Chef Don Baldosano pushes the boundaries of Filipino food at his restaurant Linamnam

Published June 17, 2021, 10:30 AM

by Jules Vivas

This young chef takes diners beyond the limits of Pinoy cuisine

Photos by the author.

A WORLD OF LINAMNAM There are two dining areas in the restaurant, open-air and indoor dining. In
the photo is the al fresco area

Modern Filipino cuisine is the meeting point between foreign influences with indigenous Philippine cooking. In the simplest explanation there is, Pinoy food is the result of conquests and camaraderie. Our nation is a cultural melting pot influenced by Chinese and Arab traders, Spanish explorers, Japanese settlers and invaders, and our American Big Brother. With the advent of social media and technology, regional dishes are reaching national tables.

The internet has connected us, which makes exchanging information faster and more convenient. We get a much clearer view of what once was, our history, and what will be, the future, by reading and analyzing data online. Only by understanding the many facets of our local delicacies and incorporating them with international sensibilities do we break the boundaries of what we currently know. In effect, we are able to create something new, exciting, and delectable, or as we say in Tagalog malinamnam.

Chef Don Patrick Baldosano knows all of these very well as his entire ideology is built upon the notion of pushing the confines of Filipino cooking, finding ways to improve Pinoy dishes, his restaurant in Parañaque City, and himself.

HERITAGE FILIPINO VIBES Inside Linamnam

In Don’s private dining concept, Linamnam, he comes up with a tasting menu of 11 dishes that challenge him to be as creative as possible with Filipino food. “If we accept all of the influences we’ve had throughout history, what would the food be?” he asks. “There are no boundaries around Filipino cuisine, especially since we are a melting pot. We have to accept and use these influences. But at the end of the day, the flavor has to be Filipino—strong, umami, linamnam.” 

“Another translation of linamnam is ‘something of the unknown,’ which is our [Filipino] food. Alam mo lang masarap pero bakit siya masarap (You know that it’s delicious but you can’t explain why)?” says Don. “There are a lot of elements to it, including memories and nostalgia.” 

Linamnam is an outstanding and unique dining experience for several reasons. The themes are well-thought of and researched, the menu changes depending on the availability of ingredients—of which 95 percent are locally sourced. His curiosity and his keen interest in Philippine history, geography, iconography, flora and fauna, and anthropology have a big role to play in the selection of the themes, so that even though he keeps saying that Linamnam and his work are “ego-centric,” born of his own curiosities and reflections, they are grounded in culture and relevant to any diner open to discoveries and surprises.

Don also supports sustainable dining. He raises his own livestock, particularly black pigs and ducks, forages in forests and mountains for unique and seasonal ingredients, and grows produce at his backyard.

For those who may not know the 22-year-old chef, he is a product of talent, perseverance, and passion. Don trained in some of the best kitchens in the country like Toyo Eatery, recognized as one of the top restaurants in Asia, as well as under Locavore’s chef Mikel Zaguirre. Young as he is, Don is making a name for himself. He was chosen to represent the Philippines in the Young Talents Escoffier Asia Finals this year.

Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, along with Department of Travel (DOT) secretary Berna Romulo Puyat and food writer Angelo Comsti, recently had dinner at Linamnam. The theme of our dinner was the flavors of Panay.

PANAY EXPEDITION DOT secretary Berna Romulo Puyat, the author, Chef Don Baldosano, food writer Angelo Comsti, and Manila Bulletin Lifestyle editor AA Patawaran

For starters, we had the Lumpiang Hindi Sariwa. This tart with fresh cabbage, fermented pili nuts, and kamias is Don’s take on fresh spring rolls. The Uni Kropeck came next. The chips are made of rice and squid, topped off with Palawan uni, calamansi juice, and sweet potato-fed etag. It is served with a broth made with the same etag.

Hipon followed. The cold ginataan has burnt coconut sauce, shrimp dried for two days then poached in oil, topped with latik. The third dish was the Linutik at Bagoong. It consists of pompano aged for two weeks and glazed with stewed burnt squash as well as bagoong with brown butter.

The vegetable course of the night was the Kabote Ala King. Potato cream is topped with ragout made of potato and mushroom, garnished with burnt mushrooms, and covered with ala king sauce.

WARM AND HEARTY Don’s meat dish called Liempo, is pork belly with a mildly sour sinigang broth

What followed the mushroom were the Adobado, pig’s cheeks and tongue with adobado chicken feet sauce and lettuce, and the Liempo, pork belly cooked over coffee wood for 10 hours with sinigang broth made of tomato and butter.

The main course was called Kanin, the best dish of the night, rice being the main dish of any Filipino meal. It is rice cooked over charcoal and coconut leaf, with a rich and flavorful duck asado underneath. It is topped with toyo-mansi cream and blooms of marigold and santan.

LIGHT BUT FLAVORFUL Adobado, a medley of salty, sour, and sweet

The rice took Don two years to conceptualize. There are also six meticulous steps in making it. First, the rice is dry roasted, then cooked or sinaing in lemon grass, made into fried rice using burnt butter and soy sauce, cooked with charcoal and coconut leaf, and finished by steaming. A fantastic surprise was the duck, which had just the right amount of savory or linamnam.

“The meat is incredibly tender, with a hint of sweetness as the duck is only fed with tomatoes, corn, and rice,” explains Don. “I wanted something acidic but neutral, salty but bitter on top. It is the most-filling and Filipino tasting of all from the current menu.”

IT’S NOT FILIPINO WITHOUT RICE Kanin, Don’s rice entrée that was scrupulously planned and made

For dessert, we had three ice cream treats. There’s the Prutas, fermented green mango from Guimaras made into sherbet and covered in gold leaf. The leaf represents “how premium the dish is, and to show that this [Guimaras] is the best mangoes,” says Don.

The Buko and Maja Blanca is a galleon trade dish served in a baby coconut shell. The corn-flavored ice cream is topped with corn polvoron. The pulot sa buri sorbetes, meanwhile, was the perfect dessert to cap off the night with its salty-sweet taste. It was so good and surprising we all asked for an extra helping.

DESSERT The desert ‘Sorbetes’ uses pulot or sap from tubo as its sweetener

Don wasn’t always fond of Filipino food. “I thought French food was the number one food in the world!” admits the forward-thinking cuisinier. It was a close friend of his that made him realize the importance of “owning” his heritage and loving local.

“My friend reminded me: ‘Pinoy food is what you grew up with. You’re not going to be the best, unless you cook what you know.’” Don reflected upon these words for three months, ultimately leading to the conception of Linamnam. “I started with this restaurant with my classmates. Our only goal was to practice our creativity. Money never crossed our minds,” he intimates. 

CHEF EXPLORER Don Patrick Baldosano

In a way, Don perfectly embodies his generation, Gen Z or maybe even its successor. As a generation born in a world so thoroughly revolutionized by technology, they are normally characterized as highly motivated, intuitive, adaptive to change, free-thinking and creative, as well as passionate when it comes to learning, with keen interest in what happened before. If all young chefs are like Don, then the future of the local culinary industry is bright.

‘There are no boundaries around Filipino cuisine, especially since we are a melting pot. We have to accept and use these influences. But at the end of the day, the flavor has to be Filipino—strong, umami, linamnam.’

Open daily, Linamnam accommodates eight people at a time lunch, from noon onward, and for dinner, from 5:30 p.m. onward. Reservation required. The whole course costs ₱1,800 per person. The restaurant is tucked in a quiet neighborhood at 31 Greenvale 2, Marcelo Green Village, Parañaque. Reservations can be made through 09175730246 or via @linamnam_mnl on Instagram.

 
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