Pia de la Fuente-Kasilag and Paolo de la Fuente
BF Homes seems to have become an incubating ground for restaurant concepts of almost every type, with new restos mush-  rooming along the length of Aguirre seemingly overnight.  It's great for us residents to be sure, but I can only imagine the anxiety of current restaurant owners as the competition heats up.  Who will last? Who will break out of BF and make it in Makati, or Malate, or Timog? One of the homegrown concepts I'd take a bet on is Mediterranean-inspired restaurant Pito & Mita, which opened doors around nine months ago.

We'd been hearing good things about this restaurant for some time, so it was with great anticipation that Cat and I went to try it out.  Everyone recommends the Spinach Artichoke Dip with Melba Toast, so we tried that, while I got the Eggplant Lasagna and Cat the Parmesan-Crusted Baked Fish.  All three are among Pito & Mita's bestsellers, co-owner Paolo de la Fuente tells me, and I soon see why.
Spanish Artichoke Dip
The Spinach Artichoke Dip is light and creamy, with a subtle and somewhat smokey flavor; I suspect they roast the garlic they put in it, and they put in just the right amount, enough to give it a kick but not so much as to overwhelm the delicate spinach and artichoke.  I want chef Pia (de la Fuente-Kasilag, Paolo's sister) to start bottling this so I can have it on crackers when reading late at night!  Add their sauces and dressings, too, that they make from scratch.  
Eggplant Lasagna
The Eggplant Lasagna is also a must-try, whether you're a vegetarian or a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore like myself.  I love meat; I want the taste of meat with practically every meal; but as with Indian cuisine, I can go vegan on this dish and not miss the meat at all.  The serving is quite generous, and though this is indeed a meatless dish, the hearty eggplant-tomato sauce and baked cheese crust together with the pasta make this a real belly-filler.  Order this to share if you're a light eater.
Parmesan-Crusted Baked Fish
And if I thought the lasagna was good, the Parmesan-Crusted Baked Fish was even better (although Cat couldn't rave enough about the lasagna).  This cream dory fillet was baked just right, so the flesh was firm yet melt-in-your-mouth tender, the whole thing crusted in a crisp thin shell of Parmesan cheese.  Better yet, while this dish can be served with a side of rice, we had it with the Potato Gratin.  Double the cheese is double the fun in my book, and when half of that is on baked potato I can get really mellow!

We may have gotten the crowd favorites but Pia isn't resting on her laurels but is constantly adding new dishes like their newest appetizers, Mushroom Alajillo, Shrimp Gambas & Assorted Grilled Sausages, and a third soup, Cream of Pumpkin.  They have started to branch out to catering, just needing a two-week's notice from interested customers.

The secret behind Pito & Mita is chef Pia Kasilag's touch with her old family recipes.  "A lot of what we serve in Pito & Mita is the food we grew up with at home," Paolo reveals.  The de la Fuentes, it turns out, are a family of foodies with a special love for Spanish and Italian cuisine.  After serving a stint as flight attendant in Northwest Airlines, Pia returned to set up the restaurant with Paolo, bringing in family favorites such as the Sopa de Pamplina, a Spanish-inspired soup that's the family's traditional Christmas soup; the Eggplant Lasagna; the Steak Salpicao; the Sicilian Chicken Salad; and the lemon-flavored Moringa juice that they serve as one of the house's recommended drinks.  Cat and I washed down our meal with the Moringa juice, and found it very refreshing indeed -- fragrant, lemony, and not at all bitter as you might fear something made from malunggay might be.
And this I think is the reason Pito & Mita will be around for a while.  Simple, hearty, delicious food, familiar enough for anyone to get into yet with that unique touch from recipes incubated in family tradition, and all that served _healthy_.  

When we asked what has been their best experience so far, Pia said it was hearing rave reviews.  "We never know what to expect from business so it's nice to hear good reviews especially from walk-in customers," she smiles.  She can deservedly add this review to their growing list good feedbacks.

Pito & Mita

Bo's Kaldereta
"Bring big appetites!"  I looked at Cat's cellphone with a mix of exuberant anticipation and, I have to admit it, a bit of trepidation.  Chef Tinette Miciano had just confirmed our shoot and sampling session at her restaurant, Twenty One Plates, and for a moment I was wondering if she'd bring out all twenty one of her signature dishes.  I certainly had no problem shooting that many, nor any problem tasting that many; what I was afraid of was getting stuffed into immobility for the next few days!

I'd heard good things already of this delightfully quirky Mediterranean-Asian fusion restaurant.  The food was said to be good, and the place really cozy.  Located in what used to be a law office, Twenty One Plates' dining area is divided among several rooms that give diners a very private, homey feeling.  The tables are spaced wide enough apart that one doesn't feel crowded at all.  Cat and I chose the former library as our shooting room, as I thought I could use the shelves now arrayed with wine bottles as a fitting background for the food.  Along with us was Doc Jon Atacador, a good friend and avid hobby photographer who wanted to see what shooting food was like.
Pork Adobo with Sherry Vinegar
Chef Tinette and her husband Mico gave us an effusive welcome then showed us the tasting menu.  I wanted to cry with joy!  For starters there would be Kimchi Rolls, beef bulgogi and rice wrapped in kimchi cabbage leaves.  Then Bo's Kaldereta, beef ribs cooked in a creamy sauce with peanuts and coconut milk; savory Korean Beef Stew; Seafood Paella; Spaghettini with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Chorizo; and Pork Adobo with Sherry Vinegar Sauce, a large slab of pork slowly braised with Chef Tinette's fusion take on adobo sauce.  I estimated there would be enough food on the table to feed six or seven people.  But Chef Tinette wasn't done with us yet; we still had to try her Frozen Brazo de Mercedes, Banana Split with Peanut Butter Cookies, and her signature Carrot Cake.

Our timing was perfect, Chef Tinette said, as she was launching her new menu this very day.  Twenty One Plates' unique take is that it only offers 21 entrees (plus a few mainstays that regulars always ask for).  Another fun innovation the couple have introduced is to brand the dishes for the patrons who like them most; so the Taco Spaghetti is now named Aaron's Taco Spaghetti, for a ten-year old boy who's there every weekend and orders nothing else.
Kimchi Rolls
The food was simply fantastic.   The Kimchi Rolls were a novelty for me, a fun and spicy twist on sashimi, that. The meats were incredibly tender, falling off the bone and soaked through and through with flavor.  I loved the way Chef Tinette combined the traditional and the new.  Having the Adobo served as a slab that had to be carved just tickled the carnivore in me pink, and the unique flavor of the sherry vinegar was exactly what was needed to cut through the fat; I'm a great fan of fat in adobo, as that's simply where the flavor is.  The Bo's Kaldereta was - and I exaggerate not -- the best kaldereta I've ever tasted, every mouthful to be savored; Cat enthused repeatedly about drowning in delight in the creamy sauce.  The Korean Beef Stew was nice and savory, not too sweet -- a problem I have with some Korean beef stew versions -- though I could've taken it a little hotter.

The Spaghettini tasted very Italian, with a hint of Spain; the sun-dried tomatoes went perfectly with the spicy Spanish sausage, all brought together with just the right amount of olive oil.  As for the Paella, I loved the freshness and quality of the ingredients, the mussels and shrimps having the sweet succulence of something caught just that morning.  Cat and I did wish Chef Tinette had added more tomato sauce to the Paella though, and I would've liked for it to stay a little longer in the oven because I love paella crust.
Banana Split with Peanut-Butter Cookies
I was already feeling quite immobile when Chef Tinette brought out the desserts.  Any more room in there?  Probably not.  But -- sniff -- this Carrot Cake is really fragrant!  A little bite, then - and another, and another, and hey, what's this plate of ice cream and stuff?  Banana Split with home-made Peanut Butter Cookies?  Pass me some!  Cathy gushed something about these cookies should be sold on their own too.  And I already know what to give for Christmas -- Tinette's carrot cake.  The coup de grace to my mobility was delivered by the Frozen Brazo.  Doc Jon and Cat just took a little taste; I finished it.   Fifteen minutes after we were done, I still found it near-impossible to stand up.

Thinking of trying out Twenty One Plates?  There's no need to think about it.  Just go!  And bring a (really) big appetite.

Twenty One Plates