By J & C (the tell-it-as-it-is food critics)
Ed’s Note: Food Finds is a review segment by our contributors — Metro Manila-based entrepreneurs, J & C.
Salads are typically considered as starters, side dishes, or diet meals – plain and insufficient. There are a few however that are in no way basic or lacking. These are the salads you crave, you dream about, and you look forward to eating. They have character and depth which make them stand out on their own. They can definitely be the star of any meal and the main dish to which you may order some sides with. These salads may not be the fanciest or the healthiest ones around, but we assure you that once you’ve tried them, you’ll regularly find yourself daydreaming and craving for more.
Disclaimer: We are not declaring these salads to be the best out there nor are we attempting to rank them by any measures available. We just really love each of them, that to not tell the world about their existence would be a great crime.
California Pizza Kitchen: The Original BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad @ PhP395 (half order); PhP625 (full order)
This hearty platter of greens and yellows and reds was our very first beloved salad. It has been our go-to salad whenever we feel like eating something light yet substantial enough to last us through our next meal. At first, one may find the combination of barbecued chicken on a salad weird, but surprisingly it works! There is a great balance of flavors and textures among all the ingredients. The rich and savory cubes of barbecued chicken meat go very well with the wonderful crunch and subtle taste of lettuce, jimaca, corn and diced tomatoes; and every bite sings with the lovely flavors and aroma of cilantro, kidney beans, diced cheese, squeeze of lemon, and one terrific ranch dressing. The pleasant addition of crispy fried tortilla chips is a wonderful treat to the ears. This dish delightfully indulges the senses!
TIP: Add lots of black pepper to the salad. The restaurant serves freshly ground pepper, but you still need lots of it since the serving size (full order) is very big.
ANOTHER TIP: If you feel like having a light dinner, this salad can be perfectly paired with CPK’s Pita with Tuscan Hummus. A full order of the salad and a regular order of the pita generously serve two people.
P.S. There is no other salad we’ve tried that is as thoughtful as this when it comes to prepping (cutting and slicing the ingredients). Each of the components is cut bite-size, making the dish very easy to eat.
Brickfire: Mango Crab Salad @ PhP180
This is our salad when we are on a budget. At less than 200 pesos, this salad is a bargain for your money but certainly not for your taste buds or your waistline. The serving size is huge and the ensemble of ingredients is well thought of, such that the resulting dish resembles a high-end creation. Faux “crab” meat aside, this salad is very refreshing and filling all at the same time. The sweetness and the tartness of the mangoes go very well with the sharp taste of the red onion, the mildness of the sometimes overdressed green lettuce, the slight bitterness of the purple cabbage, and the crispiness of the fried wonton (more like lumpia wrapper) strips.
TIP: You might want to plan on how to allocate the mango and crab “stick” pieces, because they are quite sparse.
Earth Kitchen: Beef and Citrus Salad @ PhP290
Can a dish be both homey and elegant? Apparently yes! This bowl of salad is so fresh and so delicately prepared that eating it makes us feel like wealthy hacienderos enjoying the fruits of our lands with a dish prepared by our very own personal chef. Raw papaya, mixed greens, tomatoes, peanuts, dayap vinaigrette – what a very modern Pinoy creation! And the beef… oh the beef… is out of this world! The beef, which doesn’t seem to be a premium cut, is nevertheless treated like a premium steak. It is cooked medium-rare to medium and sliced quite thinly against the grain, making every piece very tender. We never had the chance to ask whether the beef is organic, but it pretty much tastes like it. It doesn’t have that awful “beefy” smell at all. A word of warning though, this bowl is not meant for sharing… which is probably why the miser in us, rated this dish half a star shy from perfection.
Corner Tree Café: Quinoa Salad @ PhP220 (solo); PhP410 (sharing)
This salad is a very creative dish. Who knew quinoa can be the base for a lovely bowl of salad? Every ingredient – organic greens, sunflower seeds, grilled asparagus – is bright and goes very well with the hearty feel of the quinoa. This being a vegan and organic dish feels very light and healthy. Not only does this salad please the mouth, it also satisfies the stomach… no fuss, no muss, just simple and clean. Whoever conceptualized this must be experienced enough not to complicate and ruin this one fine modest dish.
CALIFORNIA PIZZA KITCHEN
Locations: Alabang Town Center; Bonifacio High Street; Greenbelt 5; Greenhills Shopping Center; Power Plant Mall; Trinoma; Mall of Asia; Eastwood Mall; Century City Mall; Subic Freeport Zone
Contact No. & Hours: please refer to www.cpk.com.ph
Location: 2/F, Xavier Residence Bldg., Esteban Abada corner Rosa Alvero Sts., Loyola Heights, Quezon City
Contact No.: +63-2-4262254
Hours: Mon-Sun @ 10:30am-10pm
Branch/es: UG/F, The Annex, SM City North EDSA, Quezon City
Caltex Station, Marcos Highway, Masinag, Antipolo City
Location: Lot 10 Block 10 Katipunan Ave., White Plains, Quezon City
Hours: Tue-Sun @ 11am-9:30pm
Branch/es: Bonifacio High Street Central, 7th Ave., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
CORNER TREE CAFE
Location: 150 Jupiter corner Saturn Sts., Bel-Air, Makati City
Contact No.: +63-2-8970295, +63-906-558-6177
Hours: Mon-Sun @ 11am-10pm
Let our palates and our pockets be your guide,
J & C