Saturday, July 13, 2013

Zarzuela: A Play of Filipino Flavors

During the olden days, back when Spaniards still rule the Philippines, Zarzuela was a popular stage act of the lyric-dramatic genre that has speech and musical scenes where actors incorporate operatic and popular songs as well as dance.

These days, when I hear the word Zarzuela, I think of a restaurant in Shangri-la Mall's East Wing that has a very welcoming ambiance. The place looks airy from afar, probably because of its walls made of transparent glass. The windows allow natural light in during daytime and makes for good photo opportunities :)

The other day, I had lunch there with some friends and we had a great time trying out many dishes, which definitely tickled our palates. For starters, we had a taste of the humorously named Fountain of Youth (P199). This is a nice appetizer to further whet your tastebuds for more bursts of flavor. It has crispy strips of pork belly with green mango, bagoong dip, and tomato vinaigrette. I enjoyed the combination of salty and sour in each bite.

Another funny-named dish is the Cowboy Sisig (P199). Why? Because it stands for cow and baboy LOL! Done the traditional way of braising, the grilled beef and pork meats are then sauteed to achieve sisig perfection. Yummy! Then there's the Crab and Shrimp Relleno (P499), composed of premium crab meat and shrimp cakes served with a piquant Calamansi Hollandaise sauce, which is another flavorful dish. 

If you like adobo, you have to try Sa Pula Sa Puti (P429), which is adobo with a twist. The dish is served two ways: crispy flaked and slow braised in native vinegar and garlic. Darn, but I am craving for the slightly sour taste as I am typing this! 

One of the dishes that I would come back for in Zarzuela would have to be the Krispy Binagoongan (P359). The pork is, well, crispy but meaty and perfectly complements the establishment's signature bagoong. This is a must try! 

Krispy Pitaw (P419), an Ilonggo delicacy, is a dish made of fried quail flakes including the bird's bones. If you are an adventurous foodie, go for this one!  

Zarzuela also has a lip-smacking version of the classic Beef Caldereta (P529). The meat is very tender after being slow-cooked and added with secret spices. 

For veggies, we enjoyed a plate of creamy Pinangat (P229), which I am very familiar since my husband has a lot of Bicolano relatives who usually bring us some as pasalubong when they visit Manila. This dish is made with tender gabi leaves stuffed with strips of pork belly and slow cooked in rich coconut cream with a hint of sweetness and spice. I liked pairing this with the Chorizo Rice (P179) that also appeared on our table. 

You like noodles? Then go for the Smoked Sardine Efuven (P259). This has specialty rice noodles from the Visayas paired with smoked sardines cooked in olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, and topped with flaked bangus bits.    

Drooling yet? Wait! There's still dessert! Finish off your meal with the Savor Maruya (P129), an upscale version of an old Filipino favorite made with battered plantains (saba banana) with shreds of sweetened langka deep fried and topped with vanilla ice cream. Sinful to one's diet, I know!

Or you can opt for the Warm Piyaya con Helado (P329), inspired by the Visayan chewy, pastry dough stuffed with muscovado filling topped with vanilla ice cream.  

photo borrowed from Azrael Coladilla
That meal with friends, along with the swapping of stories, jokes, and trade talk, made for a fun lunch that extended into the early afternoon. If you're looking for a place to bring some family members or friends to, do consider having your meal at Zarzuela: A Play of Filipino Flavors. I can personally vouch that you won't regret your choice. 

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