Cocina dela Casa

Pan Seared Emeror Bream  Herbed Potato Puree, French  Beans

Pan Seared Emeror Bream Herbed Potato Puree, French Beans. (CDN PHOTO/DR. XAVIER SOLIS)

CHEF and sommelier Stephen Aznar has decided to stay home and entertain discerning diners with his out-of-the ordinary cuisine that he has honed after many years of living in New York City. An adventurous person belonging to the prominent Aznar family that once owned the Southwestern University, Stephen pursued further education in America but eventually settled with food and wine career that he loves. He studied culinary in The New School–New York and has a wine school diploma.

His experience working with New York’s Award winning Chef David Waltuck’s critically acclaimed Chanterelle Restaurant known for its refined French cuisine and Sherry Lehmann Wine & Spirits, have defined the distinction of Cocina dela Casa’s dining concept, not to mention his passion for cooking that comes from his mother and his exposure to different culinary cultures.

Chef Sommelier Stephen Aznar

Chef Sommelier Stephen Aznar. (CDN PHOTO/DR. XAVIER SOLIS)

Stephen simply loves to cook, eat and drink!

The whole idea of Cocina dela Casa was born out of a love for dining and company of Stephen’s close friends, Margette Garcia Sarmiento and Ina Ronquillo Aboitiz. An old white house owned by the Garcias built in the 1960s located along Morales street behind Harolds Hotel along Gorordo Avenue has been renovated and given a contemporary touch by Margette who loves interior designing. Homey, and elegant, Margette and Ina successfully created a casual but chic ambience. Cocina dela Casa soft opened only a month ago.

The impressive menu offers selections from international cuisines as well as heirloom dishes of Margette’s mother,

Tita Nena Garcia known for her chorizos and desserts. The house wine, Portuguese Quinta de Alorna white, rose and red complemented the dinner, choices of which were selected by Margette. For openers, Chicken Liver Pate with Cointreau on Toast excited our palates.

A parade of appetizers kept our eyes popping with delight while we feasted on them: Indian Style Beef Triangles stuffed with ground beef, mirepoix or sautéed carrot, celery and onion, madras curry and raisins wrapped in wanton wrappers and deep-fried; Vietnamese-inspired Oriental Spring Rolls of ground pork, glass noodles, shitake mushrooms, peanuts served sweet spicy sauce, which I enjoyed wrapped with crisp lettuce. The Pork Belly Chicharon with Asian dip was delicately crunchy and sinfully good. The Mozarella or water buffalo cheese Omelet with basil and onions was deliciously gooey.

Prawn and Pomelo Salad

Prawn and Pomelo Salad. (CDN PHOTO/DR. XAVIER SOLIS)

Margette, a perfect hostess that she is, was excited for us to sample all the dishes but we finally limited these to the signature offerings. The Prawn and Pomelo Salad with Asian Dressing was Thai-inspired. Stephen took up short culinary courses in Thai cooking, too. The Cream of Salmon Pasta looked good but I chose to have the heirloom dishes of Tita Nena—Lomo de Bacalao with Japanese Rice and Nena’s Tripeless Callos with only beef knuckles, chorizo, Jamon Serrano, Chickpeas, pimiento and Spanish paprika. But Stephen’s signature dish he favors is Moroccan Braised Lamb Shank with Couscous served with Harissa, a North African hot chili pepper sauce. I had room for the Pan-seared Emperor Bream
locally known as katambak.

Oriental Spring Rolls with Sweet Spicy Sauce. (CDN PHOTO/DR. XAVIER SOLIS)

Oriental Spring Rolls with Sweet Spicy Sauce. (CDN PHOTO/DR. XAVIER SOLIS)

Stephen admits he is not into pastries so the dessert menu offers the scrumptious time-honored creations of Tita Nena. We relished Crema de Mang —layered delight with Cebu mango, Fresh Cream, custard and sponge cake; Mango Cream Cheese Pie, Borracho— French chocolate, rum and chocolate crumble.

TAGS: America, Cebu, chef, cooking, cuisine, culinary, dish, food, House, taste
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