Food Adventure at Aysee’s

There’s a trend of eating healthy food. Not the extreme vegetarian trend, but simply healthy food. Low cholesterol. Low fat, uric acid and what-have-you. Low everything. If you’re into healthy food, especially at this time of the year after the Christmas and New Year food splurging, good for you. But you’re not going to enjoy Aysee’s restaurant. And you’re going to miss an awesome lot.

Before we talk of the food in Aysee, particularly pork sisig, let’s get something out of the way. It’s the ambiance. Or the lack of it? It’s not that we’re fine dining freaks. We’re not. Not even remotely close. But we were taking the kids out for lunch that day, and the food court of Tiendesitas is, in our parents’ hat, not exactly a place to bring the kids for lunch. It’s open air and there’s a lot of smoke, from the food and fellow guests smoking. The servers, one smoking behind the counter, doesn’t really inspire comfort.

Really, if we haven’t heard, and know, that Aysee offers great food, we wouldn’t go past Tita Lynn’s at the foodcourt entrance.

Our idea of how food tastes, and the resulting lifetime aversion to food that doesn’t play well with our palate, is largely based on the first taste. The rules of engagement are different with generic food, those dishes that would taste and look basically the same no matter how bad you cook it (hotdog, for instance, falls into this category).

Then there’s the unique subset of Filipino food — the pulutan variety that could pass as main course when cooked well.

There’s papaitan, something that may sound delectable if we refer to it with the English equivalent: bitter beef stew. But before you nod your head and say, “well, doesn’t sound bad, let’s give it a try,” check the ingredients: liver, kidney, heart, pancreas, intestines, lungs, tripe. Yes, my dear, nothing goes to waste. I bet my liver you have no idea what tripe is. It’s a “type of edible offal from the stomachs of various farm animals.”

Still no idea? This is why, if you scroll back up, the title of this article speaks of food adventure. This is not for the weak of heart (or stomach).

Try papaitan somewhere else and you’ll swear to your culinary gods that you won’t try it again. Papaitan at Aysee, served on a thin steel pan perched a portable open-flame boiler, is something else. Keeping the soup hot has a purpose. It prevents the fat from clogging the surface of the stew, keeping it invisible to your eye while you enjoy it. The stew is slightly bitter, as it should be (otherwise, it won’t be called papaitan, would it?). And it’s sinfully delicious.

There are other menu items for the less adventurous. There’s calamares and beef steak (or bistek). But these are not the reasons why one goes to Aysee. The bestsellers, in addition to the papaitan, are the crispy pork and, of course, the sisig. We’re saving the best for lunch, er, last.

The generic ingredients of pork sisig are pork cheeks, tongue, heart and ears. We don’t know what goes into the Aysee pork sisig. It’s crunchy and not soggy, sliced just right, compared to finely-sliced sisig in other restaurants. The egg dropped raw on top of the sizzling sisig on a hot plate, which means that you have to squeeze the calamansi and stir in the egg as soon as the hot plate is served.

The taste? Let’s just say that if you haven’t tried the pork sisig of Aysee, you haven’t tasted sisig. It’s pulutan, yes, but this sisig could pass as lunch ulam. People enjoying beer, which is bitter, and getting drunk wouldn’t probably care how the pulutan tastes. But if you’re completely sober, or if you’re the type who likes getting drunk but still capable of enjoying good food, the pork sisig of Aysee is your match.

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