It's Lent which means many of us Catholics are on a "diet" once more, abstaining from eating red meat at least on Fridays. For me, this calls for seafood. In my neighborhood, there's plenty of Chinese fishmongers who sell all variety of oceanic creatures. But one thing I sorely miss is eating grilled fish. And not just any fish. Growing up in Davao, I was exposed to the grilled specialty of the region: Inihaw Na Panga or grilled tuna jaw. That's what I want.
Here comes my savior: Tito Rad's Grill & Restaurant. Like many Pinoy establishments in New York, it's based in Queens which means it's really close to where I live, just a train ride on the No. 7 line. We decided to come here for one thing only which happens to be their specialty, the grilled tuna jaw. No surprise here, the restaurant owners are originally from Davao.
It's not the first time I'm eating grilled tuna jaw in New York. Before it was moved up to the Bronx, the old Fulton Fish Market in lower Manhattan was where everything from the sea was brought in. In the old days, tuna jaws were simply thrown away until some Pinoys specifically wanted that part, much to the surprise of fish sellers. That part of course became for sale since then. When my parents visited me some years ago, we were able to buy one large tuna jaw that had to be cut up because it wouldn't fit in my fridge. My father couldn't be happier eating one of his favorite dish for days.
Since I don't want to go all the way to the Bronx just to buy an unsightly part of a fish, it's way better now that I can just order it cooked at Tito Rad's and even order it in three sizes - small, medium and large. Eating simply in observance of Lent also meant we were not going to have a feast of their other dishes. We just had a steaming bowl of Sinigang na Hipon (Shrimp in Tamarind Soup) to accompany our excellent grilled tuna. The tuna meat was succulent while the sour soup was not overpowering in its tartness. Truly a heavenly combination.