Living in a predominantly Catholic country, we Filipinos know all too well how our food choices change whenever the forty days of Lent are around. Due to the practice of abstinence from the consumption of meat, we try to make do with alternatives - and most of the time the restaurant chains play along. Many of these offerings, frequently fish-based, are quite noticeably far removed from the usual menu and are a poor fit to any existing items.
Sometimes however, there are Lenten offerings that deserve to be introduced as menu items all on their own.
Mabie and I went to Pizza Hut Bistro at Glorietta 4 one weekend to redeem some complimentary pizzas (thanks to BPI's credit card promo). We noticed that they offered some pretty interesting items for Lent, so we decided to try them out along with our pizza. We ordered the Crispy Oyster Mushrooms for PhP139 and the Strawberry Passion Salad for PhP165.
I'll go describe the Crispy Oyster Mushrooms first. It's a simple enough dish - oyster mushrooms are deep-fried and served on a platter with three different sauces: mayo mustard, chunky tomato sauce and barbecue sauce.
The surprise here is that it all just works. The mayo mustard may not be to everyone's taste, but the other sauces should go down well with almost anyone's palate. Pizza Hut Bistro is also quite generous with its oyster mushrooms too; if you have this as a side dish, it's good for two or three people.
Next up is the Strawberry Passion Salad. It has lettuce and mixed greens, along with the eponymous fresh strawberries, but it also has onions, tomatoes, sliced almonds and a strawberry vinaigrette.
I liked it. As with the fried mushrooms, there's something well-judged in how these ingredients just come together. The strawberry vinaigrette binds the whole salad and lends it quite a pungent, sweet-sour taste, helped along by the onions and mushy strawberries hidden in the greens. The fresh strawberries and almonds change up the texture and give body to the staple lettuce and greens.
Both of these items deserve a place in the usual menu and are too good to remain as simple "Lenten specials" in our humble opinion. Maybe the salad might be seasonal, due to the supply of strawberries, but both it and the crispy oyster mushrooms are solid year-round offerings.