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Foodies’ break

Food break!!  It’s been all business in this column lately, so it’s time to check out B&L’s latest discoveries in food row.

First on our list for this week’s column is Sangkap along Capt. Henry Javier St. in Pasig.  Like many other new restaurants, this is a collaboration of friends, one of whom happens to be a chef.  One of the co-owners is Albert Moreno, nephew of the late Charlie Leobrera of the long-running Vistamar Beach Resort & Hotel in Mabini, Batangas.  Vistamar, popular among the country’s top divers and a favorite venue for corporate events, was also a second home for my family for our annual beach forays and Albert’s twin brother Allan ran it after Charlie’s death until it closed this year.  This resort has become an institution in that part of Batangas, so we hope the closure is only for temporary renovation.

Anyway, back to Sangkap Restaurant ran by Chef Reymar Reyes. As we all know, this Tagalog word stands for ingredients which is what good cooking starts with, according to the chef who is out to promote regional cuisine.  As one enters the restaurant, the walls speak out playfully with images of colorful sarangolas (native kites), tirador (crude slingshot fashioned out of a tree branch) and sungka, made out of a whole slab of wood with several holes for dropping the small shells. This used to be the favorite past time of our lolas but the sungka has since dropped out of our consciousness for the past few generations. These games defined our childhood and seeing them on the walls evoked pleasant memories.

Chef Reymar explained that what he set out to do with Sangkap is to promote good old Filipino favorites as cooked by our grandmothers but with his own personal twist. One example is the iconic Pinoy Sinigang. Everyone, bar none, loves the hot sour broth, the meat or fish and the loads of vegetables that go in this dish, so Reymar brought with him his own take on this dish using Cebu Lechon but with a thicker broth.  I love Cebu lechon and sinigang is one of my all-time favorites, so I personally enjoyed this dish which had a unique burnt flavor when I personally visited Sangkap with my wife Babes.

Other best sellers include the Inasal sa Gata where the chicken is marinated for no less than 24 hours in onion, ginger and calamansi before it is grilled and then simmered slowly in coconut milk, and of course, their kare kare, another favorite which boasts of very tender beef and lots of vegetables in a thick peanut-based sauce and served with shrimp paste or bagoong. Yet another is the Binagoongang Bagnet served with green mangoes on the side.  As you can see, these are all regional favorites that the chef worked on.  He added his personal twist to breathe new life into them and transform them into Sangkap best sellers.

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Another wonderful discovery is Ninyo Fusion Cuisine owned and run by Chef Ninyo and his wife Cassie Laus. The restaurant in Katipunan, Quezon City is tucked away amidst very lush greenery, and the wire fence defining its perimeter has hundreds of padlocks left by satisfied customers as testament of their pleasant dining experience at Ninyo. The entrance has billowing gauzy white fabric that allows a peak into a more lush garden amidst tall bamboo plants that form a wall on one side. Clearly, while the chef-husband takes care of the kitchen, the wife has left her nice touch on the interiors of this charming restaurant.

Chef Ninyo, who took up HRM in College of St. Benilde, and Cassie shared that this restaurant is actually a 70-year old house of Ninyo’s family and his siblings readily supported his idea of transforming it into a restaurant.  Inside, they kept their antique lamps, woven rattan chairs and capiz windows and on the ceiling, they turned an old wheel into a rustic chandelier.

What makes Ninyo Fusion Cuisine different?  Well, for one thing, it is rare to find a restaurant that fuses Japanese and French cuisine.  Cassie shared that Ninyo is very creative, likes to play around with dishes and flavors, and the result is this interesting and rare fusion.

One of their best sellers is their honey-glazed hanging steak, a beautifully presented dish that is a melange of textures and flavors. It is dramatically presented and a visual treat whenever it is brought to a table.

A classic is their grilled salmon which surprisingly has been a top favorite all these years at Ninyo, according to Cassie. It is actually a simple slab of juicy salmon grilled perfectly but the chef serves it with an interesting play of colors and flavors and served with vegetables.

Their soup is served in a half shell of mature coconut, another nice touch.

Cassie presented their Japanese-inspired appetizers of Nori Sushi Taco served with Ahi Tuna, Edemame humus and Sagada mountain rice crisps; the Nose-to-Tail featuring five parts of an animal like ox tongue, tail, intestines grilled and served in one skewer; their smoked chicken meat and crispy fried chicken skin, and last but not least their Chicken & Egg.  This is egg custard served in egg shells with foie gras mousse. Everything is served on an egg tray to highlight the farm to table experience.

A standout is their Wild Spinach Soup which has coconut water as base. Their Wagyu Top Blade is served with truffled au jus, mashed potatoes and grilled eggplant with miso and grilled foie gras on top of the steak. See the interesting marriage of Japanese and French cuisine in all of these dishes?

Ninyo Fusion Cuisine has actually been around since 2006, so it’s not a flash in the pan, pardon the pun.  The relaxing ambience, the serene and gracious interiors, the lush gardens, and of course the well-planned and beautifully executed dishes all make for a successful, long-staying restaurant.

Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.

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