A Family Celebration at Mesa

My kid sister Isabelle, now a Nursing junior over at the Makati Medical Center’s Remedios T. Romualdez Memorial Schools, recently celebrated her capping – that lovely time in a nursing student’s life when she gets to wear the cap that has become the profession’s identifying badge. (Goodness me, how time flies! Why, she was only a baby last I looked…tsk.) We were all so proud of her that I decided to take everyone out to lunch over at Mesa at Greenbelt V.

Mesa is the fine-dining spin-off of the Lamesa Grill, a rather popular pair of restaurants located at the TriNoMa and at the Mall of Asia. This is to say that, while it serves the same homespun cuisine as its sister establishments, Mesa does so with more class and certainly a bit more panache. Nevertheless, the prices are quite reasonable, the servings are hefty, and the flavors are all quite interesting.

We started the meal with an interesting take on sisig, that highly savory concoction made of pork cheeks, ears, and a bit of liver. Sisig is normally served sizzling on a hotplate with a couple of halved kalamansi for squeezing on the side. Mesa, however, swanks up this classic bit of bar chow via Sisig in a Pouch (P 180.00): generous helpings of sisig wrapped in rice paper and deep fried. The resulting dumplings have a delectable crunch balanced by the chewiness of the pork bits within. The pouches were, strangely enough, not very greasy despite having been deep fried. The pork inside was well-seasoned, making the small dish of spiced vinegar that came with the dish almost unnecessary. The only thing I didn’t like about this dish was the fact that the wrapper was rather salty. Hmm…

Because Isabelle is just plain mad about shellfish, ordering the baked tahong [mussels] with cheese (P 150.00) was a must. This particular appetizer was done well: tender mussels topped with a mouthwatering mix of cheese, chives, and toasted garlic. No complaints here at all.

Not shown here, but our next course consisted of steaming bowls of Salmon Head Sinigang. The soup was good, just the right balance of sourness and the natural taste of the fish. Still, it left me hankering for the salmon sinigang served over at Ulo-ulo sa Malakas.

Still, the soup whetted our appetites for the glorious bounty of grilled goodies that came next: Mesa’s Sama-samang Inihaw Platter (P 390.00). As its name suggests, it is a combination of various grilled meats and seafood. In this case, it consisted of pork barbecue, grilled pork belly, prawns, a quarter of chicken (the thigh-and-leg-part, thank goodness!), a section of bangus [milkfish] belly], and even more mussels.

The pork barbecue was the stuff foodie dreams are made of: exquisitely tender pork grilled to smoky perfection, each bite almost melting in one’s mouth. The prawns were equally good: they practically dripped with buttery goodness with a good kalamansi tang to keep them from being cloying; plus, they had a bit of crunch when bitten into – always a good sign for a prawn junkie like me. 😀 The pork belly was rather tough though it did taste wonderful.

Alas, I wasn’t able to sample the chicken (my brother had dibs on that), the milkfish belly (Dad never stopped almost the second he tasted it), and, of course, the mussels.

The last thing that came to the table was one of my personal favorites: crispy boneless hito [catfish] with green mango salad (P 320.00). Imagine: tender, almost milky-tasting catfish meat covered by a crunchy tempura-like outer crust. Eat this with the tangy mango salad and a bit of the bagoong [shrimp paste] served on the side and, oh! I don’t think even angels can eat this well! I don’t know about everyone else, but this dish was pure ambrosia for me.

To say that the plates were all empty at the end of the meal would be a gross understatement. It was like the platters had all been licked clean! My sister declared she was definitely more than a little stuffed. Well, so she said till I asked if anyone wanted dessert. But that, dear SybDive readers, is a story for tomorrow… 😉