Sarsa's second branch in SM Mall of Asia celebrated their grand opening with new inspired dishes, and by launching their brand new Kinilaw Bar in collaboration with Chef JP Anglo's mentor, legendary kinilaw master Vicente 'Enting' Lobaton.
Sarsa first opened in BGC, and from its early stages up until now (it's only a little over a year old), the restaurant has consistently been getting a solid lunch and dinner crowd, with weekends seeing longer lines just to secure a table. The restaurant is your easy-access in Manila to delicious flavors of Bacolod, thanks to its Ilonggo chef, cooking dishes both authentic and inspired to meet the modern palate's demand for creative yet comforting Filipino food.
At the second store's blessing and grand opening earlier today at Sarsa, Chef JP served to guests and media his latest dishes, most of them brand new and still yet to be priced and written on their wall's menu boards.
Sarsa's Porbidang Kangkong is inspired by the chef's trip to Tacloban, where he visited a restaurant that had something similar but served with mussels. Creamy and rich, this vegetable is filling and flavorful enough consume as your main course, tempting you to pile a mountain of rice on top of it — the thick coconut milk sauce is lipsmacking.
Inasal Baticolon (P170), or balun-balunan is one of those love it or hate it street foods–I side with the former, as I believe well cooked (and cleaned) innards will always be delicious. Every skewer (I had two) was well marinated, the chicken gizzard even tastier with a little sprinkling of calamansi.
Sarsa's Tuna Sisig (P365) will make you question if the sizzling plate served in front of you really did skip on the pork, because it's just as tasty (or even more) than the classic Pinoy pulutan. The crunchy texture comes from tuna chicharon, and added depth to the overall flavor is credited to diced lambanog onions and atsuete aioli. Not necessarily healthier, but this pescetarian counterpart is always a welcome alternative to the pork-laden one.
If Bicolanos have their spicy Bicol Express as its widespread favorite dish, Sarsa now has their Bacolod Express, a crispy pork dish served with coconut milk. Pork chunks are big, deep fried to perfection, your teeth meeting the crunch and layers of fat in one big bite.
Sinigang Fried Chicken (P420) is one of the most interesting new dishes of Sarsa, as it reinvents sinigang and serves it without any broth nor sidings of vegetables; replacing pork and beef are juicy pieces of fried chicken, with a notably sour and crispy skin. "Everyone's doing a fried chicken now, so I was thinking, what else can I do with it?" Chef JP shares. He serves his chicken with inihaw bell pepper gata sauce, to cut through the acidity.
Sarsa's new Crispy Buko Pie is like a deep fried empanada with a more delicate pastry that is sweetened. Slice through the pie cleanly so you can see how the thick strips of coconut meat stuffed inside. "At first we were experimenting with different kinds of sauces, like coffee, but in the end kept it simpler," says the chef. Served ala mode, the interplay of warm pie and spoonfuls of cold vanilla ice cream melting in your mouth is an easy palate pleaser — not overly sweet, just enough to cleanse your palate.
SARSÁ x Enting = Kinilaw Bar
Kinilaw lovers now have a special corner especially for them at Sarsa's Mall of Asia branch with the new Kinilaw Bar.
"He was crowned by the late Doreen Fernandez as the Kinilaw King," Chef JP shares to about his mentor, Enting. "What he did when Doreen Fernandez visited him was he took her out to sea on a banca, and then he lined fish and seafood; then he cured it or he made it kilaw in front of her." He also brought with him special vinegars for the late food critic and acclaimed author to pair with every seafood, which left the writer more than impressed, making Enting as one of her main sources for her kinilaw book 'Kinilaw: A Philippine Cuisine of Freshness.' Enting's vast knowledge on kinilaw has also reached Spain, with the recent Madrid Fusion events in Spain placing the dish in the spotlight. Margarita Fores and Myrna Segismundo had consulted with Enting when the two Filipino chefs were invited to a half-hour presentation on the Philippine kinilaw.
"This is his style of kilaw," the chef adds."In other seafood places, pag dating sayo ng kinilaw, yung seafood, puti na. Sa kanya, it's on the side. He slightly coats it, then leaves it up to the customer to add more. This is because he doesn't want to overcure the meat. He also hails from Bacolod, and not only is he a master in kilawin, he's also a very good lechonero."
Everything at the Kinilaw Bar, called labeled 'Enting's Corner,' will be available at market price, so prices and items will vary from time to time. At the launch, they had Tuna, Tanigue, Pasayan (shrimp), Talaba (oysters), Bulaw-Bulaw (mackerel), Bangus (milkfish), and Salmon; these are served in many variations, from basic kinilaw, to kinilaw with gata (coconut milk) and other trimmings like green mango strips, salted egg, tulapo (special chicharon), and served as sinuglaw (with grilled pork). The space is much similar to a sushi bar, where your food is prepared ala minute right in front of you.
"At the moment, we have around seven kinds of kilawin, but we will trim it down to three based on the availability of seafood, because we want to get the freshest seafood everyday," Chef JP says. "For example, for tuna, it's hard because the prices fluctuate. The bangus, surprisingly, was a hit. In the kilawin side, that's Enting, then we have kilawin served with chicharon, that's me. The kilawin here is more Negrense, because we use sukang tuba (coconut vinegar), but the Sarsa style comes in with the tulapo, the chicharon." Authentic yet playful, fresh and always flavorful — these are what you can expect from the kinilaw dishes at Sarsa, when Enting's expertise and Chef JP's culinary creativity join forces.
Sarsa MOA is located at 2F South Veranda (by the cinema entrance), SM Mall of Asia. Enting's Corner Kilawin Bar is exclusive to Sarsa MOA branch. Like Sarsa in Facebook (/sarsakitchen) and follow on Instagram (@sarsakitchen).