If you’re on your way to Anilao for diving, make sure to stop by Pascua’s Freestyle Kitchen in Bauan, Batangas for a good old-fashioned Batangueño meal with a twist. Described as a casual dining restaurant, Pascua’s, conceptualized by the Pascua family’s oldest child Harley, offers homegrown favorites that are made modern, refined and a whole lot of interesting.
Barely 10 months old, the restaurant is already a force to be reckoned with, having amassed a dedicated local following as well as avid fans from Manila. To understand what ignited the hype and what’s driving the popularity of the place, The Gist spoke with Chef Marga Espino, who developed the menu.
The Gist: What makes Pascua’s different from other restaurants in the area?Chef Marga: We know that most of the customers, aside from the locals, are expats who work in Bauan and those who have traveled to Bauan from Manila for vacations and to go diving. What makes us different aside from our unique take on local dishes, is the kind of service and the environment that we create in the restaurant.
When you enter the restaurant, we want to make you feel like you were invited inside the Pascua family’s dining room. Our servers know our regular customers’ names, they ask about the customers day. Harley’s mom is always at the restaurant and she has been known to sit with and entertain the guests. We also ask guests for dish suggestions, and we try to include them in the Chef's specials for the month.
TG: What’s the inspiration behind the menu?
CM: The menu is a collaborative effort between Harley’s mom and I. She loves to cook and so we thought of including these family favorites in the menu. During our first test kitchen, Harley invited me to do it in their home in Bauan. While we were there, we stopped by a local bakeshop to buy “tiping,” a local biscuit and a family favorite. While eating, I thought that the biscuit would be good with a cheese pimiento dip. That gave me the inspiration to recreate local dishes and serve it with a twist.
TG: What kind of twists are we talking about?
CM: We used the original dishes and we recreated them into completely new dishes, served in a different way. We changed the build of the dish and we introduced other ingredients, tweaked or added cooking techniques to recreate the dish but without sacrificing the original flavor.
An example would be our Sinaing na Tulingan Pasta. Sinaing na Tulingan is a staple meal here in Bauan. They cook the bullet tuna fish wrapped with banana leaves on kamias in clay pots for 24 hours until the juices come out. What we did is we used the Sinaing na Tulingan fish flakes and the fish sauce to create a new pasta dish.
Another local favorite would be the simple bulanglang, or boiled vegetables in a broth. Vegetables that are used for this dish are green papaya, malunggay leaves, squash and eggplant. What we did is we cooked bulanglang and then we blended the vegetables and created Cream of Bulanglang Soup.
TG: The menu changes periodically, right? What are the latest additions to it?
CM: New additions to the menu would be the Stuffed Squid in Garlic Olive Oil, Dory Nuggets, Creamy Chicken Mushroom and Arroz ala Cubana.
TG: Which dishes would you say are the must-try’s?
CM: You definitely have to try the Sinaing na Tulingan Pasta, Pascua’s Spanish Style Tulingan, Baby Back Ribs, Adobong Bulalo, Home Style Callos, Tuna on Cilantro Ginger Chili Oil, and Stuffed Squid in Garlic Olive Oil.
This writer has had the privilege to dine at Pascua’s twice – the first one, right after it opened last year and the second, one, just last month. And the improvement we noticed, in terms of taste, serving size and presentation, was commendable. Now we can confidently say that you really, really have to go try it yourself.
Pascua’s Freestyle Kitchen is located at F. Mangobos St., Poblacion 1, Bauan, Batangas. Go to pascuasfreestylekitchen.ops.ph for more details.
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