Plenty of savvy diners are familiar with ceviche, a raw fish preparation characteristic of the Mexican and Peruvian coastal cuisines. But have you tried kinilaw, a Filipino version of the dish that's seasoned with juice of a calamansi (a citrus fruit), ginger, and Filipino vinegars?
You'll have the opportunity to do so at Mixto, a new ceviche-themed pop-up dinner series, hosted by the farm-to-table Mexican restaurant Nido (444 Oak St., Oakland), that promises to explore the breadth and depth of this one dish — stretching across multiple cultures and culinary traditions.
The series will kick off at 7 p.m. on Sunday, November 10, with a four-course Filipino dinner cooked by Tim Luym, who was the chef at Poleng Lounge (San Francisco's sorely missed upscale Filipino fusion spot) and now consults at The Attic in San Mateo. Tickets cost $85, purchasable at Mixto.Eventbrite.com, and cover the cost of the meal itself, beverage pairings, tax, and gratuities.
Mixto is the brainchild of Carlos Nieto, an Oakland-based party and event organizer. Nieto, who is half Peruvian, had been toying with the idea of opening a Peruvian cevichería, but then decided that organizing a series of one-offs would be a good way to test the waters.
From the beginning, he thought it would be cool to structure the pop-up series around the diversity of ceviche — the way the dish transcends boundaries and crosses over into seemingly unrelated cuisines. Having grown up in the Bay Area, Nieto said he always felt like he's an "honorary 25 percent Mexican and 25 percent Filipino" because those were the cuisines he grew up eating at friends' houses.
Nieto remembered eating a sashimi-like dish during a trip to the Philippines, so he asked Luym, a longtime friend, whether there was such a thing as Filipino-style ceviche. As it turns out, many of the small fishing communities in the Philippines — particularly in the province of Cebu, where Luym's extended family lives — have a long history of taking freshly caught fish, cleaning it, and then "cooking" it with calamansi juice, shallots, and chili peppers. It's the same concept that Mexicans and Peruvians employ with ceviche.
"A lot of islands that have great seafood — not just the Philippines — they find a way to sterilize that seafood with some kind of acid," Luym explained.
For Sunday's dinner, Luym's first course will be a sinigang-style shrimp ceviche — raw shrimp that will be lightly "cooked" by the acidity from the sinigang, a sour Filipino soup. Then he'll serve two kinilaws: The first, a traditional preparation characteristic of the southern Philippines, will feature mackerel, calamansi juice, and palm vinegar. For the second, a California-fied version of a Cebuano-style kinilaw, Luym will use walu, coconut milk, and coconut vinegar.
The third will consist of two different silog (garlic fried rice) tacos. The fourth will be a twist on halo halo, the Filipino shaved ice dessert, served with avocado frozen custard.
Nieto said he'd still like to open a restaurant someday, but for now he's concentrating on launching a new project — a Bay Area-based lifestyle website, TheFreshist.com — and Mixto. The second pop-up dinner, on December 8, will focus on Peruvian ceviche and will be prepared by chef Jose Sarmiento, the proprietor of a Peruvian-Mexican restaurant in Pacifica called El Toro Loco. Nido's chef-owner Silvia McCollow will close out the series on January 12 with a dinner highlighting Mexican ceviche.
A Decadent Bacon Burger
Just when you thought adding bacon to everything was passé, Baron's Eats, the newly opened sandwich-shop offshoot of the Baron's Meats butcher shop inside the Alameda Marketplace (1650 Park St.), is offering a new bacon-studded burger.
The "5150" Bacon Burger is 50 percent BN Ranch grass-fed ground beef and 50 percent Niman Ranch uncured maple bacon ground right into the patty itself. The result is one extremely rich, fatty, and tasty burger.
Owner Dave Samiljan and chef John Coucaud aren't the first meat alchemists to mix bacon into a beef burger patty — Southern California has an entire restaurant chain dedicated to that 50/50 mix (Slater's 50/50), and the Oakland sausage-and-beer garden Telegraph also serves a version. But the half-bacon burger sold at Baron's is especially well executed. All of the shop's burgers, including the 5150, are cooked using the "smash-and-griddle" method, popularized by places like New York City's Shake Shack and the Denver-based chain Smashburger. The technique involves taking raw meat that's shaped into a big meatball and smashing it onto the hot flat-top, resulting in a thin, but juicy, burger patty with a nicely charred exterior. Of course, the bacon fat — which Samiljan guessed might push the burger's overall fat content up to around 35 percent — also assures a juicy burger. The other components — a well-toasted bun from Feel Good Bakery, crisp cold lettuce, tomato, and mayo — were simple but uniformly excellent.
According to Samiljan, the idea for the 5150 came about as a matter of happy coincidence. He had some bacon ends at the butcher shop that he needed to use up, and customers had been pestering him for a bacon add-on option for the regular burger. The problem, Samiljan said, was that the sliced bacon he sells is so expensive that it would tack on an extra $4 onto the price of the burger, and he felt that was too steep. Instead, he and Coucaud came up with the idea of grinding the bacon ends and other oddly shaped pieces into the patty, infusing the burger with bacon flavor at a much lower cost. (The 5150 is quite reasonably priced at $8; cheese is available for an extra $1.)
Though the bacon burger was conceived as an occasional special, Samiljan said it's been so popular that he's decided to add it to the regular menu: "Put bacon on the menu, and people will buy it."