Leg Three of our Westgate, Alabang food crawl had us leaving Sushi Ninja and heading straight for Neil’s Kitchen, a place that promises to offer traditional Filipino dishes with a modern twist. On their menu, I saw on Zomato’s info card, was sinigang paella with grilled pork belly. What the hell?, I thought as we piled into the restaurant.
Inside Neil’s is a fresh, contemporary interior that hardly speaks Filipino cuisine. Not that it’s bad; it’s so Instagram-worthy, it took a while for all the bloggers to settle down because everyone was so busy taking photos of every interesting nook and cranny. It was so bright and happy-looking, even the most sullen curmudgeon would find it hard to be in a bad mood in there.
Anyway, back to the sinigang paella. We got to meet restaurant owner Neil, who explained how they prepared the dish. As I understood it, it was like a reconstructed deconstruction: the rice was cooked in the sinigang broth, the kangkong was deep fried into crispy greens, and the pork belly was grilled after being boiled in the broth. Put together, the separate elements are supposed to resemble paella.
Now, I tend to be old-fashioned when it comes to some foods. I usually don’t like when people meddle with tried-and-tested recipes like Filipino favorites (Pineapples in adobo? Seriously?) so, curious as to how sinigang can transform into paella, I took more photos while waiting for the dish to arrive.
The dish came to the table and, after more photos, we attacked. And boy did we attack. I’d never tasted anything like it. The rice (albeit sliiiiiightly mushy) was addicting; it was sour, exactly the way rice would taste after you douse it with sinigang broth in the traditional sense. I did kind of miss having a bowl of sabaw to sip from while eating, but I have to admit, I did find myself scarfing down spoonful after spoonful of this magic rice.
The pork belly, which had been cooked twice (boiled, then grilled), was very tender, and the slight crunch in some parts added a nice texture to the otherwise soft meat. Adding another layer of texture were those crispy kangkong chips.
So, what did I think about Neil’s experiment? Let’s just say, it’s been weeks since our visit there and I’m still lusting after it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still all for the traditional sinigang, but it’s nice to shake things up once in a while. I can’t wait to make another stop there and see what else they’ve managed to transform successfully.
Watch out for Part 4.
Overall rating (based on the food and ambiance): ★★★★☆
Westgate Center, Filinvest City, Muntinlupa City
Disclosure: This visit was organized by the restaurant’s management in cooperation with Zomato Philippines. The opinions expressed in this post are based on my own experience and were in no way influenced by said groups.
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