Corazon means heart in Spanish.
It was also the first name of the late former president of the Philippines – the first female president in Asia, and the person who restored democracy to the Philippines after a dictatorship.
So the word has a lot of weight for Filipinos.
Corazon Restaurant, located in the new wing of the Shangri-la Plaza Mall in Mandaluyong City, serves hearty local cuisine – food that is heavily influenced by decades of Spanish colonization, food that is bursting with flavor and richness, food that would remind Filipinos of grand family feasts at home. It’s also food that’s a worthy tribute to the former President, as the chef-owner said that naming the restaurant after her is an ode of gratitude.
Living away from the Philippines for nearly a decade, I often feel starved of this type of food – especially in Boston where the sole Filipino restaurant is outside the city. Sure, I can cook my own food, brew my own hot chocolate, but I can’t come up with these slow-cooked, often multi-step, complicated dishes. So now that I’m in Manila for an extended vacation, I’ve been enjoying lots of home cooked Pinoy meals and venturing out with family and friends to try new restaurants. Corazon is one of my favorites to date.
We started the meal with an appetizer of squash blossoms stuffed with kesong puti (local white cheese, the cheese I’ve loved my whole life), served with a chunky tomato sauce. I was smitten with this after one bite – I loved the delicate squash blossom, or bulaklak ng kalabasa (“pumpkin flower”) paired with the milky creaminess of the cheese, fried to perfection.
Then we dove right in to the main courses:
Paella Negra – squid, squid ink and fish fillet topped with garlic aioli
Lengua – braised beef tongue with mushroom sauce
Laing with Lechon Kawali – taro leaves cooked in coconut milk and chilies, topped with crispy pork belly
Bangus Belly – strips of milkfish belly cooked in soy sauce and onions
I liked all of the dishes, particularly the lengua which has always been a favorite. The laing (taro leaves taste like a cross between spinach and kale) wasn’t as spicy as I would’ve liked, in spite of the sprinkle of sili (chili), but the pork belly was crisp and unctuous. The paella negra was sticky and rich, with the squid ink giving a savory depth of flavor. I only tried a small bite of the milkfish, and the fish was tender, almost silky. I liked everything about Corazon, really, from the decor to the wide selection on the menu.
I liked that they serve chichacorn (deep fried corn kernels flavored with garlic, salt, and pepper – an affordable and vegetarian take on the artery clogging chicharron, or crispy pork rinds); I liked that they offer the holy trinity of Filipino condiments: Patis, Suka, Toyo (fish sauce, vinegar, soy sauce).
I also really liked the dessert we ordered:
Suman Latik with Tsokolate – sticky rice cakes with sweet coconut jam crumbles and thick hot chocolate
The little bite size sticky cakes were served in shot glasses, dunked in luxuriously thick Filipino hot chocolate (check out my blog post on tsokolate if you’re interested in learning more). Sweet, but not too sweet; rich, but not cloying. One little glass per person was the perfect ending to a hearty meal.
I still have a couple of weeks left to spend here in Manila, and I will probably go back to Corazon again. It’s the food I always miss, from the bottom of my heart.