With just a few days left on our vacation, my high school friends and I decided to have lunch together at Mesa, a Filipino restaurant partly owned by Kiko Pangilinan.
Now, prior to visiting the place, my friend who recommended it was all praises, and lots of food blogs out there were also raving about it so I was quite excited to eat there.
First disappointment though, came in that they didn’t have ALL the things I wanted – no baked tahong and no dalandan juice, even though these two were prominently displayed on their huge menu and are staples in any self-respecting Pinoy resto.
Since my initial orders were not available, I just let Lei order all the food for our group. We had the Sinigang na Salmon Head (Php 180 good for five), Boneless Tilapya (Php 290), Crispy Duck (Php 390), Laing Two Ways (Php 120) and Duck Basil Fried Rice (Php 180 good for 2-3).
Now, I have very high standards on Filipino food – I grew up with a grandma for a cook, a chef for an aunt, and parents who cook nice delicious food (except on days when my mom gets health issues anxiety and decides to forego ALL seasoning), so I am very particular about the dishes and the usage of each kind of spice and seasoning.
And I must say, for all the hype and rave reviews, Mesa falls flat on my scorecard. The tilapya, while nicely done, seems to have lost that distinctly sweet fishy taste I have grown to love when my father fries or grills a tilapya. The sauces are nothing spectacular too – fish sauce with chili, bagoong, and two others I couldn’t remember. They would have done better if they had mango salsa instead. And soy sauce with pepper and calamansi. Or achara.
The crispy duck, which we expected to be somewhat special, was plain ordinary (sorry for the synonyms – just emphasizing my point). There was no taste to distinguish it from say, a chicken and I was almost sorry we ordered it at all.
As for the laing, it doesn’t even deserve to be mentioned. I tasted better laings – from my officemate’s homemade Laing to our neighborhood carinderia to my own mom’s laing. The dry version was tasteless while the “wet” version had no spice to it, even though I spied a chili on top of it.
The sinigang didn’t have the “asim” factor I have come to associate with sinigang (but of course, it ain’t sinigang if it’s not sour) and doesn’t really stand out. It was just your usual sinigang.
Now, it’s not all bad.I did enjoy the duck basil fried rice – helped myself twice. But I still prefer my own fried rice. Hahaha.
Given that Mesa prices are quite cheap, it’s a very good alternative to the more upscale restos in the area. Our bill only came in at Php 1,670 for our group of five, complete with shakes, buko, and three glasses of bottomless iced tea, and that’s nothing compared when you eat at say, John and Yoko, where a lunch for two could easily come at Php 2,000.
Will I come back? Probably, if only to try out other offerings on their menu. Who knows? Maybe they have some really nice stuff which we didn’t order.