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China Daily Global / 2021-03 / 18 / Page016

Need a Philippine food fix? Mesa Madre hits the spot

By Jamal Branford | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-03-18 00:00

One of the great things about living in Beijing is that it truly is an international city when it comes to cuisine. I have found restaurants serving all kinds of food here-Indian, Mexican, German, American and more.

I've also been surprised to find that the capital offers lesser-known, perhaps underappreciated ware-including, to my delight, Philippine food.

I've traveled to the Philippines several times over the years, and the cuisine there rarely disappoints. So I was excited when I randomly came across a review in The Beijinger of a restaurant called Mesa Madre. I made arrangements to have lunch there with one of my Chinese friends who had never had the pleasure of eating such food, and we met there on a recent Saturday.

Located in Jianwai Soho, Mesa Madre was not so easy to find at first. It's a small place, kind of tucked away in the back of a row of businesses on Jianwai Dajie, but I found it. The owner, a lovely Filipina named Gem, warmly greeted me as I entered.

I took a seat, noting the cozy, vibrant atmosphere. The wall opposite the tables displays a colorful mural depicting elements of Chinese and Filipino culture. It's quite beautiful and really adds to the ambience of the place.

Across from where I was sitting, I saw a mini cooler stocked with San Miguel beer. I knew immediately that I was in the right place. San Miguel is essentially the national beer in the Philippines, and the fact that Mesa Madre serves it lends the eatery credibility. I quickly ordered one to enjoy before my friend arrived.

Once she got there, we ordered a plate of their homemade sourdough bread, which came with three dips-hummus, basil pesto and spicy ajvar. The dips were all good (the basil pesto was my favorite), and the bread was divine. They actually sell them by the loaf there for those who want to take some home, but sadly they didn't have any more for sale that day, so I missed out on that. At least I had the chance to try it.

For the main course, I ordered adobo, a staple dish in the Philippines. Mine was made with juicy pork and potatoes covered with a sauce, served with white rice. I never thought I would have the opportunity to try this in China, and I was very happy I had the chance. Delicious! My friend ordered pasta with beef Bolognese, which she said she really enjoyed.

Finally, I ordered one of their hot chocolate chip cookies with a scoop of ice cream on top, a sweet, creamy way to end the meal. They also sell the cookies for carryout, so in lieu of the bread, I bought some of those.

I really enjoyed my experience at Mesa Madre. The atmosphere was inviting, the staff was very friendly, and the food was solid. I miss the Philippines, and due to COVID-19, Mesa Madre is probably the closest I'll get to going back for a while. Salamat, Gem!


Jamal Branford



A colorful mural brings out the character of the Mesa Madre restaurant in Beijing. JAMAL BRANFORD/CHINA DAILY



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