(SPOT.ph) Spanish food has always been my favorite and the Bagnet Paella at Pio’s Kitchen set a new standard for me against other paellas in the city. Their rice is tender, flavorful, and topped with generous portions of succulent shrimp and crispy fried pork. The passion Chef Chin Gallegos puts into the dish can almost be tasted in her bold flavors.
The Welcome Charcuterie board
Chin, the beauty and brains behind Pio’s Kitchen, has been cooking since she was around 13. "My clear childhood memories were all about food, watching my dad cook nilagang baka. [I was] always curious about the bustle in the kitchen." She already learned a lot at home, with her maternal grandmother and parents as teachers, but she eventually also took formal culinary education. Chin then became an international flight attendant as "a ’chef’ on board," and enrolled in cooking classes in Spain, Bangkok, and Vietnam. She later quit that job to pursue what she was truly passionate about. "It’s a cliche when you hear people say it. But it’s true. It pays to take the risk."
In September 2011, she opened Pio's Kitchen, named after Saint Padre Pio. Her private catering gigs offer an array of European dishes, ranging from Mediterranean Salad and Torta con Patate to Callos de Madrilena and a variety of paellas, which she cooks on the spot. "Paella is meant to be showcased and shared. People don’t really see how it’s being done. Usually, it's set on your table ready to eat. I make it an interactive paella party where people can watch and enjoy tapas and wine," she says.
The white palette gives it a cool, summery vibe.
Paelleras in a row
China and dish collections
Last month, Pio's Kitchen moved locations; the new bigger space is just a block away from the first one. Chin dressed up her grandparents’ ancestral home. In only a few weeks, they managed to tear down walls, bring the natural light in, and transform the place into a more welcoming venue. The new Pio’s white walls are adorned with key pieces that celebrate beauty from the past, like a functioning vintage oven and a row of old table lamps dangling from the ceiling.
Caldo de Gallego
The accompanying sauces trio
A new venue called for a new menu. For this, Chin turned to Galician cuisine for inspiration. The Galician Seafood Stew features a beautiful medley of perfectly cooked seafood-spiced grilled squid, tender mussels, and a chunk of juicy maya-maya fillet-roasted with aioli. Chef Chin comes in and personally pours a saffron broth that flaunts robust color and flavor. The refined presentation of the stew contrasts with the straight-up serving of Caldo de Gallego. As per tradition, it’s offered in a pot, with flavors and elements reminiscent of pochero: pork knuckles, chorizo, bacon, potatoes, and garbanzos simmered with tons of garlic. The casserole is studded with cabbage wedges made tender by the rich tomato soup base. A trio of condiments elevates the stunning flavors according to your preference-earthier with the coriander almond pesto, sweet with the sautéed tomatoes, and appetizingly sour with the eggplant chimichurri.
Ubod ng Sarap Salad
The Ubod ng Sarap Salad is an early toast to summer: seared paprika-seasoned river prawn marries with the color, texture, and flavors of chopped cucumber, palm heart strips, and sesame-mango dressing. Her Churros, though immensely satisfying, take a step away from tradition: small logs of mozzarella cheese are wrapped in puff pastry, fried then dusted with powdered sugar. It comes with a rich shot of chocolate, perfect for churros-dunking.
From the home décor (I love the exposed pipe chandelier) to her inspired dishes, Chin proves that taking risks is worth it when it’s to pursue your passion.
For private dining, catering, or take-out, contact Pio's Kitchen at 0917-532-2892 or visit the website www.piospaella.com. Pio’s Kitchen is at 96 Scout Reyes corner Scout Fuentebella, Barangay Laging Handa, Quezon City.
Angelo Comsti writes for Yummy magazine in addition to other publications. He studied at Le Cordon Bleu Australia. Grab a copy of his bestselling cookbook From Our Table To Yours for a collection of generations-old heirloom recipes from some of the country's best cooks and chefs. Follow Angelo on Instagram (@fooddudeph) to catch more of his food discoveries.