Pampanga eats: Chef Sau's 25 Seeds is a mansion of Kapampangan delight

Jeeves de Veyra

Posted at Apr 21 2017 06:08 AM | Updated as of Apr 21 2017 09:52 AM

Chef Sau Del Rosario poses in the main dining area of his restaurant 25 Seeds. Photo by author

MANILA -- What was once a dilapidated 1920s house has now become chef Sau Del Rosario’s farm-to-table altar to Kapampangan cuisine. 

The restaurant 25 Seeds is also a celebration of Del Rosario’s 25th year in the food business that spans continents, countries, and restaurants. After going around the world cooking in hotels, restaurants and food fairs, he proudly said that the main ingredient to his success is being Kapampangan.

The expansive property that houses 25 Seeds has quite a story. After the success of Café Fleur, Del Rosario was approached by locals who offered their houses up for rent. But he was reluctant to open another restaurant so soon. One of these owners was the chef’s classmate at the University of the Philippines was particularly insistent in showing her ancestral home. This turned out to be Dychiaco mansion in Angeles City’s heritage district that Del Rosario fell in love with at first sight.

Built in the 1920s, the mansion was home to a prominent doctor and his family. The children immigrated to the United States and no one was left to take care of the house. The grand old house was overrun by squatters who stripped it bare. When renovations started, nobody has lived in the house for 50 years.

This mansion was built back in the 1920s before it was turned into chef Sau Del Rosario's new restaurant 25 Seeds. Photo by author

Del Rosario did the interiors of the 25 Seeds himself. The mansion has been given a modern homey feel with books and memorabilia tastefully placed around the restaurant renovation. Much thought has been put into preserving the feel of a house with the main sala housing the main dining area and bar. The bedroom and the old dining room can be reserved for private dinners.

The house also has a garden at the back. If you look hard enough, you can spot the flowers, vegetables and herbs used in the recipes growing in the small field.

The restaurant has its own garden in the property. Photo by author

Del Rosario is keeping busy. He is part of a group called Culinaria Pampanga, which is a group of renowned Kapampangan chefs whose aim is to preserve old recipes and to further spotlight Pampangueno cuisine.

His other upcoming projects are Mondo that will host one of the ASEAN Summit dinners in November, and Café Fleur Express at the new Clark International Airport.

Here's what you can order at 25 Seeds. 

Bulanglang

The bulanglang is the Pampangueno take on sinigang with guava as the souring agent. It’s obvious from the cloudy broth and pork that just crumbles at first bite that this has simmered for some time. Broth is poured on demand from kettles to make sure that this is served piping hot. Photo by author

Portobello Confit

This salad is a colorful collection of flowers and arugula from the garden behind the house with some Portobello mushrooms tossed in to provide some protein. The accompanying dressing is more sweet than sour that nicely tones down the bitter notes of the arugula.

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Ensaladang Talong

Del Rosario's take on Eggplant Ensalada is also different. It comes slathered with aioli and topped with slices of salted egg. Lemon and calamansi are on the side for the diner to add sourness as they see fit.

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Salted Egg Fried Chicken

This version of Salted Egg Fried Chicken has a bit of siling labuyo to give it a lingering spicy finish. This nicely complemented that powdery salty taste that is characteristic of this ingredient-du-jour. I don’t like salted egg, but I had no qualms about gobbling up a couple of extra pieces.

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Sisig Paella

The centerpiece of the meal was a 1.5-foot paellera of Sisig Paella. The crunchiness of the sisig plus the crunchiness of the paella’s pork-infused burnt rice was a winning combination. The sisig itself was delicious by itself. Since I added a little calamansi and took a generous bit of siling labuyo as I like my food a little sour and a lot of heat.

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Fried Whole Duck Adobo with Pinakbet

The Duck Adobo with Pinakbet was a clever pairing. The duck’s skin was slightly crispy. The adobo sauced meat went very well with bagoong from the pinakbet.

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Steamed Apahap

At first, this may look like the usual steamed fish that is served in typical Chinese Restaurants. The twist on the Steamed Apahap (local seabass) should be obvious by just seeing the bits of labuyo on the fish. The addition of heat to familiar flavors seem to be a recurring theme in 25 Seeds’ menu.

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25 Seeds Pork Pata Tim

This Kapampangan version of pata tim has velvety soft braised pork topped with vegetables, flowers and fried saba.

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Lechemon and Jackfruit Sans Rival

A couple of 25 Seeds' bestselling desserts closed the meal: Tres Leches, chiffon cake topped with a thick layer of leche flan; and Jackfruit Sans Rival.

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