For When You Need a Little Inspiration
By Rosemarie Reyes, Editor-in-Chief
One of the glorious perks of living in or in close proximity to Sta. Rosa, Laguna is the sheer number and variety of places to indulge in good food, unwind and simply take a breather. Even more amazing is that these places continue to multiply, to the delight of local residents and visitors alike.
This became apparent when recent events had me craving intensely for both calm and inspiration. Work and personal spheres have been meshing in a somewhat discordant manner and I felt tired and listless, impatient and languid at the same time. Not exactly the best way to start a new year.
So imagine my delight when I decided to try one of the newer additions to the plethora of dining options in Ayala Malls Nuvali Sta. Rosa, Mestiza Cucina Filipino-Espanol, a restaurant specializing in Filipino + Spanish cuisine. The restaurant’s signage prominently displays the letter M which we later found out stands for the owner’s name, among other things.
Perhaps it was the Tiffany blue framed glass doors that lured me in (a soothing color that is also the signature color of the world-famous jewelry and accessories shop). It could also be the colorful written notes visible on the all-glass walls of the facade. But definitely, walking inside the uncluttered and maaliwalas interior settled me. Upon closer inspection, the scribbles were handwritten notes from satisfied guests. A few were bible verses that were exactly what my frazzled heart and brain needed to see and digest.
Suddenly, my new year started to look more cheerful and upbeat.
Settling on the banquet seating near the glass panes allowed for unobstructed views of lush greens. This green feature pushes Ayala Malls’ vision outside the more common look of a mall, that of an artificially cooled concrete box. I immediately felt all weight slipping from my shoulders. Digging into a superb lunch of Mestiza crowd pleasers actually brought energy back to my limbs and fresh inspiration to my mind.
How cool is that?
My friends joined me for a spread of Filipino and Spanish dishes created by the jovial and charming owner Executive Chef Carlos C. Maravilla who regaled us with stories of how he and his wife opened Mestiza on the last day of November 2017, just in time to serve the huge holiday crowd. Their concept is to promote the salo-salo where family and friends share Filipino and Spanish dishes lined in the middle of the table.
Chef Caloy, as he is fondly called, shared that the M in their logo stands for a number of things: “Miracle” (he considers the restaurant a special gift from God), “Masarap“, Masaya and their name, “Maravilla” which incidentally means wonderful in Spanish. But on top of all these, the big M stands for “Master”, who he says blesses them with people who enter their blue door so that they can feed and serve them cheerfully and with gladness in their hearts because they know that they are ultimately serving their one true, living and loving God, their Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
We started off our wonderful lunch with the divine Molo Soup, arguably the best I have ever tasted this side of town. We included healthier plates (part of our resolution to eat healthier in 2019): Ensaladang Mangga (tastes so good when you don’t have to dice all ingredients yourself) and Ginataang Sigarilyas, a must-try dish where the natural sweetness of fresh coconut milk melds beautifully with the slight crunch of vegetables and the salty dulong.
Being a Spanish restaurant, we had to have both signature paellas offered on the menu: the classic Paella Valenciana and the darker Paella Negra. We all enjoyed both and could not really pick a clear favorite. Suffice to say that we had more fun taking selfies with teeth and lips “beautified” by the Paella Negra.
We devoured the Chorizo Frito, an appetizer that could well be a meal given the Filipino’s penchant to pair anything with rice; Gambas Al Ajillo and Chicharones Orejas. Who knew pig’s ears can be transformed to tasty, crispy bits? More addictive than the traditional chicharon!
Other mains we tasted include the robustly flavored Filipino favorites Pork Binagoongan and Beef Caldereta (a combination of the recipe of their best friend and some of the things that their Lolas taught them with minor finishing tweaks). We loved Mestiza’s Callos Madrileña, a satisfying bowl of tomato-based, slow cooked ox tripe with garbanzos, olives and chorizo.
Another cool detail about Mestiza is that it has an area which can be closed off for privacy and used for small private parties or corporate meetings. At that time I was there, a group of ladies were having their bible study and judging by their easy laughter, a much needed bonding moment. You may avail of that space for your group’s food orders worth only Php2,500 on weekdays and Php5,000 on weekends. If you have a bigger crowd, the entire restaurant may also be booked for an intimate party for 25-40 people. I was told that they have recently hosted a wedding reception and a bridal shower.
Running through the menu with some inventive names brought a smile to our faces. Chef Caloy himself came up with such names as “Bahay Kubo (kahit munti)” for a pakbet style dish which contains eight vegetables (hence ‘kahit munti’) in the popular nursery rhyme. Another is “Mr. & Mrs. Long (Talong & Dulong)”, Mestiza’s take on grilled eggplant with fresh tomatoes, onions and dulong.
The chef is proud to share that they make their own sauces and bagoong. Even the ice cream is home made with natural ingredients to make the traditional Filipino sorbetes: Ube, Keso and Avocado (make sure to ask if it is in season). For more local dessert, try Mestiza’s Suman with Tsokolate (both sourced from Batangas). They especially prepare the tablea to produce a slightly bitter-sweet chocolate. Chef Caloy personally handpicked the baker to make their house bread, the Bonete — utterly delicious, substantial and originally from Batangas.
Fine food, fresh air and a relaxing ambiance do wonders for our overworked bodies and minds. We all need to step back and just take a breather.
I am glad I did exactly that one sunny afternoon in Mestiza Nuvali.
Find your inspiration at Mestiza Nuvali Cucina Filipino-Espanol located at the ground floor, Bldg E, Ayala Malls Solenad in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. For inquiries and reservations, call 0917.707.5988 and (049) 258.0730.