ranted about that question before, curious as to the reasons for the dearth of Filipino restaurants. There appears to be only a single Filipino restaurant close to the Boston area, in Quincy, and there are less than 500 Filipino restaurants in the entire U.S. Compare that to over 43,000 Chinese and over 14,000 Japanese restaurants in our country.
So I was pleased when Chef Erwin Ramos of the Olé Restaurant Group announced they would hold a special event, a dinner comparing and contrasting Mexican and Filipino cuisines. At both Olé Mexican Grill in Cambridge and Zócalo Cocina Mexicana in Boston, they offered a three-course meal, with each plate sharing a dish from each of the two cuisines. As Chef Ramos was born in the Philippines, he has an understanding of Filipino cuisine, and it seems like an intriguing pairing. Yet there is a deeper connection between Filipino and Mexican cuisine of which many people might not know.
Starting in 1565, a trade route was begun between the Philippines and Mexico and it was commonly called the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade. Approximately once or twice a year, Spanish trading ships would sail across the Pacific Ocean, which usually took about four months. This led to a variety of Mexican influences in the Philippines, including culinary ones, and vice versa. It was an extremely valuable and important trade route, uniting Asia with the New World. The trade route officially ended in 1815 with the start of the Mexican War of Independence, though trade between the two countries would later continue again. In 2009 in the Philippines, it was declared that each October 8 would become Día del Galeón ("Day of the Galleon"), a holiday to commemorate the Galleon Trade.
Zócalo Cocina Mexicana. It is medium-sized restaurant with a bar down the right side of the room and a funky and cool decor, from statutes of flying pigs to skull candles. You can even watch them making guacamole in the dining room, from slicing the avocados to making the paste with a mortar and pestle. On a Wednesday night, it was busy and the patio probably would have been occupied too if it had not been raining.
The Los Meurtos Manhattan ($11.95) contains Woodford's Reserve Bourbon, Mexican Coca Cola syrup, Drambuie, and Mole bitters. Again, the cocktail was not too sweet, and there was a nice touch of chocolate complementing the vanilla of the bourbon, along with a mild caramel streak. As I dislike overly sweet cocktails, Zocalo did a great job with the two that I tried.
They also sell a Red (Mango flavored) and White (Peach flavored) Sangria ($6.95/glass, $21.95/pitcher). The Red Sangria was very good, once again not too sweet and the mango flavor was more subdued and did not overwhelm the rest of the flavors. A perfect summer drink.
Brazo Gitano. It is a rolled meringue cake with an egg yolk filling, and certainly had a more unique taste. The cake was a bit spongy with the filling being more like a custard texture, with a rich eggy flavor. In this dish though, I have to give the edge to the flan.
We definitely need more Filipino cuisine in Boston. Consumers would find much that is familiar to them, yet also find some unique elements as well. Zocalo has done several of these dinners before and I hope that they do even more of them in the near future. I recently ranted about restaurants that simply jump on the trendy bandwagon, rather than trying to offer something unique. Well, this is a perfect opportunity for a restaurant to start a trend, to offer Filipino dishes and bring attention to this neglected cuisine.