Friday, January 25, 2013

Authentic Spanish Cuisine at Casa Armas, Greenbelt 2

Being Filipinos, our local dishes are highly influenced by a number of other cuisines. We have strong Chinese influence as seen in our Humba (stewed pork), Pancit (noodles) and Chopsuey (mixed stir-fried vegetables) to name a few. Americans have influenced us with our love for steak, ribs and burger. However, I think the most prominent and strongest influence came during the Spanish era. A number of well-loved restaurants that has been around for decades showcase a mix of Filipino-Spanish dishes. Even my family who would feast on a 12-course Chinese lauriat dinner during birthdays and weddings would celebrate with paella, cochinillo and gambas on super special occasions.

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I remember my last weekend as single girl before I tied the knot with Paul, my mom hosted dinner for our immediate family at Casa Armas in Podium. Both mommy and my Kongkong loves paella and for them, the best one left is Casa Armas as most of the restaurants that they used to frequent have closed shop years ago. I've been meaning to blog about that dinner but we got extremely busy and I eventually forgot all about it. Oops.. 

Well, fate has its way of bringing us back at Casa Armas two years after. On the eve of my birthday, Paul and I joined a couple of foodie friends for a fun dinner to try a number of Casa Armas' specialties. The thought of being able to feast on paella was enough to keep me excitedly all day long.

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Dinner began with a couple of tapas, the Chorizo Frito (Php. 285) was one dish I wasn't sure Paul would enjoy. You see, he is not a fan of chorizo so I never even bothered to offer him a piece. However, he was game to give it a try and after taking a small bite, he told me this one was very good and proceeded to have 3 more slices. After all the chorizo slices have been consumed, I asked the server to keep the empty dish on the table as I was eyeing the garlicky olive oil which I later would drizzle on top of my paella.

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I'm a self-proclaimed cheese lover and I love the Croquettas de Jamon (Php. 35/piece). I remember having this during our family dinner and I simply couldn't stop grabbing one croquette ball after the other. In my opinion, I wish they'd offer some aoili sauce with this for a more umami experience.


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The Callos Tapas (Php. 250) was sadly the only starter that I didn't try. Not a fan of callos as I get tired having to pluck out the garbanzos, the peas and only to be left with a thin slice of tripe. Never mind, I'm saving my energy and tummy space for the rest of the dishes that came right after.

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We had two types of paella that evening. The first one was Casa Armas' signature Paella Valenciana (Php. 865). We always have this whenever we dine at Casa Armas as Mom loves having everything on her paella -- the chicken, veggies and a generous serving of seafood. What makes Casa Armas' paellas so good is that the socarrat (tutong) at the bottom layer of the pan is just perfect. Not overly toasted and not too mushy or wet as well.

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While Mommy loves Paella Valenciana, I love anything with squid and squid ink so the Paella Negra (Php. 975) has always been my choice. Despite the simplicity of this rice dish compared to the Valenciana, I can't get enough of the rich and flavorful negra that would playfully stain my lips and teeth all black and yet I'd still eat this with gusto.

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Aside from the huge llanera of paellas, what got all of us excited was this little porky surprise. Look how crispy and shiny the skin was.

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In a swift and well-coordinated motion, the server chopped the Cochinillo (Php. 3,995) using..a PLATE! Just to show how tender the meat was, he 'chopped' this into smaller serving sizes for all of us to share. This dish requires advance ordering as they prepare and roast the baby pig for 5 hours.Taste-wise, I got to admit I still like our local Roast Lechon as this one was lacking in taste but the meat was indeed very soft and the skin crunchy but that's all to it.

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We also had the Asado de Pollo Ensu Jugo Plato Speciales (Php. 1,130) which was similar to a Garlic Roast Chicken. I liked it and in fact found this to be more flavorful than the Cochinillo above. I just found the presentation a bit bothersome. I'll make sure to remind them not to stick the knife on top should I decide to order this for my family as this is a big no-no for Chinese. No sticking of utensils on top that resembles that of an incense on a pot or worst the use of sharp objects a.k.a. knives. Nonetheless, this one was very good and was one of the dishes that I really enjoyed that evening.

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I've learned to love and appreciate Bacalao ever since I had this at Mario's a year ago. I love the salty taste of this tender cod fish simmered in tomato sauce. Casa Armas' Bacalao was also very good and went perfectly well with my paella. I highly recommend this.

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What's a meal at the Spanish restaurant without Lengua? Not a lot of people like to eat ox tongue but I do! I love the creamy sauce that complements the tender, melt-in-your-mouth ox tongue. Casa Armas has one of the yummiest lengua in town. That's together with our homemade lengua by Manang and that of Dulcinea too.

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For those looking for a sweet ending to their meal, try the Canonigo which is a signature Spanish dessert made with egg whites and caramel sauce. It's not something I'm so fond of but others like this very much. 

*photo credit: Paul Ang

Casa Armas is located at the Ground Floor, Greenbelt 2, Ayala Center, Makati City. Like them on Facebook.

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