Chef Sau puts the flair (er, fleur) into Filipino food

Spring and summer on a plate in this fresh Wild Pacu Salad with Kesong Puti

Purplish Butterfly Pea and bright yellow Lemon Gem marigold from the garden at the back of the old mansion in Pampanga adorned the platters heaping with food.

It was almost too beautiful to eat and, to those who know Filipino dishes to be “brown or orange-y” in general, the feast before us offered fresh perspective.

We ended up in Angeles City’s 25 Seeds at the recommendation of a foodie friend. Early for an appointment, we sought something “authentic Kapampangan” and — while chef Sau del Rosario may be famous beyond his hometown — we knew this was a place worth a visit.

A little sign bearing the restaurant’s name led to a cemented path and into the gravel courtyard of an old ancestral place. The trees were tall, the cream-painted structure bearing vestiges of the grandeur it once had. Beside the entrance to the main restaurant was Café Fleur (and we could not wait to order coffee and Chef Sau’s famous Vuco Fye and Burnt Bibingka Cheesecake!).

Piling into the entryway where potted plants lined one wall and a glass divider opposite offered a glimpse to the flight of stairs we were to take to the second floor, we could barely contain our excitement (and hunger pangs).

The restaurant lay sprawled throughout the second floor of the mansion. A central bar area was surrounded by tables set near the windows. Comfortable couches were clustered near the bar, and from there we could glimpse some of the private dining rooms for groups.

We dined in the biggest one, filling two long tables. The platters of food were laid out on a wood banquet between these tables. We smelled them before they were brought out of the adjacent kitchen — and mouths watered as we saw the bright colors and beautiful plating that had us whipping out our phones for those Instagrammable photos.

To start with, we had the 25 Seeds Signature Salad, with fresh, crisp greens (sadly no arugula though), gorgonzola, walnuts, apples and a balsamic dressing one could pour from a little ceramic pitcher.

Next came Wild Pacu with Kesong Puti, topped with shrimps and drizzled with the house vinaigrette, again charmingly served in a little ceramic pitcher.

We passed on the soup as it was a searing noontime, but went all out with the mains: Crispy Pork Belly Macadamia Kare-Kare (classic Chef Sau signature dish, not to be missed!); Bagnet Pinakbet (with eggplant, ampalaya, beans and other seasonal vegetables fresh from their garden, drenched in bagoong and topped with crispy, meaty chunks of the bagnet); Edith’s Boneless Galantina (a chunky dish of ground chicken, sausage, cheese, egg and ham); Crispy Pampano on a bed of steamed okra and a bowl of buro, a real Kapampangan treat made of fermented rice, shrimp paste, garlic, vinegar and salt.

Another star of the table was the Tamales, Chef Sau’s version of the Mexican-inspired rice flour. 25 Seeds’ version rendered the tamales, which is usually wrapped in banana leaves, in clear short glasses. It had salted egg and longganisa, and was eaten spooned onto toasted rolls.

We ate till we could not eat anymore, and basked in the old-world charm of 25 Seeds, where time seemed suspended, and food was best enjoyed with company.