Monday, March 5, 2012

Sunday Morning at Mercato Centrale

I had been wanting to visit Mercato Centrale for a while now after an insatiable hankering for some good, savory pie. I remembered Tina Raine's Aussie pies of Tina's Pie Outlet last year at Mercato and wanted to have more of that again. I used to walk over to Mercato after the graveyard shift when I was working at the Fort and Mercato was at its old space near Serendra. Now that they've moved I haven't gone as much since I didn't want to make the trip out to the Home Depot side of BGC by myself. So off I went ,with Jericho in tow, on a sunny Sunday morning to go pie shopping.

I'm fussy when it comes to pie, since only a handful of restaurants here know how to do it right (still on the hunt for good mince pie), and was overjoyed to find a lady that knew her pie! I was looking forward to getting my grubby hands on the gourmet Cheese Steak, Lamb and Rosemary, and Smoked Salmon and Prawns pies (she also makes a mean Lemon and Herb Frozen Meringue Pie). But alas, she isn't at Mercato on Sundays.

We got to Mercato at around 9 o'clock in the morning, and was surprised at the limited number of stalls that were up. I know most of the merchants that sell organic products, like Rawlicious: Super Green Smoothies & Juices, move to the Legazpi Weekend Market on Sundays, but I was hoping to see a bit more variety in the food. And alas, no Tina's Pie Outlet.

Walking around the stalls we noticed most of them, with the exception of the Vietnamese Corner and the Moroccan stall, served Filipino fare. I had high hopes for the Moroccan stall (my step mother is Moroccan and I love Middle Eastern cuisine), but ended up sorely disappointed as the chicken dish's flavor was watered down and the bread that came with it was too thick (and too hard!) to actually dip in the sauce. What I did like was that they also sold traditional Moroccan tagines, which I'll probably go back and buy for myself.

  We passed by Bale Dutung's stall and gawked at the Pan de Bagnet (P200) - the Ilocano bagnet served in a crusty classic Ciabatta, flavored with Chef Claude Tayag's Inasal Marinade, topped with kamatis, bagoong dilis, lasuna, and fresh mustasa with a generous dose of Sukang Iloko vinaigrette. It looked delicious, but a bit pricey for the portions. I skipped this and looked for something else to satiate my rumbling tummy.

Jericho ended up ordering their Lechon Tortilla (P180). The lechon's belly and skin are deep fried into crispy flakes and served on a soft whole wheat tortilla, garnished with tomatoes, onions, cilantro and homemade kimchi with Fuji apple, as well as Claude'9 Oriental Sauce.

We passed by Vietnam Corner and got a tray of their Goi Cuon (P100), essentially Vietnamese spring rolls. I loved how everything was so fresh and colorful, and how the flavor of the cilantro comes out with each bite. The peanut dip married with the lean pork strips inside the roll nicely, too. So simple, yet so filling!

I initially wanted to get my Manang's Chicken fix (I like my wings spicy!), but Jericho wasn't too into it after a bad experience we had with their Ortigas branch. I think when the owners aren't looking, their staff get lazy and don't bother to double fry the chicken thinking their customers won't notice. Well, we do. And to think I almost gave up Bon Chon for you!

I ended up getting ManilaQ's Bagwang Meal (P170) because it looked like bacon, and bacon is a breakfast food, and it was still too early for lunch. I initially thought that bagwang was a type of bagnet, yet was pleasantly surprised to find out it wasn't... it was something even better! Bagwang uses pork jowls instead of your run-of-the-mill liempo, it is marinated in ManilaQ's secret blend of spices, and prepared in a way that it becomes crisp (like bacon) while keeping its savory taste (like bacon).

It came with fried rice and an egg done sunny side up. The egg was already pre-fried -- I tossed it aside after taking a small into the tasteless, rubbery white part. Disgusting. The fried rice tasted off as well, like it was 15-minutes away from expiring (or had already expired and they were just trying their best to keep it warm). I ended up eating the bagwang like I would strips of bacon - dipping them in vinegar before popping them in my mouth, happily savoring each melodic crunch. The Goi Cuon was a nice balance to the meal (gerbil iz happeh), although I regretted not getting their Bahn Mi for breakfast instead.

I wanted to try My Pink Wasabi's Kashi Maki, but we still had a stash of dark chocolate truffles at home, so we opted to be diplomatic with our dessert and go home to our waiting truffles. I made a mental note to go back and give it a try, but I'm pretty sure I'd be torn as to whether to eat it or use it as some kind of table decoration. It's so adorbabol!

Passing by the Filipino Street Food stall I couldn't help but take pictures of all the exotic food you'd never see me eat.

Mucking around Mercato Centrale on a Sunday morning is nice, since it isn't as packed with people like the other days, so if you're the type that hates crowds, Sunday mornings are the best days for you to visit. I've learnt to check Mercato's list of vendor stalls first before going, so I can make a quick dash for the food stalls I like and be out of there as soon as possible.

Mercato Centrale
34th street and 8th avenue (across MC Home Depot)
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Saturdays and Sundays: 7:00am - 2:00pm