‘Almejas,’ ‘gambas,’ Spanish ‘sisig’ (with ‘pan de sal’)–well-loved Iberian dishes with a dash of Filipino
Thanks to various cultural influences, Filipino cuisine is more than a hybrid. Take fried chicken and spaghetti from the Americans, and pancit canton and chop suey from the Chinese. These various dishes are now our “comfort food.”
Some restaurants, as expected, capitalize on such merging of palettes. I’m reminded of a restaurant back in the late ’40s, which first introduced delicious American dishes such as fried pork chops and the first apple pie a la mode. My mother Nora Daza says this was where she had her first delicious hamburger, back when McDonald’s was only a nursery rhyme.
The restaurant was owned by an American named Mrs. Hendricks and yet was curiously named Taza de Oro—not American-sounding at all. My father-in-law Toti Mendoza recalled how he frequented this place in the ’60s with friends such as Marquitos and Ding (Alfredo) Roces.
Another restaurant that comes to mind is a Spanish one with a good old dash of Pinoy flavor—Casa Marcos. It was part of my growing-up years. If I remember correctly, the waiters in white long sleeves and bow ties even spoke Spanish. They brought elegance to the serving of the dishes.
Recently, my wife and I met a fellow foodie, Heidi, at Casa Marcos in Burgos Circle, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. There wasn’t much excitement in the beginning, for I could vaguely recall the taste of this comfort cooking.
As I walked in, I faced a bar, on the counter of which was a sign with a tempting offering of one of Casa Marcos’ specialties, pan de sal. The popular Casa Pandesal comes with various fillings. This was enough to get my appetite going.
As soon as we sat down, we ordered the dishes that have brought fame to this institution. And like most Spanish restaurants, the tapas were winners. We started with Almejas or baked clams. These mollusks are baked in delicious butter, garlic and cheese sauce. I just wish the clams were a bit bigger. I’m sure this sauce would work well with mussels, too.
Then came the gambas or shrimps in garlic. The dish was loaded with garlic and sautéed in olive oil; the shrimps were cooked just right. Among the varieties I’ve tried, I liked this the most.
The chorizo combo was peppered with paprika. I love Spanish chorizo, and this was also well done.
Just when I thought I had tasted the best, Casa came out with a Spanish sisig with a siding of freshly baked pan de sal. I almost died when I tasted this. There was a mix of textures and flavors—crunchy, sticky, chewy, salty, all in one. Forget the diet. You have to try this.
We were enjoying all these with a pitcher of the house sangria—a perfect accompaniment to these starters.
Then came the main dishes. The place is popular for its Tenderloin Casa Marcos-style. That’s grilled filet beef pan-grilled to your liking, and served with lots of garlic and olive oil. Baked fish is another popular item—either lapulapu or pompano.
I also loved the Kalderetang Usa and Fried Usa—or was it baboy damo? All very tender and tasty. All these while feasting on garlic rice. Sarap!
We ended with a dessert of bread pudding. Not exactly very light, but good nonetheless.
They say garlic is good for the health. Well, that’s what all the dishes at Casa Marcos have—lots and lots of garlic.
After having tried many Spanish restaurants all over, I appreciate this place even more. Garlic does wonders to most dishes; it did to the offerings of Casa Marcos.
Casa Marcos is at F121, Forbeswood Heights, Rizal Drive, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; tel. 5523781, 7037784.