Friday, December 29, 2017

A Whole New Look of Filipino Cuisine at Irenia

What's the hottest cuisine that is getting the makeover for 2017? Believe it or not, it's from our good neighbor from the Southeast Asia... the Philippines!

The F-Food have been massively getting a cool makeover and more progressively into a health consciousness mind of the consumers. Just maybe a few years ago, it was unfathomable that Filipino food can be delicious without looking greasy for some of our unaccustomed eyes. However the movement to modernize the cuisine that have influences stretching from the time the Spaniards introduce their cooking with the local ingredients of the Chinese, has always been met with skepticism.

To the initiated, we only thought that the food may best resembled from the buffet line of your local all-you can eat joint or worse: a bastardized version of Panda Express minus the federal guide line of healthy calories count. Not to worry, the consumption on the F-Food are now more manageable healthy, but to modernize it for the general public?..that's a challenge.

Hence the challenge is being met by a restaurant in the heart of downtown Santa Ana. Opening up a F-Food restaurant is hard as it is, but to introduce something that people might not understand, that gets more unappealing difficult.

Adobo - Slow roasted pork belly with adobo jus, ginisang mung beans, braised turnips, spring onion

I can get the adobo dish, which is meat marinade with sauce made of ingredients from paprika, oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar. Here's come the catch: how do you fancied that dish? If you were the talented kitchen staff from "Irenia", not too hard apparently. In fact, with careful consideration, they even made it looked like a pleasing dish I would get from some of my favorite bistro place when I want a pork belly dish. With the tenderness of the pork and the unique taste of the adobo sauce, this becomes instantly my favorite dish of the night.

Bistek - NY Steak, Bistek Jus, Onion Purée, Garlic, Red Onion, Toyomansi

Now comes even the harder part, how do you dressed up the ever popular bistek? Think of flatten sirloin steak with salt and black pepper seasoning. I won't lie, that is popularized by Yoshinoya with a steamed version. For the F-peeps, this is served in sizzling hot plate with a variation of quick and easy to do it well done (oh eek, if you have seen what I seen in a buffet).

Luckily for us tonight, this was glamorized with a touch of medium rare that you want to order in an upscale steakhouse. For me, I was relieved it wasn't a mushed version of our fast food joint of the "Yosh".

Bibingka - Coconut Rice Cake, Candied Peanut, Caramel, Whipped Cream, Cured Egg Yolk

Based on what I said earlier about the challenges and the difficulty of trying to refine a not-so popular southeast Asian cuisine, some of the staff was doing their best to educate about the Filipino cuisine and on what those dishes might entails.

It looks like they get a ton of questions on what those dishes would looked like. Kare Kare, Pancit, Sisig, Lechon, and such gets the uninformed crowd a muddled look at times. I do understand because of this place is not the first Filipino restaurant that needed to help the diners assimilate to their cuisine. I really pity some of the them as they do get the harder time than our Italian or Japanese pals.

Manila Mule

Purple Drank

For a cool, live crowd, there's also an outstanding cocktail program that delivers a good sample of mixology drinks here as well. The Purple Drank (think ube) and the Manila Mule (well play on the Moscow name) can be had here to satisfy the Saturday night stragglers who is looking for a fun night.

I will go on to say that this is something that is sorely needed in our days where this cuisine was badly represented with a bad version of Panda Express reminding us that many of those dishes probably was inspired by it. This was not the first F-Food modern dining I have visited and I will definitely now be on the lookout for the next wave of Filipino restaurants that hope to catch that hot trend of 2016 - 2017.

Seriously hoping it can continue if it is done like this location.

400 N. Broadway
Santa Ana, CA  92701

Irenia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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