Deep inside Sikatuna Village, there is a portal that takes you to Central America. Not by any advanced science or magic (although the second one is debatable), mind you, but through the mouthwatering dishes in Thomas Adviento’s Cocina Juan.
Originally conceptualized as a Mexican restaurant, Central American cuisine was moved to the forefront when Mr. Adviento spent a few months in Nicaragua for business where he discovered the flavors inherent to the region. Chief among his discoveries was the chimichurri sauce, a basic Latin American sauce containing chopped parsley, olive oil, vinegar, and other herbs used to accompany grilled meat. Upon his return here, Thomas asked his brother, Juan (a chef who’s since migrated to Canada and the one the restaurant is named after), to help him replicate the dishes he learned to enjoy.
Thus Cocina Juan, a restaurant specializing in “inspiracion de Centro America. Plato para la Filipino” was born.
Taking ideas not just from Nicaragua but also from Guatemala and Panama, Cocina Juan’s menu includes specialties like the Churrasco de Guatemala, three skewers of grilled chicken and beef, gallo pinto (fried rice with red beans), corn, potatoes (home fries-style) and a small dipping bowl of chirmol (a tangy, traditional Guatemalan sauce which literally means “smashed tomatoes”).
However if you think the Guatemalan plate has too much starch for your tastes with the rice, corn and potatoes, there’s also the Churrasco de Nicaragua which comes with a lettuce, onion, tomato and parmesan cheese salad topped with a vinaigrette dressing. As an alternative to the chirmol, this dish comes with the zesty chimichurri.
Apart from the Churrasco specials, Cocina Juan also offers the Chuleta de Cordero and the Burrito con Mozzarella. The Chuleta de Cordero is a generous portion of lamb marinated in the chimichurri sauce served with a side salad and the gallo pinto.
On the other hand, the Burrito con Mozzarella, is a plate of grilled beef slices topped with creamy, melted mozzarella cheese, fresh chopped salsa, a salad, and three tortilla wrappers (additional wrappers may be ordered). Unlike the already-wrapped burritos we’re more accustomed to, diners who order this dish will have the chance to assemble their own burritos.
Aside from taking you to Latin American countries, Cocina Juan also makes a side trip through other countries like Philippines and Italy, fusing international food concepts with Latin flavors. For instance, popular among regulars are the Dinamito and the Pita Pizzas.
The pita pizzas, on the other hand, are pizzas made with a really thin, crispy pita crust. Cocina Juan has seven variations currently, including Carne Asado (seasoned beef), Atun (tuna) and Pepperoni. These pizzas are best enjoyed fresh and crunchy from the oven.
- Valerie Grace Calma