Mesa Filipino Moderne has long been a family favorite for celebrations & reunions. That said, it wasn’t surprising that it became the venue of choice for an extended-family lunch when California-based relations flew in for a cousin’s wedding.
Aside from the usual crispy pata (pork leg deep-fried till crackling and crunchy), kare-kare (beef offal, banana hearts, bok choi, & snake beans in peanut sauce), & sisig (pork cheeks and liver cooked with vinegar & chilies), there were also a number of interesting fish dishes.
First up: hito with green mangoes served in porcelain spoons. This homage of sorts to Thai crispy catfish features flaked catfish topped with shredded green mango, cilantro, bagoong (fermented shrimp paste), and chopped bird’s eye chili.
It’s a fascinating dish with a lot of interplay between flavors and textures: crisp, meaty yet light fish shreds, a pleasantly fruity sourness, salty pungency, and a nip of heat. Definitely a dish y9u can easily have seconds and thirds of!
And then there were tinàpa spring rolls which I’d like to refer to as ‘breakast in one bite’. So referred to because these feature several elements from a typical Filipino breakfast: smoked fish, salted duck eggs, & fresh tomato.
Rolled in rice paper and deep-fried, these were most interesting and flavorful. Alas, they also disappeared quickly!
Mesa’s spin on the binukadkad na tilapia (butterflied tilapia dusted with flour & deep-fried) has the meat pulled off the bones and served with several sauces. The fish bites were crisp outside, moist within, and had a deliciously fresh taste, not at all fishy.
That said, these dishes got eaten all up at a rapid clip. But, to me, the company made for a glorious dining experience.