My Filipino friends were disappointed that I did not feature much of their cuisine. That’s because I didn’t have much encounters of good Filipino cuisine that suited my foreign tongue. And then there’s Crisostomo.
“Crisostomo” is a famous name in Filipino literature because of a fictional character named Crisostomo Ibarra. He is the protagonist in the popular novel Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal. Chef Florabel creatively referenced the characters from Jose Rizal’s life and work in her menu, “Leandro”, “Joaquin”, “Don Filipo”.
The menu is extensive, mostly traditional Filipino-Hispano dishes some of which with a more contemporary interpretation. No fear, the menu has photos even if you are not used to Tagalog-laden descriptions in the English menu.
1/5 Lengua Laruja
Lengua Laruja was lovely braised ox tongue in mushroom gravy served in a cast-iron pan. The mushroom gravy was flavourful with a hint of olives in the sauce. The ox tongue was braised to a tender consistency – it is easy to get the timing wrong and results in a piece of rubber.
2/5 “Leandro” Lechon Kawali with Laing
Laing (taro leaves cooked in coconut milk and chilies) topped with Lechon Kawali (crispy pork belly), I was not used to the way they used the coconut cream. While it tasted like my favourite Padang dish without the spiciness, there’s an overwhelming richness that was difficult to treat this like a normal vegetable dish.
But of course it is not normal, there’s the crispy pork belly that the Filipino chefs handle so well. In my short trip in Manila (and Makati), I have had so much lechon because it was so delicious – smoky, well-spiced, crispy.
3/5 “Don Filipo” Adobong pusit
I guess this guy must be a protagonist because the next course feature the squid ink and is glistening black, much like why the Italian called the squid ink dishes Nero.
Adobong Pusit (adobo squid) is a tasty squid dish cooked using the popular Filipino adobo method. Squid is first boiled in soy sauce and vinegar then later sautéed in garlic, onions and tomatoes. This, combined with the squid ink, brings in an awesome array of flavours that dances in our taste buds. The squid was cooked perfectly, and I simply loved the sauce.
4/5 Kare-Kare ng Kura
Kare-Kare is a stew with thick peanut sauce and prawn paste mixed with local vegetables such as eggplant, banana blossom and string beans. They offer this dish in seafood, oxtail/ox tripe and lechon. We opted for Kura (oxtail and ox tripe). Whole nutty flavors, and perfect portioning of meats.
5/5 Rellenong bangus
Rellenong bangus (stuffed milkfish) is more a special occasion dish than an everyday family dinner for a reason. The making of this stuffed fish entails a very involved process – deboning, flaking, sauteing, stuffing, sewing (yes, sewing!) and frying – and a tedious amount of work that it is usually reserved for parties and celebrations. Among the 5 dishes, this was most deliberate and least tasty. I could not taste any fish and it came out not as crispy as I expected. More like a fish skin vegetable spring roll.
I want retract my previous comment that Filipino food. While most of the eateries are still pretty oily and salty, I have started to appreciate some finer representation of Filipino cuisines in my recent travels, like this visit to Crisostomo.
I went to their branch in Resort World Manila years before and did not think it was worth a blog post. Then I did not have the advantage of a local to order the right stuff. Of course, the host was trying to impress with some “weird” things like ox tongue, offals, squid ink but I loved every bit of those dishes. The piece de resistance was the variety of sauces used for the different dishes. There’s a reason why Philippines is one of major consumer of rice, you cannot resist pouring these delicious sauces on more steamed white rice.
The restaurant is cozy, brightly-lit, and is styled as an early-20th century European cafe. Interior nicely adorned with Jose Rizal characters. While food is delicious with creative way of presenting dishes, their servings are small and a bit on the paltry side – great for small groups or those who want to try a variety. There’s multiple locations, and the standards may vary.
Recommended for first timers of Filipino cuisines.
Crisostomo Blue Bay Walk
Blue Bay Walk, Macapagal Avenue Corner EDSA, Libertad, Pasay City, Metro Manila
Tel : 02 8832-6592 • 0917-8262535
Date Visited : Mar 2017