Sunday, March 17, 2013

Enjoy Traditional Filipino Cuisine at KUSE

I come from a small town in Laguna which is part of the Philippines' Tagalog region. There, we call local chefs kusinero. When there are special occasions in the community like family celebrations or fiestas, people would usually ask, "Sino ang magku-kuse?" (Who will be the cook?) Thus, being a Kuse, is considered an honor because a Kuse's reputation lends prestige to a food event, gives pride to the host, and makes everything more exceptional for the guests.

Yesterday, I got a chance to dine in Kuse's first branch at Venice Piazza in McKinley Hill, Taguig. It was launched in November 2009 and serves patrons with familiar Filipino dishes that are usually sought by the Pinoy palate. Kuse is a great place where you can satisfy local cravings and bring balikbayan guests to.

Kuse is part of the Chef's Quarter Group of Restaurants which also owns Old Vine Grille (read my food review here) and Uncle Cheffy Brick Oven Global Cuisine (read my food review here). Like it's sister establishments, Kuse is a place where you can eat heartily with friends and family as you swap stories over good food.

I love the ambiance at the Venice Piazza branch. Despite the summer heat outside, the interior is cool and welcoming. The decor, which highlights bamboo trees on one area, evokes a sense of well-being.

My husband and I, together with some of our food-tripping friends, enjoyed the various dishes that we got to try for lunch. For starters, we had a taste of the Mini Ukoy with Visayan Sauce (a crispy fried mixture of taro, shrimp, and vegetables) and Adobong Kuhol sa Gata which tickled our appetites to ask for more. 

Ukoy - P180, Kuhol - P150, Paco Salad - P195

The Paco Salad sa Laguna with Kesong Puti brought me back to those times I'll go with members of my family to the foot of the mountains near our house in the province to pick paco ferns which we use for making ensalada. I missed this dish! Incidentally, I found out that Chef Mauro Arjona Jr.'s father was a Kuse and that he hailed from Liliw, Laguna, just two towns away from where I grew up! Chef Mau, who's behind Kuse's recipes recalls that his dad was actually a farmer but would always be called to cook every time there's an occasion such as weddings and fiestas. "And he would work for the love of it, even without pay."

Sinigang na Bangus - P395, Inihaw na Bangus - P295, Garlic Rice - P120

I smelled the Garlic Dulong Rice even before I saw it. It was very aromatic and the tiny, crunchy fishes made the rice's flavor and texture more interesting. I found it a perfect fit for the Sinigang na Bangus sa Bayabas, the soup of which, I couldn't stop sipping! It was that good! Likewise, we got to try the Inihaw na Bangus that also went well with the flavored rice.

It makes me glad that I'm not a vegetarian whenever I encounter dishes like the Kare-Kare Tagalog and Pork Crispy Pata because these are Filipino dishes that I don't think I'll ever stop eating. You won't regret ordering them when you visit Kuse!

Kare-Kare - P450, Crispy Pata - P550

Before we concluded our delicious lunch, our group got to sample Kuse's Sapin-Sapin Creme Brûlée, which is a good twist to the local dessert we're familiar with, and the Banana Langka in Filo with Caramel Sauce. If I weren't already full, I would have eaten more than one of those because the filo wrap was really crisp, the banana langka filling was soft and tasty, and the caramel sauce made them more lip-smacking. I am definitely going back for those!

Creme Brûlée - P195, Banana Langka in Filo - P95

If the McKinley Hill branch (Tel. 836-4969, open Mon to Sun from 10am-11pm, and seats 50 persons) is a bit far for you, you can also find Kuse at Lucky Chinatown Mall in Binondo, Manila (Tel. 708-9576, open Mon to Sun from 10am to 10pm, and seats 70 persons) and at Eton Centris Walk, Quezon City (Tel. 709-9817, open Mon to Sun 11am to 11pm, and seats 90 persons). I'm happy to be told that a branch will be opening soon in Festival Mall, Alabang because we live near that place!

Aside from Kuse, Old Vine, and Uncle Cheffy, the umbrella group of restaurants also include Chef's Quarter, Beurre Blanc Restaurant and Wine Bar, and Larry & Mau Diner.

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