Last Wednesday, Liv took me to the food street in Ortigas Home Depot to a place I enjoyed so much I’m blogging (again).
It all started when she attended a reunion of sorts with old officemates at a place set by their gourmet ringleader, Michael. It so impressed her that in the middle of their affair, I was receiving a blow by blow account of the food they were having. She was simply overwhelmed.
Naturally, we found ourselves there a few days after.
The place is Kusina Teatro. A novel operation serving classic Spanish food and tapas. Especially tapas. Upon seeing the place, I understood that it was special. If not because of the taste, then definitely because of its uniqueness.
Coming across a Spanish restaurant camouflaged in the middle of bar country was exciting enough. Seeing huge windows offering a view into Kusina Teatro’s kitchen was just exhilarating (ok, maybe just for curious wannabe cooks like me). Visible from the street and from inside the restaurant, everyone has a view of the chefs at work and all food being cooked. A curious feature for a Spanish restaurant for sure.
We arrived an hour early because as we found out, that particular night, they were opening at 8pm instead of the usual 7pm (understandable for now because Kusina Teatro is still in its soft opening stage and they are in the process of fine tuning their operation). Left with an hour to kill, we headed to North Park resto to feed Andrea her favorite food (pancit) first.
Let me share that I grew up eating Spanish food prepared mostly by my grandmother. Spanish classics were cooked in her kitchen (with me regularly manning the vegetable station) where I had the happiest time seeing, smelling, tasting the food before it was fed to everyone else.=) A warm experience resulting in an association between Spanish food and my grandmother. An association which caused me a bit of a shock when I saw the chefs who’d be cooking our food walk into the kitchen one by one. Actually, I was stupefied. I mean there I was half expecting to see my Lola Mommy (my grandmother) waltz into the kitchen, put on an apron and ask me to start chopping onions when in walked Chef Ritchie. Calm, with a choirboy type air and looking like he’s barely gotten out of school, he’s just so young! The shock continued when he was followed shortly after by the other chefs Myka (I hope I’m spelling their names right) and Donna, who were also around the same age as Ritchie. Together they looked like classmates working on some school project (or a science experiment)... Oh, and they were wearing cool black and orange chef’s uniforms which made me green with envy.
So began the concert of classic Spanish pieces punctuated by sizzling food, clinking utensils and dancing flames. An entertaining demonstration put on by the trio of young performers as they wove their flavors together.
Gambas Al Ajilio – I loved this for the awesome, plump, nicely cooked shrimps in olive oil and garlic. No strong overpowering sauce, just beautiful mildness that highlights the big, juicy shrimps and perfectly toasted garlic.
Paella Negra- This dish really impressed me immediately by its appearance. With an option to get it for two or for five. It was presented mouth wateringly in a clay dish overflowing with shrimps, soft squid rings and other seafood which upon probing, reveal rich, squid ink covered rice underneath. The flavor is tweaked wonderfully by the citrus flavor of the lime and creamy garlic dip which it is served with.
Chorizo Flambe- My favorite beer match! Homemade chorizo served in what seems like a small serving definitely packs huge flavor. The moment I popped a cube inside my mouth I was floored by the of chorizo flavor. It was an assault of salty, sour and yummy that I enjoyed washing down with beer.
Pork Belly Confit: another good pulutan.=)
Soft and juicy outside, crunchy and tasty inside. This is Liv's favorite.
Bacon stuffed squid!!! What can I say, it has bacon. (Note from Liv: BACOOONNNN!)
Deep Fried Cheesecake! Topped with vanilla ice cream, this dessert banners a rich, creamy cheesecake wrapped in crisp skin. A brilliant dish I must say. Liv and her officemates claim that this is orgasmic and while I am not really a dessert fan, I can understand what they mean…this is really a must try.
Lead by a young and talented cast., the stars however are no actors of fiction. Kusina Teatro showcases an ensemble of young chefs with real talent, in a performance that turns the spotlight away from the setting of formal dining and ancient ancestral homes to a modern stage exploding with youth, adventure and enthusiasm.
Me and Chefs Ritchie, Myka and Donna. I just couldn't keep myself out of the kitchen...
The youthful spirit is best expressed by the establishment’s name: Kusina Teatro, an idea which casts aside what is typically fancy schmancy with something that is playful and familiar. Huge kitchen window in front, the chefs are able to visually allow passers-by to connect with their hunger through a Spanish gastronomic, voyeuristic, seduction (if I may call it that). Finally, its location along the watering hole laden strip of Ortigas Food Street, bridges the contemporary with the traditional and brings Spanish tapas to the modern, everyday crowd.
At P1,350 for a dinner of 6 excellent Spanish dishes for a company of 3. Kusina Teatro’s relatively inexpensive pricing successfully brings excellent Spanish food well within the reach of the working class for regular consumption.