Executive chef of Jsix Restaurant, Anthony Sinsay, is responsible for introducing diners to his favorite childhood dishes. He's also adding a San Diego vibe to his dishes by blending traditional Filipino and American dishes with local seasonal produce. We caught up with chef Sinsay to chat about his new fall menu, his inspirations as a chef and his beet paksiw dish.
What's the story behind adding this dish to the menu?
Paksiw is a dish that I remember from my childhood. It is traditionally done with pork or fish. Beets and vinegar naturally complement each other, so that part always made sense to me. I began cooking because it made me feel closer to my dad, who passed away when I was young. Anytime I can cook a dish and interject my food memories from when I was a child, it makes me feel even closer to not just him, but also my kids.
What's the key component to this dish?
Beets, vinegar, garlic and chilies.
Describe the taste to someone who haven't had this dish.
The dish is simple but it is quite dynamic and deep. The beets are acidic and earthy with a slight spice from the chilies, which is all balanced by the addition of Manchego cheese. Manchego is a Spanish cheese, a component of the dish that plays into the Spanish colonial rule of the Philippines. The garnish of crispy garlic adds texture and crunch.
Describe the vinegar-braising process.
The beets are covered with vinegar and water, then topped with garlic cloves, Thai chilies, salt and onions. The beets are then cooked in vinegar for up to 1 ½ hours.
What makes this dish a good addition to the fall menu?
Beets are currently in season but this dish can be done with pretty much anything. What makes it a great fall dish, for me, is that fall is the time of the year when you have feelings of nostalgia and think of your family. This dish does that for me. I believe that if I cook with a sense of purpose and have a strong connection to the dish, then our guests will feel that too. If I can give one guest a unique sense of familiarity through my food, then it validates the entire process.
What are some other food items we can expect on the menu?
That’s a hard question to answer because the food is personal and always evolving. Guests can always expect good cooking with great ingredients. Try not to come to Jsix with preconceived expectations, but rather be excited to experience the simplicity of preparation and thoughtfulness of the dishes. I encourage guests to ask questions about the food, I love sharing my personal insight.
About Anthony Sinsay
Are you from San Diego?
Yes, I was born and raised here in San Diego.
What inspired you to become a chef?
My dad inspired me to be a chef. He died when I was 11 years old, and some of my fondest memories are sitting with him watching cooking shows like Julia Child & Jacques Pepin, Martin Yan and The Frugal Gourmet. Afterward, he would go into the kitchen and try to emulate these chefs. It gave me a sense of curiosity in the kitchen and when he passed, I had to learn to cook for my family. It always helped me feel a connection to him when I was in the kitchen.
What is your favorite dish on Jsix's menu?
I’m not sure that I have a favorite one, but there are many components to different dishes that I am very fond of. I can tell you that the beets, chicken and pancit bihon are all some of my most personal dishes.
What motivates you as a chef?
My family and my staff motivate me. My family motivates me because they give me a sense of purpose. I started cooking to grasp to a connection with my father and I continue cooking because I am a father who wants to show my children a connection to not just food but through the food and cooking that I do and identify with. I am an American with Filipino heritage and my cooking reflects that.
My staff inspires me because a majority of them are young aspiring chefs. They motivate me by expecting more out of me as a chef and mentor. They push me to want to become the best chef I can be, because they deserve that. I want them to learn to have a connection to their ingredients and dishes the same way that I do. I want them to feel that what they do is important. Teaching them to cook as if there is a 15-year-old version of themselves in the dining room is motivation and gives them the autonomy to cook with feeling and curiosity.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge when it comes creating new dishes?
I don’t know that there are challenges to creating a dish, that has always been the easy part for me. It’s the management of operations that poses a challenge.
When you're not coming up with delicious dishes, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?