Food

Chef JP Anglo Shows Us How Far He Can Push Filipino Food

Sarsa evolves with playful yet restrained new dishes
IMAGE Idge Mendiola
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There seems to be no stopping Chef JP Anglo when it comes to reimagining Filipino food. When he first opened his Negrense-centric restaurant Sarsa in 2013, people queued diligently for his take on batchoy, chicken inasal, and kansi.

It wasn't so much about seeing the famed Masterchef judge in action than it was about what he sent out from the kitchen: the well-loved batchoy came ramen-style with al dente noodles, bone marrow, and bacon-cut liempo; the tangerine-hued grilled chicken was tender and juicy yet toned down compared to ones you'll find in fast food; and the sour Ilonggo version of bulalo came shredded, placed on a sizzling plate, and drizzled with gravy. Almost 100 percent of the menu was new and exciting and showcased the talented chef’s interpretation of the food he grew up enjoying.

Fast forward to 2017 and Sarsa, with six branches around Metro Manila, retains that same newness and excitement that guests were promised four years ago. Through the years, Anglo has refreshed the vibe: There’s more color—from the little ceramic bowls cradling compli cornick to the chic table napkins to the vibrant coasters that feature local scenery.

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It’s fun, festive, and much more relaxed. Sarsa’s creative director Tracie Anglo-Dizon chimes in: “As Sarsa has evolved, we found ourselves asking what we can do to enhance the Negrense bistro experience. After all, bistros abroad, from Parisian to Peruvian bistros, convey a very cohesive experience, from food presentation to the plates to menu design. Coming from a design background, I wanted the food to go hand in hand with the overall Negrense bistro feel and experience—thus the new look.”

Even plating was given a boost as well. Take for example the reincarnation of the humble monggo. Sarsa’s new version isn’t served in a deep bowl with a ladle, but instead, the thick, creamy soup sits bubbling on a sizzling plate. Crowning the green glory are golden lechon kawali chunks, battered leafy greens, and crispy garlic bits. It’s still the same dish everyone finds comfort in, but presented like it’s never been before. Very Chef JP. “Aside from trying to push bistro or Filipino street food further, he has also been working really hard on the plating, cause as we know, people eat not only with their mouths but also with their eyes,” Tracie says.

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Monggo


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Inihaw na Liempo

Ten other dishes were developed by Chef JP to beef up the menu. “I was challenged: What’s next for street food? So I thought about it, starting with tweaking the inasal during a trip. I got inspired and was so excited,” he shares. It would be a disgrace not to commence your meal with Sarsa’s elevated isaw. Choose from the spicy chicken, pork, and beef versions, and witness the culinary precision applied to every stick. Both first-time isaw revelers and long-time fans will appreciate how clean, tasteful, and crispy each bite can be. 


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Chicken Inasal


Sinigang Fried Chicken Wings

There’s also grilled atay, seemingly made for the more adventurous, but actually even the pickiest eater would savor its flavor especially when doused with the chocolate sauce.

As if chicken inasal even needs any updating, Chef JP comes out with two new variants: one spicy and another smothered with a smooth coconut sauce. The former asks for a cold bottle of beer, while the latter requires a couple of cups of sinangag. Another Negrense classic that re-appears on the menu is the kansi. This time the tender shredded meat tops chewy rice noodles. This kansi rice noodles is like the lovechild of sizzling kansi and a saucy Taiwanse noodle bowl—fantastic! For a lighter option, there’s the crispy fish fillet that comes with a creamy peanut sauce. Kids, on the other hand, will favor the sinigang fried chicken wings that’s served with chips and a bell pepper-gata sauce. Out of all these newcomers, the runaway winner is the Coconut Grilled Liempo with a coconut sauce. The dish speaks volumes of the chef’s balance of playfulness and restraint. 

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This isn’t the first time Sarsa’s menu was given a revamp—early this year, new dishes were also introduced, while also recently, the chef came up with lunchtime rice bowls. This isn’t also the first time isaw, inihaw na liempo, monggo, and sinigang fried chicken are making an appearance. What the new items prove, however, is the constant evolution of both the chef and the restaurant, and their pursuit of offering only what diners hanker for. It’s exciting to watch for what Chef JP comes up with in another month or so. With all the traveling and good vibes he’s been sharing—just check out his Instagram account—it can’t be anything short of genius.      

 

Sarsa has branches at Unit 1-7 Forum South Global, 7th Avenue corner 25th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City; 122 Joya Lofts & Towers Rockwell, Makati City; Frabella One, 109 Rada Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City; SM Mall of Asia, 2/F South Veranda Entertainment Mall, Pasay City; 3/F SM Megamall, Ortigas, Mandaluyong City; 2/F Phase 2/Builiding E, Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City.

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Idge Mendiola
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