Thursday, July 14, 2011

Iconic artist Dali inspires chef to put up Spanish restaurant

Churros with warm chocolate sauce. Photo courtesy of Dali Restaurante y Bar de Tapas

MANILA, Philippines - There's much sophistication in Dali's art. Images of warped timepieces, forms with moustache--apparently self-portraits of the artist himself--seemingly random subjects contribute to the complexity and depth to the art's surrealism.

Chef Pia Herrera and her husband Jose are big fans of the Spanish artist. This is why they named their restaurant after him, to also lend authenticity to the place.

"Salvador Dali is a very iconic artist for Spain, so what better [choice is there] to be a figurehead for a restaurant? And he's always been a favorite of my husband and mine. And I think he represents the flavor and the drama of Spain," Chef Pia Herrera said on the "Taste Buds" segment of "Mornings @ ANC" recently.

Copies of Spanish artist Salvador Dali's paintings adorn the restaurant. Photo courtesy of Dali Restaurante y Bar de Tapas

True enough, that drama is evident in copies of Dali's works which are displayed prominently at Dali Restaurante y Bar de Tapas, lending atmosphere to the venue and character to what they serve.

The food is authentic Spanish, inspired by the many influences Chef Pia took from living with her parents in Europe, and driving around in a motor home during family vacations in Spain. She went to culinary school at the Center for Culinary Arts in Quezon City and continued in upstate New York where she refined her culinary skills.

Incidentally, one of their partners at Dali is no less than Don Pepe Rodriguez, director of Instituto Cervantes, who has become a consultant for the food they serve.

Classic Spanish cuisine

"We've decided to focus on classic Spanish cuisine rather than doing the fusion most Spanish restaurants seem to be doing nowadays. Our menu is made up mostly of the tapas and it's a fun way to eat. We have the croquetas in many different flavors: chicken, ham, tuna. Another best seller is dates wrapped in bacon, datilas con bacon. We offer many of the classics like lengua de Jerez and callos, arroz negra, paella valenciana, cochinillo--the Spanish version of the lechon," Chef Pia said.

Unlike other restaurants which use a cream based sauce, Dali uses a sherry-based sauce for its lengua con Jerez.

Tapas and paellas may be a staple of Spanish cuisine, but Spanish cooking also has its own artistic variations.

Pescado a la sal con salsa verde is fish encased in salt and baked in an oven.

Chef Pia showed us one of their best sellers: the pescado a la sal using fish that's in season.

"It's a whole fish encased in salt and we bake it in the oven. And it's pretty much steamed with the salt, so when it comes out, it's just running juices and it's very flavorful. We serve it with a very classic Spanish sauce, the salsa verde," Chef Pia said.

There's just a hint of salt, but all the flavors of the capers, and olives in the salsa verde do wonders for this dish.

Fusion drinks

Chef Pia noted that much of the innovation and fusion done in the restaurant plays out in their sangrias and wine cocktails.

"We've introduced some new flavors, a bit of Asian flavors, into some of our sangrias," she said.

Their Sangria Oriental, for instance, is concocted using basil, simple syrup and ice, guava juice, red wine, sangria, and sliced oranges, shaken and served with guava slices.

Soon, Dali hopes to open a deli outlet where they'll be marketing their homemade boquerones (pickled fish marinated in olive oil), salads, jamon serrano, chorizos and various cold cuts. They will also be retailing wines.

"We want this to be a total experience restaurant so we have many plans including our deli and wine retail. We are offering gourmet homemade ice cream. One of our showcase desserts are sangrias and churros con chocolate ice cream which they can even personalize.

"We plan to have our deli and wine retail area fully operational by the grand opening. We want to make ourselves a trademark name for Spanish food in Quezon City," said Chef Pia.

Dali Restaurante y Bar de Tapas is at 40 E. Lopez St. corner Sgt. Esguerra Avenue, South Triangle, Quezon City, tel. no. (632) 928-0971, e-mail:

Serves 4 to 6

500 grams lapu-lapu
1,000 grams rock salt
5 pcs. lemon


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Clean the fish, remove gills and innards then place lemon slices inside and put on an oven tray.
  3. Moisten rock salt with water until it resembles wet sand.
  4. In a pan, place fish on a bed of rock salt and cover the fish entirely. Pat down firmly.
  5. Broil the fish in the oven for around 20 to 30 minutes.
  6. Remove the fish from the oven and carefully remove the top layer of salt crust.
  7. Serve with salsa verde sauce and garnish with lemons.

Salsa Verde

1 anchovy fillet
1 Tbsp capers
2 Tbsp green olives
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb garlic
1 lb lemon juice
1 tsp siling labuyo
1/2 cup parsley (chopped)

Put all ingredients in a blender to make a smooth sauce. Place in a bowl and serve with the fish.

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