It’s been three years since I backpacked Southeast Asia and everything about that trip was long forgotten until two weeks ago, I was invited by my friend to check out Caiisian, a newly opened food joint at R20 FoodHub on Mindanao Ave, Project 8 in Quezon City. This low key food place brought back some of my wonderful travel memories as it reminded me of those hole in the wall in Southeast Asia that make simple but amazingly tasty meals.
I salute the owner as she had boldly carried out her menu concept in a food park. Whenever I think of food park, the usual sizzling and grill, deep fried galore, tapsi combo and fake western food come to my head. Caiisan’s menu definitely stands out as she features 25 comfort dishes from our country and several Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal, Japan, China, and Korea.
I wasn’t able to try everything on their menu but my tummy had enough space for me to try ten dishes. Below are my comments and reviews of the ones that I had.
It was my first time to be in food place wherein they serve two kinds of Satay: the Indonesian and Malaysian version. I had the Indonesian one. It was said to be sweeter with fewer herbs and spices. I was satisfied with Caiisan’s version of Indonesian Chicken Satay because its mild sweetness gave we way to the peanut sauce.
They certainly did a great job on reinventing Kimchi in this pork Kimchi rice. It has the flavor of kimchi but it’s not as intense and it goes well with ground pork. Kinda reminds me of Chao Fan. I am not a huge Kimchi fan but I am a big fan of this Pork Kimchi rice.
For the people that I ate with, this boneless Dilis was the star of the night. Yes, it is boneless. Til now, I still couldn’t fathom how anyone can debone a Dilis. At first, I thought they were kidding. I bowed down to them when I found out that it was true. Aside from being boneless, I like how the sweetness of the onions and the bite of spiciness from the sambal made an impact on its flavor. Of course, the crunchiness made it very addicting.
I never got the chance to try Cebu Lechon even when I was in Cebu so, I don’t know how a Lechon from Cebu taste like and its difference from an ordinary Lechon. I only know one way to judge a Lechon, which is by the crispiness of its skin. Once I took a bite of its skin and heard the crunch, it was immediately a thumbs up for me.
As we all know, when eating Filipino Chicken barbecue, it’s hard to resist extra rice. Guess what? It’s even harder when it is Sambal Rice. To pair this two up is genius. With the spiciness of the Sambal rice, how can it not increase your appetite and make you order another barbecue chicken? Yes, It made me want to order another round of both.
An authentic dish always has their sauces are made out of scratch. This Thai chicken curry is a perfect example of it. Unlike the usual curries that are made out of instant curry paste or curry powder, Caiisian’s curry is made out of the herbs and spices that comprise curry. That enough is impressive to me.
I call this General Tso’s chicken the real finger licking good chicken. Deep fried, sweet, and savory. It has all the elements that will appeal to picky kids.
For me, Pinaputok na Tilapia is the most un-instagramable dish among all dishes that were served. Still, it is one of my favorites. They served it in a boxed aluminum foil that you have to poke. Once the boxed aluminum foil is torn, its delightful aroma will take you by surprise. I tell you, there is something about its sauce that makes the entire dish so fragrant and delectable. I really enjoyed it except for the part wherein I had to remove the bones of the fish (a common hassle when eating tilapia). But other than that, they deserve an applause on how they made this ordinary everyday fish into something special.
This Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken is one dish that my friend has been raving about and I wouldn’t wonder why. Not only that it is very aromatic but its sauce is so flavorful. We were happy that they were generous with its sauce as we couldn’t get enough of it.
At first, I mistakenly heard Spice Singaporean Chicken as Spicy Singaporean Chicken. It’s a good thing that the owner corrected me because I thought that it was another fried chicken. It’s actually grilled chicken that was rubbed with several spices. The chicken itself is peppery and piquant. It can be complex for the taste buds but it ends up really well with the refreshing vegetable salad drizzled in vinaigrette.
It was a privilege for us to be entertained Caii Castro, the owner who was very hands-on in the kitchen when we were there. She passionately discussed to us how some of her dishes were made and where she got to learn them. According to her, whenever she encounters a remarkable dish during her travel, she would normally ask the cook how it is prepared. Then, she brings home roots of local cooking herbs as her souvenir. Unlike some restaurants wherein the taste is being altered for Filipino taste, Caii doesn’t do modification or shortcuts. It was interesting to know that she sticks to the traditional way of cooking and that the herbs in her dishes are the same local herbs she brought from her travels. By the way, the sambal, peanut sauce and curries are the real thing.
Amidst the countless food joints that serve overpriced mediocre food and fancy restaurants that serve well-presented dishes that lacks depth, Caiisan is a such a hidden gem because you get to enjoy quality food without feeling robbed. Their food is convincing enough that when closing your eyes and eat it, you feel like you are traveling in another country.