Filipino Recipes with a Subversive Take at Restaurante Pia y Damaso
When in Manila, one of the greatest thrills is looking for unique food. It proves to be a challenge — a bunch of restaurants have been popping all over the place with similar dishes on their menus. I mean, right?? In order to be noticed, you need to have a solid concept with the right elements.
MM and I heard that there is one distinct Filipino restaurant in the Metro worth checking out, though, so we went on a mission. The target: Restaurante Pia y Damaso in Greenbelt 5.
*Read more of MM’s articles here: MM Maglasang*
What makes Restaurante Pia y Damaso different? Well, to begin with, the restaurant was inspired by books of Dr. Jose Rizal, most notably Noli Me Tangere. Chef Bambi Sy Gobio, owner and restaurateur, told us that the restaurant was originally supposed to be a chocolate shop. The initial idea was scraped and re-thought when Ayala offered her a space in Greenbelt 5. She went back to the books and contemplated on a new image for the restaurant.
Restaurante Pia y Damaso opened its doors last 2007. The name Damaso was a personal choice by Chef Bambi’s brother. A quick recap of Noli me Tangere recounts that Damaso is the name of the priest who violated Donya Pia, the mother of Maria Clara. To Chef Bambi, Damaso signifies all of the influence of Spanish cuisine to our cuisine, which in her mind was Pia.
The restaurant boasts of Filipino, Spanish and Chinese cuisine. According to Chef Bambi, the restaurant isn’t exactly what you would call fusion. It so happens that the book is simply a mix of three influences. The dishes, which are uniquely named, were translated and lifted from the book itself.
For a list of must-try Filipino foods, read this: Top Filipino Foods to Try When In Manila Philippines: Best Must Try Local Dishes
True to its concept, the restaurant screams of colonial vibe. The place, is small and cozy and has a hypnotizing glow.
It was amusing to read the menu, the resto still being faithful to its concept, as some of the items were named after Noli Me Tangere characters. It’s quite clever how they were incorporated into the dishes and the overall theme.
Chef Bambi told us that she wanted rebellious Filipino food. She relates,”I didn’t want food served on a banana leaf, or in a native setting. I wanted our food served in a way that all other cuisines are served around the world. It’s the same idea why the friars labeled the students subversive, because they wanted to learn Spanish and the friars refused for the Indios to learn it, lest they be equal to them in thinking and learning.”
Their tagline, “Subversive Filipino Cuisine” seems fitting – a modern Filipino restaurant serving its own twist, provoking traditional home-cooked meals.
On to the menu…
Restaurante Pia y Damaso’s Take on Filipino Recipes
Spanish Style Sardines with Toasted Pandesal jumpstarts the night. Simple and light on the stomach.
Almond Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon is a fun and enjoyable appetizer. Three experiences and tastes in one — on the first chew, the sweet sensation of bacon; on the second, the mushy feeling of the dates; and on the third, the crunch of the almond.
Bangus Belly Salad with Dalandan Vinaigrette. MM’s mom totally loved the salad. I couldn’t agree more. It was everyone’s favorite nomnom of the night. Bangus belly steak and egg on a bed of green beans, potatoes, aragula and tomato bathed with dalandan dressing. Yummy and healthy!
MM and I missed Elias Salad the first time we looked at the menu. Chef Bambi was kind enough to point it out, though, and suggested that we try it out. What’s the twist in this delish dish? Tossed with the greens and vinaigrette is crocodile meat. Frankly, I did not know what to expect. I’ve tried crocodile longganisa before and without my knowledge. Even before finding out, I knew something is different with what I was eating and it didn’t quite make me happy.
Elias is different, though. If I didn’t know it was crocodile, I wouldn’t even notice I was eating something exotic. It tastes like chicken and it did not freak me out. Good job, Chef Bambi!
I also liked their Creamy Tinapa, Asparagus and Fish Fillet, the creamy carbonara with smoked fish flakes and fish fillet.
Another favorite is the Pork Belly with Chorizo and Chickpeas. The pork belly is soft and tender! The chorizo bilbao is flavorful and it complements the mellow sauce. I can see why it’s one of their bestsellers.
Shortribs Rioja – beef short ribs braised in red wine, celery, onions, carrots, tomatoes, shitake mushrooms, fresh bay leaves with rosemary potatoes, is overwhelming and too much for my palette. I’m not sure… I prefer the pork belly more. Shortribs rioja is just too salty for me.
They have Rib Eye Steak in Olive Oil, too. It’s been featured in this article: 11 Steaks You Must Try in Manila: Best Steak for your Buck.
Again, another fine execution of exotic food cooking. Smoked Tapang Usa gets its deer meat locally from Nueva Ecija. It’s a must-try.
Damaso’s Kapitan Tiago’s Kare Kare is made fresh from scratch. Even the bagoong!
This one’s neat. Restaurante Pia y Damaso managed to put a twist to their rice with their Spinach, Pinenut, Garlic and Apple Organic Rice.