When dining in a restaurant which claims to serve Subversive Filipino cuisine, it's important to suspend judgement. Pia Y Damaso does not serve the dishes that we grew up with. In fact - going through the menu - one can get confused with the dishes' names and the ingredients used. I would even say that I had some apprehension with this idea. Let's start with the name of the restaurant - why put together Pia Alba and Padre Damaso and name your restaurant after these two characters of the Noli me Tangere. Up to now, I ask myself whether Maria Clara was conceived via seduction or rape. Did Pia Alba give her consent to have sex with the spanish friar? Or was she psychologically and physically coerced? So with a name that revolves around these two characters --- you would have to either hate the dishes or understand the circumstances that the chef was in when these dishes were conceived.
We opted to take the booth. It actually felt like dining in the confessional. I can't remember the last time I took confession. Dining in a booth which looks like one seems to remind me that I have to make sure that I don't indulge too much or it will just add to the sins that I would have to confess in the real thing.
I liked the quirkiness of the overall decor of the restaurants. Why is it that Filipino cafes and restaurants imbibe quirky?
I love the print on the upholstery.
We spent a whole afternoon walking around Greenbelt. So by the time we had dinner - we were hungry and thirsty. To start our meal, we ordered this concoction: a pitcher of citrus juice with cucumber and ginger. I don't like it because I don't like ginger. But I encourage you to order it when you go to Pia Y Damaso because I'm sure you have not had any drink like it before. By the way it's called Tubig ni Maria Clara (Maria Clara's water).
For appetizers, we ordered this Filo Pastry filled with asado pork topped with glazed apple. I know - that doesn't sound Filipino. Remember my dear readers - this is subversive Filipino cuisine. So you might find something familiar and yet recognize that your heirloom recipes do not have any of these dishes. This appetizer was awesome.
Then we moved to our salad. This was a disappointment for us. It was Roasted Vegetable Tart with Shaved Malagos Cheese, Pimiento and Parsley Oil. I want my salad dressing with a little bit of acidity. To remedy the situation, we asked the waiter for some Balsamic Vinegar. They do not know what Balsamic Vinegar is. So we checked the menu and found Dalandan Vinaigrette and Jackfruit Vinaigrette. The waiter corrected us and called it Vinegray. I'm not sure what that is but I'll take it.
The Dalandan Vinaigrette definitely improved the salad. Note to self - you don't like Parsley oil as a salad dressing.
For my main course, I ordered the Camaron Cocido. It is prawns with scallops, fish, mussels, squid and potato gratinated cheese sourdough crumbs. I guess this is supposed to be a take on my mom's cameron rebusado. It's a fancy dish which has an interesting texture.
The restaurant has a number of meat dishes. The other queen ordered steak with potatoes. It's as good a steak dish as one can have for 400 pesos.
Filipino dining is not complete without the desserts. This is where the restaurant went all out in its tribute to Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. They had Dona Vicky's Brazo, Damaso's Panaforte, Salvi's Canonigo, Ibarra's kiss, Wicked Simon. All of them are displayed in this lovely estante.
We ordered Sisa's Dementia. This is truffle cake with white chocolate almond pastille, belgian dark chocolate mousse and ganache. Sounds a little bit too much? Well - it is. I consumed two spoonfuls of the cake and the rest I had to go. As I write this blog post a day later - I have not even made it through half of it.
You also have the traditional alternatives like this polvoron. That is a shaped in a duck - in case you don't recognize it. I prefer my mom's recipe over this polvoron.
While having our dessert we had tea. They were served in a pretty kettle and the waiters will give you these demi-cups. I love these cups - I wish I can take them home.
For me, Pia Y Damaso lived up to its tag line and name. There's nothing familiar in this restaurant which will bring you that comfortable feeling the way that Filipino food typically brings. This is a restaurant that can definitely leave you thinking and evaluating the meal - long after you finished it. It is not an easy meal to understand - an experience that most probably is similar to your experience in reading the Noli me Tangere.