There is no denial with how Filipinos could get innovative in so many ways, most especially with food. I have visited Manila last month and it was a new and exciting experience to dine in one of the most visited restaurants in the Philippines. My auntie was very eager to cater to some of my Filipino food cravings when she found out I miss indulging on the flavourful cuisine of my homeland. Of course, as a balikbayan (A Filipino living overseas returning from living in another country. - Oxford Dictionaries), she wanted to bring me to something new yet somewhat familiar. She chose to bring me to MESA Filipino Moderne.
It was Sunday night and with the little time I have in my hands to spend in the Philippines, I vowed to spend it with family after each errand I have to do. I wanted to truly treasure the time given to me with them so, after I watched a musical to support colleagues from work, I made the rest of the day free for any plans my uncle and auntie had in mind.
Sundays in the Philippines are treated as a "family day" like in most countries I guess. But in the Philippines, it's part of the custom I mean so my uncle's family was nearly complete, making time for me in dining out which made it truly special. I felt their excitement as they are familiar already with what to order and they were more eager for me to try Mesa's specialties. I specified tinola, pinakbet, taho, crispy pata and sisig and I truly got them all in one table. As they ordered away, and it slowly came by, all of my favourites, came in a very special presentation.
To introduce Mesa Filipino Moderne, location is at its best. Situated at the G/F P2 Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati City, Manila, Philippines. We sat down outside the restaurant where the energy was at its blast. (If you are to try this restau but you don't like the buzzing vibe of the metropolis, get relocated at once because it could get busy with families feasting with you over their scrumptious food.)
|Their glasses are shaped like bamboo trees cut in the middle.|
Starting off with the not so usual sizzling starter, sisig was presented in fried wanton wraps, tied up with a string that was sort of plated as little treats. For the first time, it didn't come in a sizzling plate. That alone is a must try since nobody had ever done such presentation. It came with soy sauce and vinegar which delivers a unique experience to the palate.
Next appetiser in line would be Tofu Salad with Century Egg and Shrimp.
I was craving for "taho" (tofu), my whole trip last month and one of my cousins are into exquisite tasting dishes who favoured to order this for me to try. Who would've known that all of these ingredients could go altogether to give birth to a rich, mouthful treat? The crunch with every bite of the shrimp balances the melting century egg and tofu. And the sauce just aids its way down to the gut leaving a beautiful after taste to the tongue.
|Tofu Salad with Century Egg and Shrimp|
This particular dish was plated gorgeously and it just made me expect more and more after trying this first two. The main dishes started to come along with cups of plain rice as every Filipino meal won't be complete without it. Because we didn't want it to meddle with the distinct taste each viand brings, we chose plain white rice for a stomach filler.
I wouldn't let go of a chance to eat the original pinakbet so that came just in time to prepare my stomach fondly of the meat that would soon settle in. I love it being creamy because of the pumpkin cooked to slow perfection. And at the same time, I love how the beans and the bitter melon are preserved to stay crunchy and not overcooked.
A very daring combination is their most sought after seafood dish Boneless Hito with Mangga Salad. Mango is usually enjoyed alone or as part of dessert which is usually at the end of every Filipino meal. But this time, Mangga (Tagalog way of calling the "mango"...) pairs up with the catfish being the stars of this particular dish. The usual deep fried catfish instantly transformed to becoming a name carrier for Mesa's modernity because of its unique zest and flavour.
|This dish comes with the mango salad's explosive pair,|
the shrimp paste. This takes the usual deep fried catfish to a whole new level
and becomes worthy of your attention.
There's a huge turn about when you go out of your comfort zone and Mesa was bold in taking such opportunity to give out an impression to its spectators. In addition to this dish, my auntie did not disappoint with the one-of-a-kind chicken soup called, Chicken Binakol. The simmered chicken in broth of coconut milk and green papaya was truly a hit that's why we weren't able to take a photo of it. The servers had given out each of us a mini bowl of this soup entree individually so, I wasn't able to document its plating. I finished it right away, I forgot to take a photo of it. It came in a coconut husk which is a check on my list because they actually care about the earth thinking about how to reuse the coconuts in cooking the soup. Applause everybody!!! It was beyond my expectation that perhaps that's the only dish that I know, would trigger the interest of many balikbayans. It is a dish that you would never forget. Maybe not necessarily be recommended 100% to those who are lactose intolerant. But it's something worth to try. Mesa is smart in including this in the menu because I for one would want to go there again to have Chicken Binakol since they are the only ones who could make it available for me. It's like tinola with a twist.
I'm pretty sure for those who have had Filipino friends or colleagues, chicharon or crispy pata would have been named as one of the most missed dishes. Hypertension usually gets to end the conversation about it but somebody always shouts with a drink at hand, "We only live once!!!! Let's enjoy!". Analyzing this remark, yes it may sound irresponsible but most of the Filipinos choose to look at it in a different way, in a funny way. The main point is, sitting down with the family, spending time with them and sharing the best foods altogether is what they choose to live for.
So, the crispchon (Notice how they combined crispy pata and chicharon together to brag this superb viand? S-M-A-R-T, business wise!) comes and gets chopped by the server to get wrapped like fresh lumpia (with the wrapper coloured attractively green) partnered with fresh spring onions and then to taste, comes these wonderful sauces: yellow mustard with wasabe kind of spice, mang tomas sarsa (not sure, but that's how it tasted like) and soy sauce with vinegar. This presentation was brilliant, yes, but I was hoping that the green wrap was an actual cabbage wrap or lettuce leaf. It could balance it in a way by adding a source of fiber.
Overall, the idea of being able to taste tidbits of all of these delicacies fired up my senses. I had portions of almost everything, except the dessert. I didn't have room for that anymore. Yes, that's sad. But I ended up chatting all through the night while they all munch on dessert. I caught up with my niece and my nephews and my cousin-in-law, this will all be charged up to good times. I'm thankful to have this moment spent with them.
Though I may not have an idea of how much the tab was, here is the menu that may help you have an overview of what would you want to come with what and how much.
|If you plan to visit with your family, this is a good set menu to take.|
While Mesa Filipino Moderne is a sister restaurant to La Mesa Grill, it stays distinct with its authentic tasting dishes by introducing soups and appetisers and not mainly focuses on fried and grilled foods. They offer this tasty dishes to your house via "Toanyone" delivery service. A lot of branches are scattered all around Manila. You can visit their website for a branch near where you are. Each branch operates differently so, the website informs you of the contact numbers to call.
If you are Manila bound, try this warmly interiored modern restaurant with your family. I rate it 3.5 out of 5 stars. I may have spotted little sanitary issues but the food was delicious. For an added info, Mesa means "table" in Spanish and Portuguese. Philippines had been under the Spanish governance for 333 years hence the adaptation to their language.
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