About 3 weeks ago, I was joined by a small army worth of friends from home.
Our project was starting a new leg, which meant we needed more bodies here. As a result, 4 familiar faces from my office moved to Iloilo, and suddenly, I was very busy. As the resident veteran, I took it upon myself to introduce them to some of my favorites, like Masu Cafe, Bourbon Street, and hot bowls of batchoy; while relentlessly reminding them that Jollibee is the devil’s breakfast.
It’s also given me the chance to explore city even further, hitting up places I hadn’t yet had the chance to visit; the first of which was Madrid, a Spanish influened restaurant in the Atria district near Smallville.
Madrid is a tight restaurant, designed for more intimate dining. We were seated at a small table, which is par for the course in the Philippines. On most days I feel like Gulliver in Lilliput, standing in a 6’1″ and 215 pounds, I’m a giant in the land of little people. Everything feels too darn small, and even in their clothing stores have me relegated to their Enormous People section. One of my co-workers wears XL clothing back home. In Filipino size? That’s a 4XL.
Uncomfortably small table aside, the selection of food looked good, and I quickly stumbled on my appetizer.
I quite enjoyed that the description explains it’s “kinilaw” – because I had been describing kinilaw as being Filipino ceviche. Essentially, kinilaw is the same general principle as a traditional ceviche; raw marinated fish, served with fresh ingredients. However, whereas the traditional South American version would stop with a squeeze of citrus and some herbs, the Filipino preparation includes coconut milk.
I would call this offering a fantastic Spanish interpretation, but not authentic. As I anticipated, this had some coconut included, and a splash of fresh squeezed calamansi – a tiny key-lime look-a-like that tastes like a mix of lime and orange. The dish was refreshing, with some sharp bite from the green chilis that were included. It was positively delicious.
Next up – the main course.
Callos might well be the most Spanish dish that ever existed. In Spain, this stew is offered all over the country, in any restaurant that serves up local fare, as well as households all around the country. Originating in the Madrid region, it’s basically their version of pork ‘n’ beans, but a whole lot classier, much like Spain in general.
This was a fairly good take on a classic. I’m not the biggest fan of tripe’s texture; as it’s got a really chewy texture to it, which isn’t common in North American cooking. Since I didn’t grow up with it, I still find it odd – even though the flavor is outstanding. The tomato sauce it was cooked in was pleasant and well spiced, a far cry from the sugar-heavy tomato based sauces that are usually served in the Philippines. As someone who tries to eat a protein heavy diet, this was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Both of my friends were very happy with their meals as well; one of them getting some grilled bacon wrapped pork medallions that made my mouth water. The meal was a little pricey for the region, costing roughly $10 CAD each – but in exchange for hot, hearty, thoughtfully prepared food, it was worth every penny.
Address: Mandurriao, Iloilo City, Iloilo, Philippines
Facebook: Madrid Spanish Bistro