Filipino, Thai, Indian, Indonesian—it would be too simplistic to call it fusion cuisine
Driving to Silang, Cavite for a Friday lunch is not something I’d normally do, but I have to admit I was very intrigued when I read that it was going to be at Mrs. Saldo’s Bespoke Private Dining. Run by Rhea and Dave Rizzo, the reason why Mrs. Saldo’s piqued by curiosity was that I read that chef Rhea had worked at Gaggan five years ago.
For those living in the culinary wilderness, Gaggan was the restaurant to book a table for in Bangkok. Anand Gaggan is one of Asia’s most renowned and revered chefs. Until it’s closure in 2019, Gaggan would perennially be up there in the Asia’s Top 50 Restaurants.
With her background and training, it was a sure bet that Chef Rhea’s take on Indian and Thai cuisine would be “the real thing.” And how she would incorporate this with her Filipino heritage would be worth the time spent on the road—as I did have to drive back for an evening event in Makati.
Located on the winding Pansol Road in Silang, Mrs. Saldo’s is a three-year-and-some project in the making. It’s a countryside property that’s been turned into a culinary oasis. It’s garden dining that works without being overpowering, and there are nooks and crannies that help create an atmosphere of homey privacy. The ambiance is laid back and relaxed such that the degustation menu still feels like comfort food but elevated. Dave was sommelier for the day, and it’s an added dimension to the experience when he’s around.
If every picture tells a story, in Rhea’s case, every dish similarly looks back at some aspect of her life and career. The quartet of appetizers was a wonderful way to start this food journey. First, there was the Sour Cream and Chives, acting like an opening gambit and teasing our taste buds. Then served as a triple threat on a board were the Egg and White Pepper Crab Sandwich with the peppers offering a little kick of spiciness, the Mornay Kaffir Mango Tart, and the Braised Pork with Banana Brown Butter that was served up like the pork was between toast. I really loved the braised pork with its play on textures.
Beef Salad was then offered up, but the big difference here was how it came with cucumber ice cream and a cilantro vinaigrette. This was Thai but with something novel thrown in. Then there was my absolute favorite of the day—Rhea’s Thai Fish Curry with Hamachi that had been flown as the substantial morsel of fish and sticky rice was served on the side. These two were Rhea’s nod to having lived and worked in Thailand.
An Indonesian-inspired Chicken Satay followed and the fried rice that accompanied had nilaga peanuts mixed in a nice touch. The Peranakan Lamb Curry was served with blue pea coconut rice. Expecting a thick and rich curry sauce, I was surprised by the watery soup-like erosion of curry, but this isn’t to complain, as the tenderness of the lamb was beyond reproach.
The desserts that followed was led off by a Pistachio Baklava with Pink Peppercorns, then coconut ice cream smeared with jackfruit and caramel with a honey bun underneath the scoop of ice cream. If ever you wanted to play on the notion of ice cream sandwich, here’s Chef Rhea asking you to try her version.
To close the lunch, another slab was brought out. This time, there were petit fours inspired by Rhea’s childhood favorites Filipino sweets and desserts. My favorite among the four would be the slab of white chocolate with pinipig.
Don’t leave Mrs. Saldo’s without trying her homemade sourdough, it’s that excellent! I’m made to understand that what I had for lunch will stand as their special degustation menu for the next few months. Filipino, Thai, Indian, Indonesian—it would be too simplistic to call it fusion cuisine. It’s great food, and with the location that adds so much in terms of atmosphere and ambiance. Plus, Rhea and Dave are such congenial hosts that’s worth every moment spent on the road to get there!