Monday, August 4, 2014

A Return to my food roots -- Sincerity Restaurant in Binondo

Whenever I see an old style Chinese restaurant, I invariably remember my father and his penchant for comida china and hole in the wall panciterias.  Growing up in Malabon, he and I would often hop on a jeep and ride all the way to Sta. Cruz in Manila where we would get off and walk through Tomas Pinpin,  Salazar, Florentino Torres, Carvajal, Ongpin, Quintin Paredes, Escolta, Marquina, Nueva ... and just stop in his various favourites.
He had a special panciteria just for lomi, another one for chami, still another one for machang, and so on and so forth.
If we were celebrating something, a birthday or a promotion or yes, good grades on my part, we would always have a meal at Moderna, right across Sta. Cruz church where the owner was also a family friend.
Most  of our old haunts have disappeared, some have moved out of Chinatown but some are still there, surviving and thriving through changing food trends and tastes.

One of our favourite restaurants was Sincerity, which I am happy to say can still be found along Nueva Street.  A bit of personal trivia -- Sincerity and I were both born in the same year so I have a particular affinity for it -- not to mention its famous oyster omelet and fried chicken!

Last week-end, I decided to haul the family to Sincerity for a nostalgic (on my part) lunch.  We arrived just before noontime and had to take a table on the second floor - I was happy to see that despite the many fast food choices in the area, Sincerity still packs the crowds in.

The second floor is actually less crowded and busy than the first floor, where the cramped kitchen is.
Most of the tables are occupied by big groups -- most likely officemates working in the Chinatown area.

Since Jay is allergic to oysters, I couldn't order Sincerity's best selling dish.  I did get two kinds of rice -- a small cup each of kiampong and Sincerity fried rice.

Sincerity makes very good chami guisado -- a very savoury noodle dish that uses fresh fat, yellow noodles.  It's like lomi without the soup.  My father and I used to eat chami in Chinatown -- for merienda, for lunch or dinner.
Sometimes, not content with having eaten our fill, we'd even take an order home, wrapped in banana leaves and thick wax paper.
Sincerity's chami has that old time familiar taste -- rich from all the meat and shrimp and heavy with the aroma of toasted garlic.

We also ordered que kiam or kikiam.   Unlike the minced mystery meat version sold along with fish balls in street corners, this is the real thing.  Chopped recognisable bits of pork and ham, wrapped in bean curd sheets and deep fried.  It was so delicious!

A meal at Sincerity is not complete without the star of the show -- the fried chicken.
Since it is freshly made and cooked when you order, it also is the last dish to be served at the table.  We had eaten most of our food when our half order of chicken arrived.
I am sorry to say that we lost all control and grabbed what we could -- thus, this is a pretty sad photo of the one piece which survived the onslaught.
It does not do justice whatsoever to this crisp, juicy, extremely flavourful fried chicken -- you can say that it tastes like home made, if you can cook as well as they do, at Sincerity Restaurant.

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