One of my dreams is to have a flourishing career related to food. I could be working as a food scientist, dressed in a lab gown working in a fully-equipped kitchen. I'd be the one inventing mixes on making the next perfect potato chip or cookie for a leading food company. I'd be testing 101 flavors of ice cream. I'd be the one inventing variations of a microwave dish and propose it to the executive board. Or I could put up my own restaurant down from conceptualization to operation and expand it into a business empire. There are various foodie careers, but personally, nothing beats being a food critic, to be the know how on food through literature.
The setup would be, there I am checking my schedule and the next thing I know is that I'm restaurant hopping as a form of work. But before going to restaurants, I'd do my research research of course. I'd read press releases on line and play with google. When I get to restaurant, I observe, I order, I evaluate and I enjoy. After the meal, I'd get my laptop, write and happily crunch deadlines. Who says that by creating literature from enjoying food isn't fun and productive?
If anyone would hire me I would confess that I only rely on three strong points. First, I love to write. Second, I love research and analysis. Lastly, I love food and the dining experience. I'm not the type of person who's mentally conscious about the added pounds that come with being exposed and required to eat food. Discipline and a quick trip to the gym should do the trick.
With training and in depth knowledge about culinary arts I could easily be like that. But right now I'm just happy going restaurant hopping on my own, paying for my own meals and sharing my experiences with people to help them achieve their desired dining experience. Eating out and sharing it through my blog is the next best thing.
So that's what I'm going to do, only now, I'm going to share the closest thing that I've ever come to becoming a real food critic.
The opportunity ironically came from my sister. She has a colleague who works for a company that manages several chic restaurants in the metro. Her colleague is in marketing and one of her assignments was to invite limited number of people under specific age brackets and professional backgrounds to try out the newly improved menu of Sentro, a chic Filipino restaurant.
The only Sentro that I knew then was in Greenbelt 2, which garnered a lot of following. I've eaten there a couple of times, with high school friends and relatives from Cebu. Frankly, I'm not an entire fan of Filipino food, but I like Sentro's dishes and attempt of making Filipino food more inventive. The classic dishes Sentro's known for are their Crispy Tadyang and Corned Beef Sinigang.
But when my sister asked me and Mitch if we would accept the invitation, we didn't think twice. We scheduled to eat at Sentro Serendra at the Fort to make the dining experience relatively new. So last Saturday, November 21'st, my sister and I drove to Fort Taguig, which at that time was crowded due to the pyrotechnics show. While waiting for Mitch to arrive, we settled in and began to order.
Since, it will be the first time that I was invited to critique dishes for free, I wanted to lay down the rules first. Apparently, there were none. My sister said we could order any dish that's on the menu from appetizers to desserts. There was no limit. We would only have to pay for the drinks.
Still amazed, I flipped through the feedback booklet and learned how I would thoroughly evaluate the food. Sentro wanted to get feedbacks about the dish's presentation, taste, serving, aroma and price. Additional comments regarding service and interior were highly encouraged.
My sister ordered Kesong Puti Balls and I ordered the Smoked Fish Spring Roll for appetizers. We like the Kesong Puti Balls. The cheese used is authentic and chewy. The guava and garlic-mayo dips could cater to extreme taste preferences. It's also presented in bite-size which is a plus factor. No longer do we have to slice huge sticks to share.
But what blew us away was the Smoked Fish Spring Rolls with vinegar-garlic sauce. You could smell the flavorful fish just by looking at it. It's cleanly tucked by a thin lumpia-ish wrapper together with salted egg and fresh garnishes. What I loved about this was the flavor of the fish and its freshness. The presentation was also unique and the vinegar sauce just sealed the deal. When Mitch arrived and ate this, he was all praise.
My sister also ordered squash soup. I never liked squash so I took her word for it that it was all creamy-goodness, not as good as Cibo's, but definitely worth a try.
Onto the main course, we ordered four dishes for three ravenous people. We tried to order what the chef recommends as indicated in the menu, so we ordered Sentro's Roasted Chicken and Galunggong Fillets in Garlic. But Mitch also wanted to try the Crispy Pork Spareribs drizzled with white sauce and we couldn't possibly ignore the classic Corned Beef sinigang.
As usual, the Sentro's Corned Beef Sinigang didn't disappoint us. The dish is generous with its vegetables and large, juicy chunks of Corned Beef. Although I would recommend that instead of putting large slabs of corned beef, they should result to smaller cubes for convenient sharing. Other than that it was perfect.
The Galunggong Fillets look just like what Galunggong should be like. I love the garlic-oil mix to it. The fillets were flavorful. Eating it with steamed rice took me back to eating breakfast food. It was only missing fried eggs to complete the breakfast taste. The garlic oil did the trick to make the taste of galunggong slightly sophisticated. But I find paying 250 pesos for this dish of 10 smaller fillets steep.
Meanwhile, Sentro's Roasted chicken tasted like a traditional home-made chicken cooked in Turbo. It was juicy and the gravy helped, but while tasting the roasted meat, it was bland. It was too homey for my taste; and it made an impression that it could actually be cooked by anyone as long as they have a Turbo and ready marinade. There is nothing quite special about this.
What we really liked was the Crispy Pork Spareribs with a drizzle of white sauce. It was tender, tasty and fall off the bone. The white sauce complemented the tasty spareribs well. The three of us loved it and Mitch was able to finish his own dish. Of all the dishes we ordered, this is the only one without leftovers.
We ate like there was no tomorrow, but still conditioned ourselves to try out at least one dessert offering. After minutes of contemplating, we decided to go with Sentro's Cheesecake since we couldn't find the space to try out other Filipino inspired desserts of ricecakes, suman and bananas. When the Cheesecake arrived, I was a little disappointed of the size for its price. But what in lacked in size, made up for the cheesecake goodness. The cake itself was velvety, not too sweet, not too cheesy. It was smooth and very fulfilling. On top of the cheescake, it tasted like leche-flan so there's still a pinoy kick to it. Mitch just enjoyed the cake-filling and comically said to the serving waiter to include sugarfree desserts in their menu next time.
Sentro's dishes are traditional to one of a kind pinoy, but everything on the menu is familiar. There are no dramatic fusion that would leave us grappling. They're just trying to offer traditional pinoy dishes and flavors with a dash of inventiveness that we all can understand. After writing the reviews and making sure Mitch wrote his, we paid for our drinks and tried to have coffee in an attempt to ease an impending stomachache from eating too much.
I'd like to think that we gave them useful and honest reviews. We didn't hold anything back. Down from the interior, to the service, to the food specifics, we made sure we had something to say. It was just a small way of helping them know what to improve and what to maintain to ensure their continued success. For letting us order lots and even allowed us to have take-outs, writing an honest and detailed review was just a small thing to do. They even thanked us by giving a discount card on our next Sentro visit.
Phenomenal. It is one of the best experiences I've had, to become a valued critic and eating full chic meals for free. To share it with Mitch and my sister was also a worthy experience. I'd hate to think of this as my last.