Makansutra: Enjoy multiple Filipino flavours at 25 Seeds
Farm-to-table restaurant in Pampanga serves up some new twiststo Filipino food
He was part of the opening team behind Jaan restaurant atop the then Westin Stamford hotel in 2003 and is an alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America.
Four years later, chef Sau Del Rosario returned home to the Philippines, carving a career on TV and opening a string of restaurants.
There is a movement now in Manila where top chefs seek to return to their roots and relook heritage food.
Chef Del Rosario, the Philippines Team Captain of the World Street Food Congress in Manila last year, hails from Pampanga province (a two-hour drive from Manila).
One of his latest ventures, 25 Seeds, a farm-to-table restaurant in a century-old Spanish colonial bungalow in Pampang, is barely two years old.
It occupies the spacious second level and that high-ceiling grandeur is captured in the interior design.
The menu - which he sometimes changes - is a fierce reflection of his heritage with some new takes on old flavours.
Sinigang is a sour soup (every Asian country has a version of it) and the common souring agent used is guava and tamarind or vinegar.
Chef Del Rosario's version uses taro and pork ribs. The tuber thickened the soup and contained the porkiness.The soft ribs and the smooth tangy broth, sharpened by the tamarind, held the dish together.
Next was the toman or snakehead fish pochero.
A whole fresh fish was cooked in a tomato-based stew with some greens and it was supremely comforting with steamed rice after the sinigang.
You just need to manoeuvre the soft bones out of the way (in line with keeping it real and authentic) and the sweet soft flesh will please you to no end.
Then there was the fried duck confit, done with chilli and garlic. The duck was braised till soft, then fried till crispy.
You complete it by dunking it in the black vinegar chilli dip, and again, this had to go with some mouthfuls of rice.
Ask for the Backyard Salad, a fresh bowl of radish, hand-plucked arugula and flowers in a simple vinaigrette - a refreshing counter to all that meat and seafood.
Dessert looked like bak chang (rice dumpling).
The suman, or leaf-wrapped rice parcels, came with a coco jam caramel dip, and we ended the meal with coffee.
So if you wonder what else there is besides adobo and lechon in the Philippines and dare not patronise the local carinderias, 25 Seeds is where you can take your Filipino makan 101 course.
2nd level, Dycaico Ancestral House Barangay Sto. Rosario, Angeles City
2009 Pampanga, the Philippines
11am to 10pm, Monday to Friday,
11am to 11pm, Saturday and Sunday
K.F. Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets and has his own TV shows on cable. He publishes food guides and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.