This Tita-Approved Spot's Takes on Filipino Classics Are Anything But Your Usual

Think burnt coconut chicken and a soup with dinuguan sausage.

Esmeralda Kitchen
43 Mayon Street, Santa Mesa Heights, Barangay Santa Teresita, Quezon City
Contact: 0917-831-7533
Facebook: www.facebook.com/esmeraldahouse.ph
Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Tuesday to Thursday), 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Friday to Sunday)

esmeralda kitchen
PHOTO BY Kit Singson ILLUSTRATION Warren Espejo

(SPOT.ph) There's no doubt that many of us had to rethink our plans over the past two years. Whether it was travel plans or career goals, there were quite a number of life changing decisions that we had to put on hold because of the pandemic.

That’s exactly what happened to Jon and Ann Añasco, the husband-and-wife team behind Esmeralda Kitchen in Quezon City. They had planned to open their doors back in 2020, but lockdowns and quarantines had other ideas. So from originally opening up a Filipino restaurant-slash-bakery-slash-deli, they had to pivot to being a takeout-only place taking orders online.

But when everything began to open up again, the Añascos decided to push through with their initial plans.

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“Our place was already ready when the pandemic hit us, [but] I felt experiencing our food would be different if it was enjoyed in the house that matches the food. For my concept to be realized, one has to experience it completely,” Ann shares. And one look at Esmeralda Kitchen’s interiors will tell you there’s really no replacement for their dine-in experience.

esmeralda kitchen
PHOTO BY Kit Singson
esmeralda kitchen
 
PHOTO BY Kit Singson
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PHOTO BY Kit Singson

Also read: These Are the Best Versions of Sinigang in Manila

This new Filipino restaurant shows us scrumptious new ways to enjoy classic dishes:

Located at what was once an old, two-storey mid-century home, Esmeralda Kitchen embraces both the modern and traditional, whether it’s their interior decor or their takes on classic Filipino dishes like sinigang and dinuguan.

The restaurant is cozy yet spacious, with wall-to-ceiling windows that let in a lot of natural light. The furniture is a mismatch of old and modern pieces, including a large heritage console table that’s now being used as a service station and traditional Sampaguita glass windows that have been upgraded to help with sound and temperature control.

esmeralda kitchen
Esmeralda Kitchen features striking patterns and shades of emerald, juniper, and bronze. 
PHOTO BY Kit Singson
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esmeralda kitchen
It was once an old, two-storey mid-century home—and retains a similar homey feel. 
PHOTO BY Kit Singson

“I just wanted it to feel like a home, just like when you eat at your favorite cool Tita’s house,” says Ann about their space.

Other highlights of the restaurant’s interiors include the colorful murals and dozens of lush plants that line the restaurant’s walls–only fitting as the owners consider themselves to be certified Plantitos and Plantitas. Green is obviously the dominant color scheme here and it even helped the owners come up with the name Esmeralda Kitchen.

esmeralda kitchen
Plantitos and Plantitas will be thrilled to find foliage and lush floral prints around their space. 
PHOTO BY Kit Singson
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esmeralda kitchen
Green is the dominant color scheme here—an aspect that is also reflected in their name. 
PHOTO BY Kit Singson

“I wanted a name that is reminiscent of a lola but with an enigma. As I also searched for the Filipino equivalent of the color emerald, which is the prominent color of our interiors, I came across Esmeralda. So perfect, a very nostalgic name with a mysterious tone in it,” shares Ann.

The mix of modernity with tradition is reflected in the restaurant’s fare as well. “Our [menu is our] interpretation of Filipino homestyle cuisine, inspired by fresh and quality ingredients, using updated techniques influenced by the region,” Ann says.

Take for example their Dinamita Pops (P180), their elevated version of the classic street food, dynamite. Think of these as a spicier version of lumpiang shanghai. The pops are crispy deep-fried dumplings stuffed with ground pork, green peppers, and cheese, resulting in a burst of heat once you take a bite. Pair it with either the spicy chili oil if you’re craving more heat or the citrusy dip if you want to tone down the spice.

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esmeralda kitchen, Dinamita Pops
The Dinamita Pops live up to their name with the flavor bomb they deliver as you take a bite. 
PHOTO BY Kit Singson

The Pako Salad with Chicharon Bulaklak (P320) meanwhile, is one of Ann’s personal favorites. “Our attempt to be healthy but not so,” she says. The salad is an interesting mix of flavors and textures, being made up of crunchy salad greens, green mango slivers, tart kamias bits, and of course, deep-fried chicharon bulaklak. It’s topped off with a citrusy salad dressing that helps balance out the flavors and cuts through the fattiness of the chicharon.

esmeralda kitchen, Pako Salad with Chicharon Bulaklak
Balance is the name of the game for the Pako Salad with Chicharon Bulaklak, which has its share of greens alright—but also deep-fried chicharon bulaklak. 
PHOTO BY Kit Singson
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Another vegetable-heavy item on the menu is the Shrimp Lumpiang Sariwa (P450), a deconstructed version of the classic spring roll made with generous servings of shrimp, crunchy veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, and singkamas, served on a pandan-flavored lumpia wrapper. Mix it up with their classic garlicky and sweet traditional lumpia sauce or their nutty tamarind peanut sauce if you’re looking for a more Thai-inspired flavor.

esmeralda kitchen, Shrimp Lumpiang Sariwa
The Shrimp Lumpiang Sariwa could well be the most vibrant take on the spring roll we've seen. 
PHOTO BY Kit Singson

Looking for an elevated take on sinigang? Their Lechon Sinigang (P480) features a broth that’s just the right amount of sour and spicy. The lechon is savory and fatty enough to help cut through the richness of the soup. Both the broth and pork are good enough on their own but if you want a bit more of a bite, pair it with either Esmeralda Kitchen’s patis dip or garlicky and spicy bagoong sauce.

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esmeralda kitchen, Lechon Sinigang
Lechon, in all its rich and decadent glory, gets taken out for a homey, soul-warming spin in the Lechon Sinigang. 
PHOTO BY Kit Singson

The Burnt Coconut Chicken (P380), meanwhile, is their answer to Filipino-style chicken curry. It leans more toward the spicy side, with a sauce that comes with notes of turmeric and lemongrass mixed with caramelized coconut milk. The sauce is glazed on top of perfectly cooked, tender chicken.

esmeralda kitchen, Burnt Coconut Chicken
The Burnt Coconut Chicken can be likened to a Filipino-style curry... 
PHOTO BY Kit Singson
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esmeralda kitchen, Burnt Coconut Chicken
...And comes with a flavorful sauce with notes of turmeric and lemongrass. 
PHOTO BY Kit Singson

For a Pinoy take on the classic Korean kimchi fried rice, there’s the Burong Mustasa Fried Rice (P160/solo, P320/sharing). Featuring fermented mustard greens, crispy fried pork bits, and salted egg, this fried rice is more tart than spicy when compared to kimchi fried rice but it’s perfect as an accompaniment to any of Esmeralda Kitchen’s main dishes or on its own.

esmeralda kitchen, Burong Mustasa Fried Rice
The Burong Mustasa Fried Rice is one of those winning rice dishes that goes with other dishes—but also stands on its own.
PHOTO BY Kit Singson
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The star of Esmeralda Kitchen’s menu though has to be the Pata Y Negra (P640). If you’re someone who’s never been a fan of dinuguan, this bestselling dish may just change your mind. Featuring tender pork pata and dinuguan sausage swimming in a thick, rich broth, this dish is just the right amount of tart–perfect for those whose dipping sauce of choice is vinegar. The soup is also poured tableside if you’re dining in, resulting in a lot more flavor as both the pork pata and dinuguan sausage slowly take in the broth.

esmeralda kitchen, Pata Y Negra
Think you hate dinuguan? Wait until you try the Pata Y Negra—a stick-to-your-ribs soup of pork pata and dinuguan sausage. 
PHOTO BY Kit Singson

Apart from being a sitdown restaurant, Esmeralda Kitchen also houses a bakery and deli featuring traditional baked goods such as Spanish bread, ensaymada, and mamon and deli items such as adobo flakes and embutido–perfect if you want to take goodies home to share with friends and family.

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esmeralda kitchen
Pick up treats for friends and family via their bakery and deli, which features traditional baked goods. 
PHOTO BY Kit Singson

Ann says, “I want [our diners] to take away with them the familiar, nostalgic feeling of a warm home and a memory of the taste of our food that brings them to that happy place.” And with its warm and cozy interiors as well as elevated home cooked fare, Esmeralda Kitchen truly feels like home.

Photos by Kit Singson

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