Singing its way to our hearts is a new restaurant located at the new Shangri La Plaza‘s East wing – Zarzuela. For those who don’t know Zarzuela, Google it! (just kidding). It’s like musical stage plays during the Spanish era but only operatic in vocals. Its what made Atang Dela Rama famous and was awarded National Artist for music.
Just like any Filipino traditions, they wanted to keep the memory alive by naming a restaurant after it and just like Zarzuela, the food they served are considered family treasures. Recipes passed on from generations to generations. They don’t claim to be authentic, but an original family recipe.
As I walked in I noticed the well lit surrounding plus the white chairs and tables that adds luminance to the setting. There are flowers on top of each table, fresh flowers whose name I forgot. Then there’s a few paintings on the wall.
The simplicity of the place is what I love about it. Very modern but you can still feel the pre-Spanish presence.
I ordered a glass of gulaman just to start of the Filipino feel and had a conversation with one of the owners about Atang Dela Rama. Gulaman, by the way, is my favorite refreshment, my fountain of youth as it brings me back to my childhood.
Then they served their own Fountain of Youth, crispy strips of pork belly with green mango, bagoong dip and tomato vinegrette. What a way to start the night! The best way to eat it is just mix the bagoong and green mango then pour it over the pork strip, then dip in one in to the vinegrette. It’s heaven, but not there yet.( though the name suggests so).
Then we head to the specials starting with the Spanish Style Bangus Belly Sardines. It isn’t boneless which everyone wish it would have been because it’s a big hassle, but you need not worry as it was cooked using a pressure cooker and the fish bones are edible. It’s too soft to get stuck in your throat. It’s spicy and flavorful.
The Cowboy Sisig. It’s made of beef and pork (Cow-Baboy). It’s sisig, nuff said.
Krispy Binagoongan is the best binagoongan I tasted. It’s really crispy, it isn’t hard to chew like what normal crispy fried pork are. It’s just like eating nachos covered with bagoong, that’s how crispy it is.
Callos Madrilena has Ox feet, spanish chorizo and garbanzos.
Krispy Pitaw is fried quail flakes. Pitaw is actually a small rice field bird and a common Ilonggo delicacy. I was just used to chicken, turkey and ducks. Never eaten a flying bird. It’s cooked in adobo then fried in flakes. They included the bones as they are meant to be eaten to. It’s nice, best paired with a bottle of beer.
Pinangat is pork strips wrapped in gabi leaves and cooked in coconut cream.
For desserts we have the Coco Cassava Cake. It’s cassava cake with coco jam.
Next on the sweets is a concentrated leche flan that has just the right sweetness in a thick custard, Tocino del Cielo. I’m not a fan of leche flans because it’s too sweet for me but this one’s just right.
My favorite among all the three is the Savor Maruya. Banana with sweetened langka strips deep fried. Then topped with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and candy of milk (dule de leche the same one in the tocino del cielo) It’s a fitting ending to a very delicious meal.
They way Zarzuela presented itself gave me this long gone Filipino illustrado feeling. I felt like walking in Intramuros or Calle Crisologo in Vigan. Zarzuela also brings the best of home cooking from the recipes passed on from generations.