You don't to travel all the way up to Ilocos to savor Ilocano dishes. Balai Ilocos serves home-grown recipes that have been preserved for many generations by Chef Niño Mendoza's family, who hails from Paoay, Ilocos Norte.
Balai Ilocos is an Ilocano specialty restaurant that started out in Pagsanjan, Laguna. With the success of its pilot restaurant, Princess Aquino (Chef Niño's mom), finally decided to branch out in BF Homes Parañaque under Chef Niño's expertise. Chef Niño manages the Parañaque Branch while Francesco Mahamoud (his stepdad) manages the Pagsanjan Branch.
|Clockwise from Right to Left: Kalderetang Baka, Pinakbet, Dinakdakan, Gambas ni Pat and Binagoongang Bagnet|
It has been ages since I last gone to Ilocos Norte and so I immediately agreed on to a foodie meetup at Balai Ilocos. The gustatory experience would surely be a trip down memory lane, I anticipated.
Bagnet is the popular Ilocano version of a deep-fried pork belly known for its crunchy goodness. It is a cross between Chicharon and Lechon Kawali, making the pork skin, fat and the lean meat all crispy.
Binagoongang Bagnet was chopped bite-size pieces of Bagnet served with diced tomatoes, onions and sweet bagoong (shrimp paste). Bagnet is a gastronomic delight in itself and it’s even more satisfying to savor Bagnet in many ways. This twice the crunch, mouthwatering slab of deep-fried pork is to die for! Each bite mixed with the ensalada mix was heavenly!
They offer crispy sisig made from bagnet with chopped chili peppers, onions and mayonnaise. It looks like pulled pork made crispy, a far cry from the pork cheeks and ears sisig recipe I got used to that even uses brain as a binder.
Dinakdakan is another pride of the Ilocano cuisine that we got to try. Dinakdakan differs from sisig in size. Dinakdakan is cut in small cubes while sisig comes finely chopped. Chef Niño take on Dinakdakan is diced pork meat combined with vinegar, chillies and other seasonings.
They also serve delectable Spanish food that we have grown accustomed to. I got to taste Gambas (prawns in garlic oil), Kaldereta (usually a goat stew) and Mechado (a beef casserole).
|Gambas ni Pat|
|Di Makakalimutang Mechado|
Di Makakalimutang Mechado is what I love most! This tomato sauce-based casserole reminded me of hearty lunches spent over at my grandmother's home when I was just a kid. Chef Niño's version uses inhouse tomato sauce making it more delicious. Beef meat waas slow-cooked to perfection! It was tender and moist! The adequate moisture of the beef results to a flavorful and savory feast.
We had Maruya a la Mode (Banana Fritters) for dessert. Mashed, ripe plantain bananas were mixed with a pancake batter and fried. The sugar-dusted maruya then is served with vanilla ice cream. It was perfect to cap a gastronomic experience. I love its simplicity. It reminds me of home.
Go to Balai Ilocos for a phenomenal Ilocano meal!
188-D Aguirre Avenue
BF Homes Parañaque