It took a trip to Mexico for Hylton Le Roux to get his creative juices flowing and to come up with a range of new Latin American dishes. The chef de cuisine of Solaire Resort and Casino’s Waterside restaurant recently spent a week there with his wife and their two school-age kids in tow.
Together, they visited tourist spots as well as places only the locals frequented like the wet markets.
“We ate everything, fresh salads, tacos and tostadas, the whole lot,” Le Roux told Inquirer Lifestyle. At one point during a market visit, they turned a corner and, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a man butchering a goat.
“I considered shielding my daughter from the sight but as it turned out, she was okay with it. She even said it was ‘cool.’ I think it’s healthy for people to know where the food they eat comes from—and it’s not from the refrigerator.”
Over the next few days in Mexico, Le Roux noticed how Mexican cuisine in particular—and Latin American cooking, in general—shares similarities with Filipino food. “They use a lot of sawsawan (dipping sauces) at the table, and they like their pickles like Filipinos savor different types of atchara,” he said.
They also incorporate a lot of fresh lime into their food the way we squeeze calamansi over ours, the tart brightness providing a tingling citrus blast. For Le Roux, the dish that really caught his attention was caldo de res (Mexican beef soup) that is similar to our bulalo as it also consists of slow-boiled beef shanks, marrow-filled beef bones, vegetables and corn.
Like Pinoy food
The chef has lived and worked in the country for 10 years thus his familiarity with Pinoy fare. Caldo de res was the “trigger” that led him to come up with a new Latin American-inspired menu for Waterside.
Local guests are sure to note the similarities especially with dishes like ceviche, tuna tostada and albondigas. The chef also has several soft taco options with a choice of sisig, pork carnitas or beef barbacoa. Main dishes include arroz con mariscos, pollo guisado, escabeche de pescado, Cuban-style suckling pig carnitas, and the aforementioned caldo de res.
For dessert, he sent out four: pumpkin flan, Mexican bread pudding, chocolate coffee cream slice, and churros and chocolate.
“We tried to stay as close to the real thing as possible by importing spices, chili paste, avocados, and even sometimes the tomatoes,” he said. To get more people interested in the new menu, the Waterside staff was trained to describe the dishes properly, and to draw the connection or point out similarities shared with Pinoy cooking, if needed.
“There’s so much more we can develop with this menu. I think we’ve only scratched the surface; I’m looking forward to heading back to Mexico within the year to taste new things, and source new products,” Le Roux said.
Waterside is at Solaire Resort and Casino. Tel. 888-8888