Tuesday, July 24, 2018

More than Ceviches : Cocina Peruvia at The Podium

"Oops, (Chef) Him did it again." 
(To the tune of Britney Spears' popular hit)

Chef Him Uy de Baron has been one of my favorite Chef friends here in Manila. I first met him back in 2008 when I got him to cater for one of my first book launches with Real Living Magazine. We corresponded all via email and the first time I met him personally was during the event itself. It was pure trust, I tell you. However, he not only stuck to what we have agreed upon but he went over and beyond by blowing us away with his delicious food and the presentation was just so beautiful. Truly fitting for one of the country's best shelter magazine. Needless to say, he was my go-to caterer for all succeeding events. Not only that, Paul and I loved his cooking so much that we're big fans of his restaurants. From Nomama Ramen back then to Cocina Peruvia at present. 

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Styled by ML of What Mary Loves
Cocina Peruvia actually has three branches already in the metro -- BGC, Vertis North and just recently, Chef Him opened at The Podium Mall. This is quickly becoming one of our favorite family hang out place as the mall is not too crowded, the choices of restaurants are increasingly getting better and better and it's baby friendly too. I haven't been to Peru and admittedly, all I know about it are the following: 
#1) You can find the Machu Picchu there 
#2) Peruvian ceviches and antichuchos are really yummy 

and lastly, 
#3) Filipinos can actually travel to Peru anytime as it's visa-free! 

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Anyway, we got to Cocina Peruvia one rainy day and I was totally in the mood to eat, eat, eat! Lunch began with a warm, huge bowl of soup. The Chupe de Pescado (Php. 300) is a cream-broth seafood soup that's filled with a huge slice of fish fillet, edamame, ricotta cheese, mussels and cilantro oil. It's so good and very comforting. One serving is actually good to be shared by 2-3 pax. 



Next was a platter of antichuchos. I first had Peruvian food when I was based in Singapore and apart from all types of ceviches, it was there that we had our first taste of Peruvian antichuchos. Skewered cuts of meats brushed in their homemade marinade sauce.

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At Cocina Peruvia, Chef Him has the Mixto Antichuchos (Php. 600 / Php 1000) which is perfect for those who are dining with a big group or if you simply just can't decide and you want to try them all. It's a mix of beef hearts, salmon belly and chicken thighs all perfectly grilled in small skewers served with chimichurri and aji antichuchos sauce. My tip is to eat the beef heart first as it can get chewy as it gets cold. My favorite though is the salmon belly. No surprise there as I love seafood and the salmon belly literally melted in my mouth. So good!

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Another must-try starter is the Mixto Patacones (Php. 350) which comes in two types: banana fritters topped with salmon, mayo mix, parmesan cheese and sofrito sauce while the other one has shrimps, avocado salsa and sofrito sauce. Ohhh this was one of my favorite dishes that day! I can have the entire platter all to myself where I'd happily pop one patacones after the other. It's carb friendly too as it made use of bananas instead of perhaps crackers, bread, potato or rice.

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Of course, what's dining at a Peruvian restaurant without having some ceviche? Try the Ceviche Mixto (Php. 290) which gives you a bowl of mussels, squid, shrimps and octopus mixed in their homemade aji ricoto and citrus juice. This is definitely like our local kilawin minus the fishy taste and smell.

Moving on to our mains, we had the Lomo Saltado (Php. 450 / Php. 1,190). Now, do you agree with me that each cuisine has its staple dish that measures the authenticity of the restaurant? For instance, there's Sweet and Sour Pork for Chinese, Tempura or Gyudon for Japanese, perhaps Adobo or Kare Kare for Filipino? Then Lomo Saltado would be it for Peruvian cuisine. I believe that most, if not all, of the Peruvian restaurants in the country has this staple dish in the menu so it's best that you order this to gauge if the restaurant is authentically good.

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Well, one look at our empty Lomo Saltado platter is a good sign that Cocina Peruvia has passed the authenticity test with flying colors. The beef was so tender and flavorful pairing so well with the generous portion of sliced tomatoes, onions and garlic. It's served with thick cut wedges which would slowly soak up the sauce making it so yummy. Chef Him made use of beef tenderloin so you can expect the beef to be soooo soft and good.

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Another winning dish was the Adobo Peruvia (Php. 350). "My oh my! This is heaven." was the first thing that filled my thought bubble as I had my first bite of this melt-in-your-mouth pork belly cooked in garlic cream sauce. The sauce is very similar of those used in a shawarma but I never knew that it would complement pork belly so well. Never mind that each slice of the pork belly has a thin strip of fat in it. Normally, I would cut it out but it's just so good that I happily ate all of it with lots of rice and pray that my cholesterol stays normal for days, months and years to come. Eat now, must workout later! Needless to say, I highly recommend this.

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If you love chicken, then try the Pollo a la Brasa (Php. 380 / Php. 750) which is traditional roast chicken dish that was marinated for 24 hours (wowee!!) with Chef Him's homemade aji and lomo sauce. If you noticed, most of the dishes has these two sauces and it's because these are the Peruvian staple sauce. Aji is a spicy sauce that's normally made out of tomatoes, cilantro, aji peppers and onions while the Lomo sauce was the one used for the Lomo Saltado dish which probably has soy sauce and vinegar among many other ingredients added into it. The chicken comes chopped up into big pieces and it's definitely a good sharing dish. I love how the meat falls off the bone making it also very kid friendly. No struggle required.

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We also tried the Gambas con Saltado (Php. 450) which is perfect for all seafood lovers out there. It's similar to the Spanish Gambas only the prawns served are much bigger and are sauteed in aji panca and oregano. More rice please!

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Speaking of rice, Cocina Peruvia has the Chifa Kale (Php. 290) which has a bit of Chinese influence added in it. Similar to the famous Yang Chow Fried Rice, this Peruvian version has kale (yay for super food!), seafood, mixed greens, ricoto sauce and topped with salsa creole. Just a word of caution though, this dish is slightly spicy so if you can't take the heat please inform your server beforehand and they might be able to make some adjustments for you.

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There's also the Linguine con Carbonara (Php. 280) which I'm 101% sure will be a hit with the kiddies as well as any pasta lover out there. I was already so full but I can never say no to pasta. I was so happy I tried it as it was so yummy! Yes, it was very comforting and it tasted quite familiar yet it's the kind that never fails to excite you still. Cream-based pasta served with mix seafood, garlic and aji amarillo sauce. Initially, I wasn't sure if pasta would be a good fit given that we had a wide-array of traditional Peruvian dishes but surprisingly, this still went so well with the rest and if you are not into rice then go for this pasta dish, I promise you won't be disappointed. Well, I certainly wasn't. :)

Ahhhh finally, dessert! The only way to perfectly end a good meal.

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We had the Galera con Chocolate (Php. 350) which is a very decadent baked chocolate tart served with dark chocolate ganache, dried figs and blue chip. Paul loved our dessert so much that I happily gave him the bigger piece. That's love, after all. ♥ However, he gave me all the dried figs which I happily ate and tried the blue chip which tasted like salty tortilla chip.

via GIPHY

In true Chef Him fashion, presentation is always top notch in all his restaurants. Take this dessert for example. Somehow, it reminds me of Moana's boat. (whut?!)

What a fun and filling lunch at Cocina Peruvia. Notice that the prices are all very reasonable given that the serving sizes are HUGE! Peruvian cuisine is not really that popular here in the Philippines but I hope, with Cocina Peruvia, Filipinos will be more exposed to new cuisines like this one. Thanks Chef Him for impressing us (and filling our tummies) once again.

*mouth-watering photos by Paul Ang

Check out Cocina Peruvia at the 5th floor of The Podium Mall, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City. Follow them on Facebook!

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