Elia Herrera, Top Chef Canada Star Gets Real with Manila’s Hacienda
Known for its killer cocktails and authentic—albeit comfort—Mexican cuisine and fiesta-style parties, Hacienda Comida y Cócteles, which opened late last year in BGC, has garnered quite the fun-loving following. Recently in Manila, celebrated Canadian restaurateur, Elia Herrera, whipped up some of her Top Chef magic in the kitchen. According to Liza Tan-Mills, one half of the husband-wife tandem behind the restaurant, Herrera and her Canadian husband, Steve Mills, share a common friend who happily brokered the collaboration.
Welcoming everyone into his home, Mills served up his version of Mexico’s favourite libation, the Paloma. His take, the Papaloma, was a sweet and refreshing concoction of Don Papa rum, grapefruit juice, strawberry & sumac shrub, and Sprite. Perfect for summer! The appetiser of chayote jicama salad was a palate refresher. Tossed in with hibiscus, orange slices and julienned green apple, the finishing touch was a touch of cayenne and a dash of tajin spice. Next up, the light shrimp coconut ceviche was a flavourful dish with a smattering of chilli, ginger, red onion, and a drizzle of basil oil. Coconut shavings and chopped crunchy radish was a nice textural touch.
Boasting a nice thick doughy shell, the Empanada de Tinga de Pollo was jam-packed with tart queso fresco (ricotta), salsa verde, and tender chicken cubes. A swipe of prickly salsa verde, which left a wonderful tingle on the palate, surrounded the filling treat, then doused with crema and a sweetish pickled onion.
The white, perfectly cooked flesh of the mahi more than held its own against the thick corn tortilla of the Taco de Pescado a la Diabla. A beautiful dish, the enchilada sauce, velvety smooth avocado purée, pickled slaw and cilantro all came together in perfect harmony. Noticeable was the piquancy of the lime used in the dish; proof the limes were imported rather than the expected green lemons passed off as the former in local supermarkets. Comprising his favourite Ocho tequila and rhubarb bitters, Mills’ margarita was the recommended pairing here, and the taco-margarita duo, unbeatable.
Herrera’s fifth and final savoury course was a tomato-based Arroz a la Tumbada, peppered with clams, tender squid, fish flakes, shrimp and mussels. Light, tangy and filling, this proved to a great non-too-filling summery dish. Her sweet sendoff was the Churro con Natilla, a hollow pastry filled with a vanilla cinnamon custard—Herrera’s version of Mexico’s doughnut.