Monday, January 14, 2013

PINO RESTOBAR: FILIPINO FOOD AT ITS FINEST

Out of curiosity, am I doing it right? 
             
       When I began my blog two and a half years ago, my wife's friend, Karla suggested we go on a visit to the popular food haven, Maginhawa St. Near UP, because she was absolutely certain that there are so many drool worthy places that would interest me. After doing a bit of research on restaurants there, I had settled on the fact that when I DO get the chance to visit Maginhawa, I would most likely be dining at the restaurant, "Pino". 

       Based on the reviews I read and a study on their menu, I found their take on Filipino cuisine rather unique and intriguing.. and definitely worth blogging about. Unfortunately, with my laziness busy schedule, that highly anticipated trip on the other side of town has never come into fruition. Pino's name would consistently pop up into the discussion whenever Rina and I would think of places to try next (Believe it or not, Rina and I always have a discussion when the question of "where do we eat next?" is brought up, but her participation is normally limited to the sentence, "It's up to you") but my laziness the distance often makes it its undoing. I even went as far as telling Rina, who has been wanting to try it for quite some time now, "If they had a branch in Makati, we would have eaten there a long time ago!". 

       The Last week of November, 2012. 
          
        I get a text from Maestro Spanky Enriquez, telling me that Pino opened their second branch at Jupiter Street in Makati, and I don't need to go to Quezon City to try their famed "Kare Kareng Bagnet". 

        To this very day I have that text saved in my phone's inbox, as proof that if you want something so badly and your heart is pure, dreams do come true.


        Unfortunately though, Rina was not with me. Fortunately, that only means that I will be returning to Pino very soon (Especially after Rina reads this post. Love you babe (; ) Unfortunately again, since Rina was not there, you will have to deal with my meager photography skills (If Tales from the Tummy wasn't there, I probably would have used my cellphone camera out of frustration), which included totally forgetting to take a picture of the interiors (I get so focused on the food, sorry!) 


            I was kinda bummed about not taking any pictures of the cool and cozy interiors, until I realized I had this one picture of the group that offered a glimpse of the place. The funny thing about this picture is that all the people on the table think i'm taking a picture of them, when in truth, they were just a decoy for the true subject of this photograph.. Anne Curtis. 

      If you look to the far left, Miss Curtis is enjoying her meal at Pino with her boyfriend, fellow food blogger known as "The Fat Kid Inside", Erwann Heusaff. I may not have gotten much pictures of the interior, but I have a picture I took of Anne Curtis in my blog, bringing my Stalker status to Level:Expert.

      I resisted the urge to approach Anne and tell her I truly believe we could be friends if she gave me a chance, as well as introducing myself to Erwann as "The Short Guy Outside", but I realized that if I get another restraining order, people are gonna start to ask questions, so I let them enjoy their meal in peace. (Anne, if you're reading this, I really do believe we cou-... never mind).

     I was very fortunate that Chef Ed Bugia, the brains behind Pino's eclectic menu, took time to give us a little back story to the dish, just before we dug in (or in my case, right after I dug in.. You know how it goes, "He who hesitates.. umm.. gets the last serving...?" hehe)

THE APPETIZERS


          When I was younger, my Yaya fried half a chicken for me and my three other siblings. She was unable to go to the grocery to refill our ref, so she told us to make do with what was available. My eldest sister Raquel, did a bit of a power trip, and declared since she was the eldest, she got first dibs on which part of the chicken she wanted. And since she was the eldest, her rule was the law (She was in high school and we were in elementary). Naturally she declared that she wanted the thigh part, which happened to be my favorite part as well. My sister Rose, who was dieting then, asked for the breast. I was up next, so I was left with choosing a drumstick (a part, which for some reason, I'm not too fond of), or a wing, which happened to be the only part of the chicken my brother eats.

     Not liking either of my choices, I let my brother choose first, and he of course, selected the wing. Just before everyone was about to tear into their chicken pieces, I cried foul. I said, "Wait! I haven't chosen a part yet!". Rose was a bit confused, saying, "There's only one part left!". I laughed, and said, "Of course not!". Amused, my eldest sister asks me, "Fine, what part do you want?"

     I gave them all my sinister smile and calmly replied in a manner that would have made Hannibal Lecter proud... "The Skin.".

     Let's just say, and all out sibling war began on the dinner table that night, as I demanded that they fork over their skin to me, as I claimed it as "my part of the chicken". (I even managed to throw it back at my sister that it was HER rules, not mine!).

    Forgive me for the long intro, but I assure you, it's relevant to the first dish I'm writing about.

    I realized that my love for Chicken skin encompasses my disdain for chicken cooked "Buffalo-Style". Normally the acid on it is a bit too much for me, but Pino's Buffalo Chicken Skin (P145) is a smooth mix of sweet and spice, that is glazed beautifully on the immacutely cooked chicken skin. 

    Based on experience, everyone's favorite part of the chicken is the skin, so to me, this dish is - excuse me for the lack of a better term- Frickin' brilliant!


          The Spiced Sweet Potato Chips (P160) were something right up my alley. Sliced Sweet Potato chips bathed in a tasty spiced batter and deep fried to a gorgeous deep brown hue, with a side of a Honey Mustard dip has my name written all over it!  


      Pino's innovative take on the classic Taco is the Mini Sisig Tacos (P225). From the delicately light crust, to curiously creamy yet savory sisig filling, the components had my taste buds firing on all cylinders. It's a good thing that one order has ten pieces in it, because I assure you, eating one taco is a near impossibility. 


            I don't eat squid, but I was amused with the Binusog na Pusit with Kesong Puti (P 245). It was a grilled squid, stuffed with Kesong puti and mango salsa, and served with a side of BBQ Sauce.
           


         One of my all time favorite seafood dishes, is a Catfish dish that my yaya makes. So when I hear "Catfish" in the menu, I usually get excited to try it.. even if it ends with the word "Salad". Traditionally better known as a Thai dish, Pino's Crispy Hito Salad (P195) is something I could gladly eat even without the greens. I found myself forking the deep fried shredding catfish into my mouth, getting a sumptuous crunch with every bite. The fish meat was further enhanced by the acid on the Thai Vinaigrette. Like I said, this was a huge hit when it was mixed with the other veggies, but I loved it as is.   



         When a Filipino restaurant plops down three bowls containing three different types of rice for you to choose from, you know they're not messing around. In Pino, apart from the ever dependable Steamed White Rice you can opt to have Bagoong Rice as a partner with your meal, or Mango rice, that offers your palate just a tinge of sweetness. 

            The shrimp paste flavor in the Bagoong Rice was just right, and didn't overwhelm the dish, assuring that your main course will still be the star of the show. The Mango's sweetness complimented everything I ate with it.. and instantly became my sidearm of choice. 

MAIN COURSE


         Don't be turned off by its lewd sounding name.. You MUST try Pino's Binacol (P285). All I needed was one sip for me to say, "Holy Crap". I've tasted this before during my visit to Cafe by The Ruins in Baguio.. and I don't recall Binacol being THIS good. 

      Binacol is basically a take on the classic Chicken Tinola. They use coconut water in the broth, giving it a distinct sweetness and smoothness to the soup. 


         When I was in college, I spent one summer in Bacolod. Just before we left, everyone was raving about how excited to eat two things.. Chicken Inasal, and "Kansi". Although it was my first time to go to Bacolod, the inasal craze had just started to creep into Manila, so i was aware of that. But I had never heard of "Kansi" before.  

      Kansi, as I would find out, was a more sour version of Bulalo. It turned out to be something that I didn't enjoy so much. 


             Chef Ed Bugia took the idea of Kansi, and once again, added twist that left the unmistakable "Pino" mark on the Bacolod favorite. Present is the sour broth of the traditional Kansi, as well as the cuts of tender beef. However, something that you won't find in Bacolod version, is the roasted bone marrow, topped with a malunggay pesto. 

         Though Kansi purist will crucify mo for saying this, but I preferred Pino's version to the original. Though it was still a bit too sour for my liking, the bone marrow gave the soup an added dimension of fattiness that wasn't present in the one I tasted in Bacolod, so it should shock no one that I would lean toward this one more. 



           I managed to taste the fish bits included in the Seafood Kare-Kare (Single P225/Family P495), and enjoyed it very much. Pino's trademark Kare-Kare sauce had an incredible burst of flavor, and I swear, I could eat it with rice alone.. No protein needed. 

        The medley of seafood in the dish are Mussels, Shrimp, Squid and Tilapia.
            


         You'll have to forgive me if I didn't seem to enthused with the seafood Kare-Kare. As I said, the fish was good, but I don't eat all the other seafood components.. not to mention I was too busy being focused on it's carnivorous counterpart resting on the table just beside it.. The Kare-Kareng Bagnet (P255 Single/P565).  

         Perhaps the crown jewel of Pino's menu, and for good reason. Imagine their Kare-Kare sauce, which is a blend of annatto and peanut, serves as a bed for the deep fried pork belly. The skin was cooked to a perfect crisp, and when the meat collides with the sauce, it works absolute wonders in your mouth!


           If your average Filipino restaurant offers up ordinary Chicken Adobo dishes, Pino serves Adobong Sarsi with Egg (P225). The chicken is infused with a mix of the popular sarsaparilla soda and soy sauce, giving it a unique flavor. 



       Much has been said about the glory of Pino's Kare Kareng Bagnet. But for me, the unsung hero of Pino's menu is without a doubt, the Coffee Crusted Beef Belly (P265). I'm being honest when I say this.. This wasn't just the best thing I ate that evening.. This was one of the best things I've eaten, EVER. 

     This is Sun Roasted U.S. Beef Belly rubbed in a coffee spice, topped with Bistek-style gravy and red wine onion Marmalade, served with a side of Marble Potatoes. 

     The meat had a mouthwatering lining of fat, and was melt-in-your-mouth tender. The top had a delicious caramelization brought about by the coffee rub, and the onions proved to be the perfect garnish on top. 

       When I take Rina to Pino, i'm ordering this AGAIN. 

DESSERT


            For dessert, we had Pino's amazing Mango Sansrival (P165), which had a soft wafer like base, and creamy filling speckled with bits of tasty mango. 


             Deep fried Chocolate bars are nothing new to me, but i got excited at the thought of the Chunky Choco Tempura (P125). It's a Kitkat bar dipped in tempura batter, and deep fried, then drizzled in strawberry and chocolate sauce with ice cream on the side. 

        This was fantastic.


              The Dulce De Leche Cheesecake (Slice P150/Whole P1,200) is also something I believe that you should try. A rich cheesecake blanketed in a generous drizzling of caramel, topped with Chocolate covered Cherries, nuts, chocolate bits, and chocolate syrup.   


              As a big fan of turon, I would say that Pino's Choco Turon (P125) is easily the best I've ever had. Granted, its also probably the most expensive, but for good reason. First of all, i'm glad it doesn't have any Lankgka (Jackfruit), in it, because I hate the stuff. Instead, they replaced the langka with choc-nut, which I think is made of pure win. The Turon goes perfectly Ala mode, especially the vanilla ice cream it comes with. 

     P.S.

              Some other items on the menu that were served:


The Pino-Ka Margarita

That was one big ass glass of Margarita. 

PIPINO

             Pino's co-tenant is its sister company, vegetarian restaurant, "Pipino".  


            The Watermelon Steak (P220)


Portabello Inasal (P260)

      Also, I actually loved the Taro chips that I tried.. I finished an entire bag to myself. There's a whole array of vegetarian products to choose from and take home so If you're Vegan, I strongly suggest you drop by Pipino for some Goodies.. (And mind you, I use the term "Goodies" very loosely.. we're talking about vegetarian stuff for god's sake).  


      Chef Ed Bugia's restaurants have given him a venue to flex his diverse culinary muscles. I don't think you'll find very many places that'll serve dishes as decadent as their Beef Belly and Bagnet, alongside a vegetarian specialty restaurant, that serves grilled watermelon and mushrooms. Oh and did I mention his burger restaurant, "BRGR: The Burger Project" is right next door as well?          

      With its great tasting food, at very reasonable prices, Pino is a restaurant that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone.. In fact, as of this writing, I've had two groups go to Pino on my suggestion! 

     I'll be back soon, Pino!        

15 comments:

  1. Anne Curtis Photo Bomb hahahaha

    ReplyDelete
  2. I want to try Bagnet Kare-kare too :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kare-Kareng Bagnet!?! The pictures makes it way too appetizing :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As good as the picture looks, Andrew, I assure you it tasted even better! hehe

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  4. Uy! It's Anne Curtis!!

    Also, that is one huge ass margarita. Hahaha.

    http://tastes-intentions.com

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    Replies
    1. i know! I didn't try it though.. just posed with it.. the margarita, not Anne curtis hehe

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  5. Oh man. I am missing that Kere-kareng bagnet!

    And that margarita bowl, too. From our adventures in Pino's Maginhawa branch in that fateful rainy day of August 2011 when my car battery died at 1am, we finished it. Just Love Lynne and I :P

    Ray
    for
    Lynne-Enroute.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here you go, buddy:

      Pino (And guess whose hand commands the margarita bowl? My wife, of course :P ):
      http://www.lynne-enroute.com/2012/03/27/en-route-pino-restobar-malingap-street-near-maginhawa-street-teachers-village-quezon-city-philippines/

      And the Motolite 24/7 incident: Are they really 24/7 ?:
      http://www.lynne-enroute.com/2012/03/14/en-route-motolite-battery-24-7-express-delivery-philippines/

      Delete
  6. Hi po!!!:) sabi na po eh i know you! hehe d na kami nakaintroduce that night but it was nice being there with all of you!:)) hope to see you soon!:)

    Paxie:)

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    Replies
    1. I think we were at Yabu during the Katsu for 25? hehe.. Too bad we couldn't meet formally, but I saw you guys were having lots of fun! looking forward to bumping into you in another event in the future! :)

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