subversive Filipino Feast at Restaurante Pia Y Damaso

Fourteen young men gathered for dinner consisting of Noodles Lang-Lang, Chinese Lumpia with Pork, Crab Omelette, and Stewed Noodles at Macao "Good Taste" Restaurant as the rumblings of a revolution began, festered by discontent and social inequity described in Chapter 25 of Jose Rizal's El Filibusterismo. That same subversive spirit is seen, tasted, and felt in a quaint, little restaurant at Greenbelt 5, recreating and reinventing classic Filipino dishes with inventive and bold flavors... 

Restaurante Pia Y Damaso offers its own creative take on modern Filipino cuisine, dubbed as "Subversive Filipino Cuisine," with its unique, playfully disruptive and inventive dishes while staying true to local flavors.

Named after the iconic characters of Jose Rizal's novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filubusterismo, Restaurante Pia Y Damaso presents its dishes in a refreshing new light, with just a hint of a rebellious streak to keep things interesting.

Your subversive dining experience at Pia Y Damaso begins with a refreshing pitcher of Tubig ni Maria Clara (P 300, L), a refreshing blend of cucumber juice, ginger, and citrus water. Or you can be truly subversive by starting with some of Pia Y Damaso's signature cocktails (R)...

For starters, Pia Y Damaso's Chinese Lumpia Salad (P 275) kicks off our feast, as familiar flavors combine in this unique and creative salad based on the popular Fookien "amoy" lumpia, with shrimp, pork, cabbage, green beans, bean sprouts, carrots, arranque bean curd, fried seaweed noodles, roasted peanuts, and fresh cilantro leaves. The clean and fresh notes, and the contrasting textures, weave a tapestry of flavors with every bite. And I;m liking this "subversive" approach...

More starters were served, with Pia Y Damaso's Crisp Cones with Crab and Tomato Relish (P 220), elegantly plated crisp cones stuffed with sauteed crab meat, corn, and onions with fresh tomato, cucumber, cumin, cinnamon, parsley, and lemon juice. The delicate flavors of the crab meat are pumped up with the sharp notes of the lemon, spices, herbs and fresh vegetables. These little cones pack big flavors, subversively and seditiously good.

Try some of Pia Y Damaso's new specials, like the Sisig ni Kabesang Tales (P 300), their own version of the popular dish with pig's ears, mask, nape, belly, and liver with onions, garlic, chili, peppers, and egg. References to characters from Jose Rizal's novels appear frequently on the menu, and Kabesang Tales, the former Cabeza de Baranggay turned bandit, lends his name to this flavorful dish. Prepared in the original style, the tender chunks and flavors of pork blend with the deep notes of the liver, the nutty hints of garlic, the sweetness of the peppers, the spicy chili and rounded out by the richness of the egg for a flavorful dish. And Kabesang Tales would have definitely approved of the dish.

Pia Y Damaso also offers unique sandwiches, each one injected with distinctive local flavors. The Croque Quezo & Spinach (P 250), the classic croque gets a local twist with Pia Y Damaso's own version, a pan-fried sandwich with Malagos goat cheese and smoked tinapa. The sharp smoky notes of the tinapa are perfectly balanced by the richness of the goat cheese for balanced flavors. It's a flavorful combination that works, capped by the perfectly grilled bread.

The traditonal kua pao also gets a makeover at Pia Y Damaso with their Kua Pao Pan de Sal (P 250), two toasted whole wheat pan de sals with soya, anise, and garlic braised pork belly, roasted peanuts, sweet mustard leaf confit, and fresh cilantro leaves. The tender and almost melt-in-your-mouth pork belly releases its sweet flavors with the very first bite, with minty layers from the mustard leaf confit and fresh cilantro adding to the play on flavors. The whole wheat pan de sal absorbs the richness of the braised pork belly for even more flavor. I'm pretty sure even Padre Damaso, in all his excessive indulgences, would not be able to resist just one more bite.

Pia Y Damaso recreates an old Binondo classic inspired by Jose Rizal's novels with its Lang-Lang (P 325), a comforting noodle soup with shredded chicken, ham, shiitake, wood ear mushrooms, pancit molo, lomi, and sotanghon noodles. The dish is described in detail in Chapter 25 of El Filibusterismo, reflecting the strong culinary influences of Chinese cuisine even way back in Spanish colonial times, to the melting pot of contemporary Filipino culture. The blend of chicken and ham, mushrooms and thick and thin noodles in a light broth remains as comforting today as it was during Jose Rizal's time.

The creative inventiveness of Pia Y Damaso is showcased with its Tuna Egg (Bihod) with Tapenade, Seared Blue Marlin, and Fresh Tomatoes (P 360), another unique dish with rich tuna egg roe, caramelized onions, garlic, black olives, sardines, tomatoes, olive oil, and seared blue marlin chunks. It's another flavor combination that challenges the norm, blending the best of local flavors, in one elegantly executed dish. Each noodle is coated with the rich tuna egg roe, punctuated by the tart tomatoes, the sharpness of the black olives and sardines, rounded out by the rich and nutty flavors of the olive oil capped by the tender and delicate notes of the seared blue marlin. I;m pretty sure the young idealistic students described by Jose Rizal in Macau "Good Taste" Restaurant would have enthusiastically praised this dish as they did the Lang-Lang. And why not, the combination is definitely new and different, matching the subversive culinary theme of Pia Y Damaso.

Two rice dishes were then served next, starting with the Smoked BBQ Mango Pork (P 500), a tender slab of pork with a sweet barbecue glaze with a tart mango marinade served on scrambled eggs and a flavorful spinach, apple, raisin, and pine nut garlic fried rice. The subtle smoky notes, with layers of sweetness, complement the pork, and the richly flavored garlic fried rice with its fruits and nuts, complete the dish.

Local game is the inspiration for the next dish, with Smoked Tapang Usa (P 450), salted deer meat from Nueva Ecija served with green mango pickles and roasted pepper omelette on garlic rice. The lean yet flavorful salted deer has clean flavors, without any overpowering gamey notes. The green mango pickles add contrasting notes to the dish, and the scrambled egg with roasted peppers round out the flavors.

From starters, sandwiches, pastas, and rice dishes, Pia Y Damaso brings back traditional flavors with its own contemporary and creative touch, for a taste of "Subversive Filipino Cuisine." But the rumblings of a revolution continue with Pia Y Damaso's indulgent desserts. And you can take a peek at my next post here at

Restaurante Pia Y Damaso is located at the Second Floor of Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati, or call 729-5511 for inquiries and reservations.

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