My past experiences with Filipino food could be summed up in two words: Lumpia and Adobo, which were always served lukewarm and swimming in grease, from the steam-table of some bare-bones divey restaurant, on the streets of Manhattan, close to a hospital. No wonder I thought I didn’t particularly care for the cuisine. But after dining at Bistro Luneta, I’ve done a total 180!
By offering a blend of the familiar and exotic, owners Jon and Janet Guanzon and chef Emmanuel Santos have created a successful fusion menu that begins with traditional native recipes, combined with touches of culinary influences from Japan, Spain, China, and Malaysia, capped by Chef Santos’ creative stylish twists. It was amusing to hear how Santo began cooking by trying to follow his great-grandmother’s recipes which she wrote down not by weight but by price– ” Mix 3 pesos of ginger with about 2 pesos of basil….”
Located just a few blocks from San Mateo’s Third Street exit off Highway 101, this 44-seat Bistro is a trendy addition to the Avenue with its immaculate stainless steel open kitchen, cheery Mediterranean yellow walls and its totally cool, sky-high ceiling artistically made from a crazy-quilt of pressed tin panels.
We went for a special wine-pairing dinner, (the owners are serious wine lovers and offer an eclectic, well-priced, wine list,) that would be worth following on your own since it was almost fault-free, except possibly the rather bland fried banana-jackfruit spring roll for dessert. After one nibble, I quickly passed it over to my date in exchange for his portion of the tasty coffee-flavored creme brulee, although I sweetly did let him have the last spoonful.
And man-o-man-alive, does Chef Santo shine when it comes to pork. We started with the Tokwa’t Baboy, (the crusty cubes of hot tofu arrived soft and custardy on the inside, served on a bed of chewy smokey grilled pork strips and dashed with a zingy soy-vinegar sauce)-a perfect balance of flavors and textures. It was followed by a memorable deep-fried crispy Pork Trotter proudly sporting a coat of bronzed crackling skin covering its rich leg meat..but since it was served with some healthy bok-choy, we figured it was ok to pig-out ( no pun intended) and happily demolished the whole thing.
Here’s the rest of our menu, ready to be printed out and duplicated for hungry diners:
Pan-seared sea scallops with Portobello mushrooms on adobo sauce
Milk fish with tomato, green onions and salted duck egg maki-sushi (deep fried)
Grilled pork-belly, topped with soft crusted tofu and with a mixture of soy-vinegar sauce
(Saint Claire, Sauvignon Blanc 2007, New Zealand)
Crispy Pork Trotters
Crispy pork leg served with baby bok choi and soy-vinegar sauce
Grilled New Zealand lamb chops on tomato pate’ de foie sauce
(Nero Misto Elyse 2005, Napa)
Barako Crème Brulee
Cappuccino-style Philippine coffee crème brulee
Banana and jackfruit spring roll
(Late harvest Zin Selby Port, 2000, Napa)
615 East 3rd Avenue
San Mateo, CA