Come October, Sarsa will be turning four; rock star chef JP Anglo felt it was high time for a little exploration outside of his well-loved faves.
“We are so happy and grateful that people still want to eat at Sarsa,” said an ecstatic JP Anglo, scanning the full house during the very well-attended menu tasting at Sarsa this morning.
Not only were brand new Sarsa menu items introduced earlier today, but it just so happened that the chef and restaurateur behind this popular Filipino comfort food haunt did this in conjunction with his birthday celebrations. It was thus the best gift to see family, friends and scores of media members surrounding him, armed with their appetites and raring to tuck into Sarsa’s exciting new babies.
Anglo, who used to cook Asian cuisine (dabbling mostly in Chinese) in his hometown of Bacolod, had the end goal of bringing Negrense food to Manila. “It’s about improving the cooking techniques and the presentation to give our dishes an edge. Not putting any unnatural seasoning; no short cuts and doing it the right way. Our menu is a work in progress and is always evolving,” explained Anglo.
He culled inspiration from his recent travels throughout the archipelago filming his surfing/food show for CNN Philippines, Hungry with Chef JP. Anglo shared: “We’ve learnt so many things and we’ve met and fed so many people along the way. There’s still so much to learn but this was my inspiration for my new menu.” And post drum roll, here were the nine:
The deep-fried dilis with two dipping sauces: mango tuba sinamak and aioli sauce. An absolute winner in the beer-paring and bar category, this appetiser was Anglo’s self-professed favourite.
Another great entrée was the grilled prawn skewers drizzled in creamy talangka sauce and buko gelatine cubes – a nice sweet foil to the salty. Following this was the subtle and none too tangy sinigang na bangus belly with batwan and ginamos. The okra swimming in this soul-gratifying soup renders a nice round and slimy finish to the sour.
A crowd favourite was the liempo pork adobo with chicken adobo flakes and eggs done two ways. “The different play of textures, from the flakes to the braised cubes give a nice feel to the palate,” Anglo pointed out. Interestingly, he cooked the pork in San Miguel Pale Pilsen for added “body” when it came to flavour while the eggs were great additions to the dish in their different persuasions: one “poached” in oil in a wok for a crispy flaky texture; the other soft and dense.
A wondrous Sarsa creation was the squid pingangat, which was stuffed with fragrant ground pork and topped with a coconut-infused laing. The heat of the spice was rounded off nicely by the toning quality of the rich and dense coconut milk. The contender in the hearty dish line-up was the Negrense sizzling beef rendang with its fall-apart meat submerged in gata and a dreamy coconut-based batchoy stock.
Lighter dishes comprised the grilled fresh tilapia served with chilli garlic sauce and bell pepper tuba along with the perfectly grilled squid stuffed with a rather unique and unheard of kangkong pesto.
The grand finale was something rather addictive: deep fried kalabasa choco balls in pandan cream sauce. The secret? Melted Flat Top chocolate ensconced in a soft and sweet squash within a crunchy exterior.
At the end of the day, Anglo subscribes to keeping things authentic. “We have a saying at Sarsa: “I don’t want to reinvent the wheel; I just want to add better wheels.”
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