FRIDA TAQUERIA Y CANTINA
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