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Monday, January 31, 2011

Feasting on Filipino Fusion at Mercury Lounge

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 1:42 PM

click to enlarge Mercury Lounge's Dominc Ainza turned embutido, Filipino-style meatloaf, into a variation on Spam musubi. - JUN BELEN
  • Jun Belen
  • Mercury Lounge's Dominc Ainza turned embutido, Filipino-style meatloaf, into a variation on Spam musubi.

Last night, Mercury Lounge chef Dominic Ainza showcased Filipino food like SFoodie's never seen before. Think kare-kare dumplings, pinakbet pizza, and tocino truffles ― purists may have been crying blasphemy, but we thought Ainza's menu represented Filipino creativity at its best.

click to enlarge Kare-kare dumplings topped with fermented fish paste. - JUN BELEN
  • Jun Belen
  • Kare-kare dumplings topped with fermented fish paste.

The one-night, 12-course tasting dinner featured classics morphed into playful, inventive dishes that remained faithfully Filipino.

Take Ainza's kare-kare, oxtail stewed in a sauce thickened with ground rice and peanuts. Ainza wrapped savory morsels of oxtail in delicate dumpling skins and served them with bagoong, Filipino fermented shrimp paste.

His embutido, Filipino-style meatloaf stuffed with hard-boiled eggs and andouille sausage, was a playful take on the infamous Spam musubi. His laing, collared greens and black-eyed peas in spicy coconut milk, was a delicious Southern twist on the fiery Bicolano vegetable stew.

Ainza spooned pinakbet ― a kind of ratatouille of long beans, onions, and tomatoes in shrimp paste ― worked surprisingly well served on flatbread, topped with mozzarella and Asiago cheeses. And his tocino truffles, a dessert he collaborated on with Filipino food blogger Jo Boston-KwanHull, were a huge hit. The crunchy bits of sweet-salty tocino (cured pork) were truly delightful.

click to enlarge Pinakbet flatbread pizza. - JUN BELEN
  • Jun Belen
  • Pinakbet flatbread pizza.

Ainza, a Betelnut and Poleng Lounge alumnus, told SFoodie that he may include some of the dishes on Mercury Lounge's regular menu. We hope he does.

Last night's dinner was organized by Dishcrawl's Tracy Lee and Boston-KwanHull as part of a Filipino restaurant series. The next Filipino Dishcrawl is scheduled for South San Francisco's Intramuros on Feb. 24. Tickets are now available through Eventbrite.

Read more from Jun Belen at Jun-Blog. Follow us on Twitter at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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