Chef Sau del Rosario’s love af­fair with Mex­i­can food finds fruition in his new color-splashed cantina, Frida.


There re­ally is a Mex­ico in Pam­panga. And no, I’m not re­fer­ring to the home­town of the Grande Dame of Ca­pam­pan­gan Cui­sine, Atch­ing Lil­lian Bor­romeo. I’m al­lud­ing to the affin­ity of my ca­balens for all things Mex­i­can – na­chos, bur­ri­tos, flau­tas, chimichangas, en­chi­ladas, mar­gar­i­tas, and even Coronas. Years be­fore the cur­rent Mex­i­can restau­rant boom in Metro Manila be­gan, we al­ready had a beloved cantina: Za­p­ata’s, named in honor of the great Gen­eral named Emil­iano, who was, in many re­spects, mous­tache in­cluded, the An­to­nio Luna of the Mex­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion. I re­mem­ber how visi­tors from the big city would in­clude Za­p­ata’s in their Pam­panga food tour itin­er­ar­ies start­ing from the 1990s. The cantina had all the trap­pings, from the som­breros to the pon­chos – pa­trons could wear them and pose for pic­tures -- while they spoke with Speedy Gon­za­les ac­cents as they smiled for the cam­eras. Ar­riba! Ar­riba! A few years ago, Za­p­ata’s had a change of own­er­ship, re­lo­cated, and was re­named Iguana’s.

The Tex-Mex fare was still very good, it’s still worth the trip, but for me, some­how, it had lost a bit of its rev­o­lu­tion­ary ap­peal.

I know that Chef Sau del Rosario and his busi­ness and kitchen part­ner, Chloe Cau­guiran, fre­quented Iguana, but per­haps, ow­ing to the suc­cess of their two Filipino restau­rants in An­ge­les City, Café Fleur and 25 Seeds, they were in­spired to put up their own take on their fa­vorite Mex­i­can dishes, but quite dif­fer­ent from Za­p­ata’s/Iguana’s. The menu in their cantina, Frida, is more dis­tinctly Mex­i­can rather than Texan. Real corn tor­tillas, rus­tic and tex­tured, are used for the soft tacos. And yes, “¡Si Señor!” there’s a Mole dish. The clas­sic Mex­i­can sauce, rich and spicy and thick­ened with ground choco­late, is not usu­ally avail­able in lo­cal menus. But since Frida’s has a large box of au­then­tic Mex­i­can in­gre­di­ents flown in ev­ery month, a gen­uine Mole makes a welcome ap­pear­ance in Frida. Even bet­ter, it’s served with crunchy bag­net-like pork belly slices, the bet­ter to please Pi­noy palates with. Muy de­li­ciosa!

The vi­brant and color-splashed look of this new restau­rant should re­mind young and old alike of the last year’s an­i­mated block­buster from Pixar, “Coco”. It’s per­fect syn­ergy, since the iconic Mex­i­can artist Frida Kahlo, pa­tron saint of Mag­i­cal Re­al­ism, and for whom the restau­rant is named af­ter, is a key char­ac­ter in the film. Bring the kids when you dine at Frida, they’ll surely rec­og­nize and love the vibe. This new Mex­i­can restau­rant re­ally is quite mag­i­cal.

2 Pollo a la Plan­cha

1 Al Fresco Area

3 Soft Tacos: Beef Tongue and Fried Mahi Mahi

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