Monday, December 2, 2013

Cocina Juan: Fil-Nicaraguan Cuisine Along Maginhawa

It's amazing how much the foodie industry has changed in the span of 10 years. Back then, the only places you can get a decent bite to eat at aside from the popular franchise restaurants were either Italian, Chinese or Japanese restaurants. Nowadays, Indian cuisine is starting to getting popular, people are starting to appreciate the churrasco culture of Brazilian cuisine, and Mexican cuisine has found a place in our lives, more often than not as hangover food, but that's beside the point.

Nicaraguan cuisine is also something that never existed in the Philippines 10 years ago, at least not until Thomas Adviento, the owner of Cocina Juan, set up shop along Maginhawa Street. The Fix-Mex stop evolved into a Fil-Mex-Nicaraguan hang out ever since Jay came back from South America and had fallen in love with the food there.

Hidden among the foliage of old trees and potted plants, one can spot Cocina Juan by the big chili that serves as their logo. A quaint little house along the street has been transformed into a restaurant with a lot of bohemian flair. In short, these are my kind of digs.

They don't serve alcohol at Cocina Juan, so it's BYOB (bring your own beer) or wine if you want to enjoy your meal with a pint or a glass of your favorite vino. I love the interiors - they're rustic and colorful, with some tables laden with tiles, others with a colorful South American blanket.

Our lunch started with an order of Tortilla Ensalada con Chimichurri (P169), a simple salad made with iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, toasted tortilla strips, and cheese in a chimichurri vinaigrette. This was a nice palate teaser for all the other dishes that were to come next.

Next up was a huge platter of Nacho Supremo Todo (P249). They weren't kidding about the todo in the title - this platter was huge and could feed at least four hungry people, with a base of red, purple, and yellow nachos, a lot of grated cheese, a generous amount of beef, more than a drizzle of sour cream, and even more melted cheese sauce. This platter was awesome!

If you're looking for fork tender meats, you're in the wrong place. South Americans like their meat with a bit of a bite, like the Chuleta de Cordero (P259), or lamb chops. Simply seasoned and thrown onto the grill 'til it develops a nice char, the lambchops are served with a simple salad, a slice of lime and lemon, and dirty rice. Squeeze the citrus on your meat, and enjoy!

The Sofrito Con Blanco Queso (P239) was basically Dory in a white cream sauce served with a side of white rice. I personally think this would have been a lot better if they had used a firmer fish like snapper instead, but then again, that would raise the price point and be out of sync with the student-friendly menu. It is near the University of the Philippines, after all.

A platter with basically everything on it was the Churrasco de Guatemala with Chirmol Sauce (P359). This could easily be shared by two to four people, with a mix of grilled beef, chicken and pork sausage served with a side of vegetables, dirty rice, potato wedges, and a small salad. There's a little bit of everything for everyone, which makes this one of the restaurant's best sellers.

Speaking of best sellers, another must try at Cocina Juan is their Cerdo Castillo Chimichurri (P289) - pork ribs that have been seasoned and thrown into the grill, served with rice, chimuchurri, and slices of jalapeño for a bit of attitude!

So if you find yourself mucking around the University of the Philippines and looking to try a little something new, check out Cocina Juan along Maginhawa road for Nicaraguan cuisine with a touch of Filipino flair. Seek out the giant chili!

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Images taken by Jericho San Miguel of Lightbulb Photography

Cocina Juan
100 Maginhawa,
Teachers Village, Quezon City
Open Daily: 11am - 10pm