Tuesday, August 13, 2013

XO46's Philippines on a Plate: A Food Tour Like No Other

A well- researched story reliving the evolution of Filipino food way back our very first ancestors learn how to cook,  XO46 Bistro Filipino, a restaurant located at the very heart of Makati City is now offering a Filipino food tour that is definitely like no other. With 8 beautifully plated dishes representing every historical turning point of our culture's evolution, Philippines in a Plate Food Tour is created for every Filipino food lover who seeks unique and distinct flavor - Filipino flavors that will change how you look to our way of eating.

Instead of taking us to different regions showcasing the most pride dishes of the 80 provinces of the Pearl of the Orient, Philippines on a Plate will take us back in time reliving the most distinct dish that molded the kind of Filipino eater we are now.

Educational, entertaining and truly filling, with Gabe Mercado as the host guiding every diners back in time, the most delectable story telling started through an audio-video presentation with Yoyoy Villame's Philippine Geography.

Gabe shared how was the Philippines during time of the very first Filipinos, and basing from the research that they've done for a year, one possible dish that Filipino have been eating that time has something to do with vinegar or acid.

And upon saying that, the first dish for the night, served in small portions pooling inside the clam's shell are three kinds of Kinilaw rightfully called as our appetizers.

Kinilaw na Tanigue, Kinilaw na Kambing 
and Kinilaw na Lamang Dagat

Perfectly chosen meats of Tanigue, Kambing or goat and Mussels and Oyster swimming in a pool of vinegar, our appetizers shared to us the goodness of eating fresh meat and seafood cooked in a well-blended vinegar. I honestly cannot believe that Kambing or Goat can also be cooked as Kinilaw, but I must say that it was really good, with a goat meat as tender and garlicky as that, I think I wouldn't mind having it from time to time.

Well, of course, aside from Kinilaw, there's one way of cooking that we Filipinos are known for. And from our very roots up to this day, and in any parts of our country, "Inihaw" is part of every Filipino traditions that cannot be missed.

And since back then there's one domestic animal that is so close to our ancestors, I guess they thought that it is just right for us to taste that domestic flavor suit to not only take us back it time but also to the beautiful provinces of our country - the Inihaw na Kalabaw.

Inihaw na Kalabaw

Before we start, I was asked if I have any food allergies, I said none as far I can remember that moment. But when this one came, that's the only time I remembered that I had an allergic reaction to carabao's meat, which happened in Laguna. And without telling the host about it anymore, I dig in to this beautifully charred meat contrasted by mango, buco and green bell pepper strips making it so hard to resist.

Without that rubbery feel and gooey stickiness that I experienced on my first try of carabao's meat, this dish here in XO46 made me think that I am just having cow's meat instead. The tenderness was just so perfect and the taste, though a little spicy, was balanced by the sweetness of mango and buco that also give this juice to the whole dish.

Gabe noted, after we finish this carabao dish, that with the diverse flavors that we have here in the Philippines, there's this one taste that truly speaks of our race, and its none other than "Asim" or Sour Taste.

From sinigang, adobo, pinangat, paksiw and many more, vinegar and other "pampaasim" play a vital role in our food. And giving emphasis on Sinigang alone, where our country has Sinigang sa Kamias, Sinigang sa Santol, Sinigang sa Bayabas, Sinigang sa Samapalok, Sinigang sa Miso and so on, XO46 created a dish perfect for this discriminating flavor love by every Filipino - the Sinigang na Talakitok sa Santol.

Sinigang na Talakitok sa Santol

A truly remarkable dish that also comes with Cassava, this one was my most favorite among all of the dishes that were offered to us that night. The surprisingly balance taste of santol and cassava, as well as the nicely cooked Tamilok meat set my mood and encouraged me to have more of it. And despite of the lack of rice in this dish, I really enjoyed it and loved it. And I guess the rain that night brought by Typhoon Labuyo made this one more perfect because it is truly comforting. ^_^

As our country's history moves forward and as our food tour unfolds more enticing discoveries about Filipino food, we are now in the part where our old folks learn how to exchange goods, which is historically known as "barter." With our neighboring countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, India and China open to the idea of exchanging goods, we only didn't adapt some of their traits but also their style of cooking and food tasting. And from vinegar and other natural souring agents, old Filipino now have Soy Sauce, which plays a vital role to most of the dishes now. Look at the world renowned Adobo. :-)

And here in Philippines in 8 Plates, we were offered with a dish that speaks of the Chinese influence, a dish that is so important we couldn't celebrate our birthdays without it, the Pansit! But this one, instead of having the typical full of veggies pansit, XO46 made it more Chinese with the addition of Peking Duck, hence they call this Pato Tim!

Pato Tim

When I was a kid, I do not like the taste of Peking Duck. I found its taste off with this syrup-y flavor that I really do not like. But as I grow up and as my sense of taste develops, Peking Duck turns to be a favorite Chinese dish of mine. And though, this one here in Pato Tim isn't that crispy, the meat is so flavorful giving a perfect balance to the taste and texture of the glass noodles or sotanghon.

From Chinese, Filipinos learned more cooking techniques. And so, from the use of oil and wok, which lead to frying, Filipinos then reinvents the Chinese flavor to something that suits to our discriminating palette. 

But aside from Chinese, Indians were also present that time adding some spice to the Filipino-Chinese flavor fusion. And with Philippines on a Plate shares this plate of a unique dish meant to challenge not just our palette but also our heart to try, the Binagoongan Baboy Damo is presented to us.

Binagoongan Baboy Damo

This one is actually a Binagoongan Baboy Damo Rice, and to make the experience more soothing and perfect, a cup of Kare-Kare is added. The rice is a wild rice cooked with binagoongan baboy damo with coconut milk that's why it looks sticky. While the Kare-Kare is just perfect! I'm a huge Kare-Kare fan, so yeah, I know a delicious Kare-Kare dish when I tasted one! Just a warning for future attendees of this learning and filling food tour, this dish may fill you up fast without even knowing it because the taste is so homey and really, really Pinoy.

This is the first dish that comes with a rice, and since I'm actually dining with some guys that night, guess no more, because they cleaned their plate so fast that the next dish came in quick too. Hahahaha!

And without further much ado, Gabe continues his story-telling by shocking us with a revelation that despite of having Spanish penetrating our race's very roots, the Spanish dishes that we are enjoying here in the Philippines are not really dishes made by Spanish themselves but more of the Mexicans - Mexicans who were the roots of Spanish cuisine.

And breaking the silence brought by that news and breaking the vibe that previous Filipino Food has brought, here comes a dish that brought so much color to our eyes that spells festive and Mexican in one. Oh, not to mention the aroma that will kick your nostrils. Hehe.

Ensalada de Maize

I'm glad that this one is light and has this cleansing effect on my taste buds. I'm not really used in eating corn this way, but with the avocado that sweetens and balances the flavors brought by the onions and tomatoes and corn, I can say that it tastes like a real Mexican food to me. But I honestly cannot tolerate the aroma, so if I'll be served with this kind again, I think I will say pass.

One important factor that was noted during this food tour was the the importance of the Galleon Trade, and with almost every country in the world trading with our old folks by then, the evolution of our dishes have grown bigger and bigger adding more flavors and styles that have been turning points we are experiencing now.

And as our journey back in time continuous, according to Gabe, if there's one European country that truly influenced Filipino food that will be France that let us experience that sophisticated dining style and extraordinary flavor that added elegance to our tongues. And with that, Bringhe in a bamboo stalk and Barbacoa or barbecue is shared to us.

Barbacoa at Bringhe

Barbecue topped with dressings that are just perfect to boost up my appetite once again is the another dish that I really enjoyed in this journey. Albeit there is really nothing too special about this one, the tender pork meat in this has something that even kids could enjoy. I'm really loving how despite of these dishes taken a different way,  they managed to keep that one great thing that will give anyone a hard time resisting it - the Filipino flavor. And as for the Bringhe, which is now a famous Kapampangan dish, I kinda found it salty. Thank goodness it came in with Barbacoa because the meat somehow balances the saltiness and gives this Pinoy taste that anyone can really enjoy.

As the forces of the Spaniards weaken with the entry of American in our country, not only they kind of saved us from the authoritative Spain, but also they thought us Filipinos more techniques in cooking, specially in baking. Since Americans are known for being biggie on breads and pastries, with the priest-teachers from the ship USS Thomasites, Filipinos learn how bake and create more delectable dishes our of flour and yeast.

As the final dish for this Philippines on a Plate Food Tour approaches our table, Gabe is happy to share that we are ending it in sweet way through two of the top American pastries that molded the sweet tooth of Filipinos.

Of course, there's the brownies for all chocolate lovers and the pie, but this time they are offering it with pineapple inside instead of the famous American apple.

Pineapple Pie and Brownie

Among these two, of course, I certainly enjoyed the brownies more. But for those who have no spaces left in their stomach, the Pineapple Pie is light and just enough to give you a sweet smile as you finish this journey that framed the Filipino flavor we are all enjoying now.

Philippines on a Plate is an exclusive offering from XO46 Bsitro Filipino, which is located at the Groudn Floor of Le Grand Condominium 130 Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makaty City. It is hosted by Gabe Mercado, and happens every weekend, starting at 6 in the evening and last until 8 p.m. XO46 Bistro Filipino Visayan Room is recently awarded by Esquire Magazine as one of the best new restaurants for 2013.

An 8-course dinner worth Php2800.00 is not indulgence, it is learning and appreciating Filipino flavor in a very educational, entertaining and filling way. I encourage every Filipino food lover to experience XO46 Bistro Filipino's one-of-a-kind Philippine on a Plate Food Tour hosted by Gabe Mercado. I promise you, you won't regret it for it will take you back in time the delicious way possible.

Salamat at Mabuhay kayo, XO46 Bistro Filipino sa pagtataguyod ng Pagkaing Filipino.
And yes, our food is ready to take the world! :-)

Happy eating!

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