Kitchen Lab: A fresh modernist approach to local cuisine in Laoag

Tare roasted pork in uni dashi with squid ink onion chips

In the thick of editing, or rather emptying my closet for the chance of a lifetime move to Los Angeles, where my parents, siblings and a daughter reside, an invitation to Kitchen Lab arrives. Before I embark to another world, I left Monday open for the opening and VIP degustacion of 15 signature dishes. Perhaps, my last big meal that will be one of the things reminding me of home. A part of my heart says just a vacation, but my head says live another dream (we’ll go back to the move some other time).

Kitchen Lab

Kitchen Lab at The White House breaks out of the box. Speaking as a local, customarily, Eating Out in Laoag is revisiting favorite kitchens. It maybe the scruffy Dawang’s or mousy Tayamen’s or a friend’s home. But on “mucho” days, it’s something like driving out to Fort Ilocandia’s Red 8 or Bergblick in Pagudpud. Because I will eat anything, I was more eager to see what Irwin Pascual, one of the brains behind the modernist fine dining restaurant, would come up with. The only son of a Chinese couple (Pablo and Vicky) who are great cooks, he is an ardent epicure, born that way I think. He says, he is stimulated by nostalgia — like the scent of burning grass hovering around the neighborhood while growing up. A diploma in culinary arts just might injure the raw juice running in his veins. Making it more interesting, his business partner, Dr. Jonathan Noble, is also self-taught. The younger members of the creative team, however, Chef Abbygail Siy and Chef Miko Quimora, are diplomaed from De La Salle-College of St. Benilde.

The White HouseKitchen Lab at The White House

Kitchen Lab is the entire second floor of The White House, a head turner after all these years. There were about 30 of us at the opening. I shared a table with (Laoag Councilor) Jeff Fariñas and Charisma Ursia and photographer/blogger Marianne Pasion, who can be the best eating companions/food critics because there was never a dull moment even if the tasting got protracted.

UntitledPicture 901Irwin Pascual and wife Valerie.Chef AbbyKitchen LabWine DisplayKitchen Lab OpeningBurgos gamet butter with chorizo pepper jack roll

The food: Chorizo pepper jack roll with Burgos gamet butter, uni on a cookie, grape with blue cheese, sous vide egg with jamon Iberico, crispy and flaky indigenous mushroom with pickled salad in buttermilk, smoked Pasuquin tuna tartare in ginger and yogurt emulsion, scallop in hay aroma, two-way prawn with milk foam and tukmem (tulya) inspired by the Ilocos Norte coastline and the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, roasted pork in uni dashi with squid inked dehydrated onion chips, charcoal crust Wagyu beef in beet elements, and three desserts, namely spiced lemon sorbet, malt ice cream with toasted quinoa and goat cheese ganache and chamomile ice cream on blueberry bugnay gelee are part of the dishes they’ve created which will be available for a year. Degustacion is by appointment only, but I heard steaks, etc. is available everyday. Fresh ingredients are locally sourced while special elements are sourced abroad. Quality is never sacrificed it seems, so for a multi-sensorial food experience, the price is not ordinary. I sense a slight OC-ness in a charming, passionate kind of way.

The selection is impressive. The presentation may not be traditional, but details of home float to a degree. Take out the aesthetics, the flavors will take you to different places. I pictured California with the piece of grape with blue cheese, I was in China after that first bite of roast pork, I was reminded of childhood sick days by the perfect “malasado” egg, the juvenile cookie smeared with familiar slimy sea urchin evoke contrasting decades, the malted milkshake parallel, fleeting moments, one after the other — it is what degustacion is all about.

62°C Egg and Farm Elements

To me, the Wagyu “butcher shop mess” brought me to orgasmic proportions following the sensory buildup.  A little scorcher, the fried prawns were a bit overdone, and the cookie could have been less sweet if it were to be paired with uni for more contrast. What else? Well, the tuna tartare and 62°C egg were bitin, and I wish the lemon sorbet and the ice cream were made available everyday of the week.

Uni on a CookieAccents and ElementsKitchen LabPickled Salad in buttermilk with crispy mushroomKitchen LabSmoked Pasuquin Tuna Tartare with a dollop of ginger and yogurt emulsionJeff Farinas and IrwinNostalgia of scallop in hay aromaTwo-Way Prawncharcoal crust Wagyu beef with beet elementsMalt Ice CreamGoat cheese ganache and chamomile ice creamMigo and AbbyChefs Miko Quimora and Abby Siy and partners Irwin Pascual and Dr. Jonathan Noble in photo below. Thanks and congratulations to you, guys!Kitchen LabKitchen Lab Opening

To the one person very close to my heart during my Flickr and blogging years (and always), you make me feel ageless, hahah, fearless, and I hope to still have that photo exhibit with you one day. Love you, Marianne Gaces Pasion!

Kitchen Lab
The White House
P. Lazaro cor. Llanes Sts., Laoag City, Ilocos Norte
For reservations contact Joel Baptista CP No.: +63 9998841701

Photos of and with author by Marianne Pasion
Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2015

Heard from the kids: Li’l Ranchos

Li'l Ranchos

New on western Rizal Street, Li’l Ranchos is literally a little food spot turning up burgers and tacos. My first tasting was takeout stuffed bell peppers. But when Alex and I went to check out the place today, they were not available.

The staples: Burgers and pancakes among Filipino-style tacos, quesadillas and nachos. Rancho Burger, decked with cheese, bacon and pineapple, is only 95 pesos, and a plain burger called Super Beef Burger is 45. Glazed potatoes and pesto pasta are other options. The selection of fresh fruit shakes includes yacon, dragonfruit, avocado, strawberry, and lemon infused drinks. But they also offer beer.

Li'l RanchosLi'l RanchosRancho Burger

Prices are very affordable. I didn’t see anything above 100 pesos. With its price, the burger was satisfying, but super messy to eat (you’ll need a bib, promise). The quesadilla, however, was incomplete. The tortillas were like thinned out pancakes and it came without salsa.

The menu is more suited to the younger crowd.

Li’l Ranchos Rizal St. cor. D.M. Castro Ave. Laoag City (east of Papa Pau’s)

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2015

A flashback of Laoag City’s first 50 years (and a story of malicious intent)

Laoag at 50 Celebration

“Ada ag-sibrong diay centro.” As far as I can remember, it was my first mental picture of the world outside the confines of my home. The Gilbert Bridge was being reconstructed. Laoag was in the process of being citified in the truest sense of the word.

Laoag just turned 50. A cityhood commemoration program was held at the city hall grounds. Public officials and employees were among those seated in the audience. A visually impaired child lent her voice and charmed the audience. She may never have seen Sunshine (Laoag’s moniker), but she sang flawlessly with a sense of place and a sense of belonging. A city can either inflate or break a heart.

Laoag at 50 Celebration

The agsibrong of bygone days has really never left. The agsibrong was lurking around at the event. The agsibrong has reemerged as a spin doctor and manufactures a story about me. Here’s how the (INCREDIBLE!!!!!) story goes: She (referring to me) walked out of the premises in tears because she was not acknowledged in the program.

Here’s my reaction to that story I heard was supposed to have come from someone in the local media, who allegedly saw me leaving early: I attended the function to pay respect to my city and take photos for the blog. Yes, I left early to eat lunch at home. I bumped into two friends while I was on my way home and they asked me why I wouldn’t attend the luncheon. I said I didn’t want to be in the same room with someone and I even said the name of the person I didn’t want to see. So that’s the real story straight from me.

Memories of growing up, raising a family and fermenting in Laoag continue to fill my heart. I am ever grateful to my city.

Enjoy the photos, but don’t steal them.

Laoag at 50 CelebrationMy old nursery classmate Vice Mayor Michael Fariñas. He served as  Laoag mayor for three consecutive terms.

Laoag at 50 CelebrationLaoag at 50 CelebrationLaoag at 50 CelebrationLaoag Mayor Chevylle Fariñas and little Lance, who was representing the present day aspirations that were entombed (like a time capsule) for future reading.

Laoag at 50 CelebrationLaoag at 50 Celebration
Photographed by BlauEarth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2015