Pia y Damaso in Greenbelt 5 may look slightly intimidating, but once inside, you’ll find a few dishes that will take you back to the era of Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.
This is because a lot of the dishes are taken directly from the books (remember the tinola scene? And the Tsokolate Eh?) or inspired by Noli and Fili characters. The dishes are a delicious mix of Filipino with accents from overseas.
The house drink is the Tubig ni Maria Clara (P300), a pitcher of water flavored with cucumber, ginger and citrus fruits. The drink is sweet, with a hint of cucumber coolness and the kick of ginger. It’s refreshing and slighlty peppery.
The Kua Pao Pan de Sal (P225) is a marriage of the Chinese Kua Pao and the Filipino Pan de Sal. Two big pieces of roasted pan de sal filled with braised pork belly in sweet sauce, roasted peanuts, sweet mustard confit and fresh cilantro leaves. The Pan de Sal is soft, the pork a nice mix of fat and meat. The sandwich is savory and strangely lumpia-like (the fresh kind, probably because of the wansoy, which keeps flavor from getting redundant), with the peanuts adding punch.
Kua Pao Pan de Sal
The Black Olive, Cerveza Negra and Tuyo Pasta (P275) is an oil-based pasta with a subtle but deep flavor that’s slightly salty, slightly smokey. The tuyo bits give the dish extra flavor.
Pia y Damaso’s Black Olive Cerveza Negra and Tuyo Pasta
The Nga Nga Beef Salad (P250) was named after the betel nut that was extremely popular with the old timers. The salad is divided into sections: salty-sweet beef flakes, green mango pickle, red onions, Haw flakes, cilantro and arugula that are to be piled on lettuce leaves rolled like betel nut chew and eaten with one’s hands. The result is a sweet, crunchy starter that for some reason tastes very 80’s. Assembly required!
An iconic dish in Noli is the tinolang manok. Pia y Damaso’s version, Tinola Chicken (P300) has a dark, flavorful broth and a sharp aftertaste, which is a nice surprise for a usually mild soup.
Now for my favorite part of a meal: dessert.
The Diablo (P150) is a bittersweet chocolate souffle flavored with spices and red chili peppers. I am a big fan of the chocolate and chili pepper combination and this dish did not let me down. The chocolate tempers the chili’s heat while the spices round everything out.
I love, love, love Sisa’s Dementia (P160), which I have been searching for for two years, having tasted it when it was still “Dementia.” It is a “truffle cake with white chocolate almond pastille, dark chocolate mousse and ganache,” layer upon layer of differently textured chocolate to create a dense, addictive cake. Notice how I’ve refrained from making any references to Sisa’s mental state. That’s restraint, that is.
Pia y Damaso’s Sisa’s Dementia
The De Espadana Quezo de Bola Cheesecake (P220) is a feat of culinary engineering. Named after Kapitan Tiago’s social climbing wife, what looks like your everyday blueberry cheesecake is actually an edam-based cheesecake with santol, prune and fig compote. The cake retains the quezo de bola’s sharpness, the topping tasting like marmalade. Probably the only time I voluntarily ate prunes.
A ligther dessert would be Salvi’s Canonigo (P100), a meringue-based dessert named after the novels’ thinnest priest. The vanilla creme and fresh mangoes it comes with add texture to what would otherwise be continuous clouds of sweetness.
If you’re like me, you probably sweated through Rizal class. Pia y Damaso makes Rizal fun to revisit. Like the books its food is named after, it turns Filipino food inside out, but in a good way.
Restaurante Pia Y Damaso
2/F Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center Makati