Nonnette C. Bennett
If you have tastebuds that love to wander off to some familiar and unfamiliar kitchens, Gypsy is for you. The name conjured images of wanderersclad in colorful garb with bandanas and wagons travelling near and far. But when I tasted some of the dishes, these were made up of the interesting food from different continents or blending many cooking styles and ingredients from parts of the world.
My first adventure was the spaghetti al Nero described in the menu as squid ink sauce, mango, basil chiffonade. This is reminiscent of Spanish cuisine, particularly the paella negra and the sweet ink of the squid. This black spaghetti sauce from the sweet and silky ink of the squid is actually Italian in origin. Although, the other versions use black noodles, this uses fettucine. Instead of other seafoods, sweet ripe mangoes are Chef Waya’s unique touch to this.
Basil chiffonade is a wonderful description of fresh basil leaves cut in ribbons. This is a mildly sweet dish further sweetened by the sweet ripe mangoes and the fishy taste is reduced by the ribbon strips of basil. A little unglamorous to eat because this leaves a black tinge on your lips and teeth, those who enjoy subtle flavors will enjoy this unusual pasta offering of the chef.
The deconstructed osso buco is an Italian style beef stew, roasted bone marrow with preserved lemons.
Courier’s publisher Toni Hamada insisted that I try this because it is as good as New York’s version of this rich flavorful meat meal. Let me describe the roasted bone marrow before all else. The rich buttery taste of the roasted bone marrow halved no equal in words. A full four inches of this is definitely to share, or else. If this has caught your attention because this is set atop the tender beef brisket cubes simmered in a rich tomato based sauce and topped with alfalfa sprouts, then you can imagine how the chewy fat and tendons melt in your mouth with each forked lot.This is beef heaven for me. This should go well with mashed potatoes or fluffy rice to enjoy the rich flavorful sauce. Bread to wipe the plate clean should put each bit of the sauce to good gastronomic use.
Who can resist salted egg pork belly? I am too much a salted duck egg fan to pass this. I am always curious about how different places prepare crispy pork dishes. This dish is brined pork, salted duck egg and curry leaf. This has skinless cubed pork cuts lightly rolled in salted egg and bread flour or cassava flour and fried crisp. There is a secret to the preparation of this dish because it was crispy on the outside but tender and tasty on the inside. The tinge of the salted egg was not too strong. But don’t look for condiments and sauces to go with this because there are none. You get to enjoy each flavor that is added to the meat.
Adlai tabbouleh with fried halloumi was our Persian salad, with a healthy grain. The exotic name was what caught us when we ordered this. We’ve had all sorts of salads and it was time to go Persian for a change. The colorful bowl of fresh veggies was a visual delight. Purple cabbage, red raddish, carrots, Japanese cucumbers, lettuce, alfalfa sprouts and peeled cherry tomatoes was beautifully arranged with adlai tabbouleh grains and fried halloumi cheese as protein.
Adlai is a kind of grain with less carbs that is grown locally which is a cross between corn and rice. Halloumi is semi-hard goat cheese that is good when fried. If you know all the textures of the vegetables, you would know how it was to get forks filled with a mix of the vegetables. My favorite is and will always be alfalfa sprouts because of the refreshing burst of the taste which is milder than togue. The red raddish was a nice addition to the common salad veggies. This has a sharp taste like a tiny dash of wasabi. This had a lemon vinaigrette with a taste of curry to go with it. If you like the freshness of highland vegetables, this has got to be it. Let me say that the Adlai is a must experience because this is novel.
The strawberry lemonade makes Baguio proud because the strawberry added to the drink is dried in heart shaped slices. This should give the lemon a sweet twist if eaten or sipped. The Americano of Taguan wakes you up after filling up with all the yummy food. There are no sweeteners to this coffee drink which is reminiscent of the story of how this coffee drink got its name. The story goes that the American soldiers could not drink the espresso in Italy during the war and asked that hot water be added to reduce the bitterness.
But my favorite part of lunch was the passionfruit cheesecake. The tarty taste of fresh passionfruit that is seasonal in these mountaintops is rarely used by local restaurants for desserts and this is a must try for those who like sour fruits. The crushed graham cracker base, creamy cheese filling and the passionfruit glaze on the top with the seeds to boot was perkily sweet and sour. Banoffee cheesecake on the other hand had sliced bananas in the creamy cheesecake filling with the taste of coffee to blend in with the bananas and topped with whipped cream and drizzled with shaved chocolate.
The foodies out there will enjoy food from different continents in this old house converted into a restaurant by Waya Araos-Wijangco who just moved her Manila kitchen here a few months ago. The breeze flows through the dining area that has picture windows that look at Mirador Hill.
Nonnette C. Bennett