March 1, 2015
Manila’s new wave of restaurants and dining options continues to impress and surprise with every visit. Over Chinese New Year I hit up a number of venues that I’ll be featuring in the coming weeks, kicking off today with a look at two vendors of good stuff on sticks, the Gloriettea Mercato and Tambai – as well as paella-specialist Arrozeria.
The Mercato Centrale outside the Glorietta Mall and Intercon hotel is a long-overdue celebration of Pinoy street food, bringing together some of the city’s finest in a gloriously smoky haze. It’s the brainchild of blogger extraordinaire Anton Diaz from ourawesomeplanet.com. What he doesn’t know about dining in the Philippines isn’t worth knowing. With business partner RJ Ledesma, they saw a gap in the market and seized on it:
It’s a selection of stalls, mainly grills, offering all manner of seafoods, innards and other good bits that make the squeamish run a million miles.
Chicken isaw (intestines) are glorious once kissed by smoke and charcoal:
They also have brilliant boneless lechon (roast suckling pig), sticky glazed bbq bits, traditional desserts, drinks and much more. Most of all it’s the prices which amaze. Grilled liempo (pork belly) with rice? 50 pesos – less than US$1. These markets also tempt in locations including Bonifacio Global City (BGC) – more details via: http://www.mercatocentrale.ph/
Another fine purveyor of sticky stuff is the new pop-up Tambai. It’s like an al-fresco version of Hong Kong’s Yardbird, serving Asian mash-ups with great beers and sake cups, a young and very cool crowd perched at the counter or on plastic stools around tables.
It’s on Felipe St, down from a great-looking (and very busy) Mexican joint called Chupacabra. As is often the case with new food neighborhoods in cities around the world, it’s in an area where rents are cheaper – it’s only a couple of blocks from the seedy and grim red light strip of Burgos – but hopefully the good folks kicking back here will in time help change things for the better:
The sticks demand to be re-ordered, the beers are cold, the sake strong. Nothing can go wrong here. (Incidentally, Tambai is Tagalog slang that comes from the English words ‘stand by’ and refers to someone who spends their time kicking back and not doing much – a hipster, in other words)
Tambai; 5779 Felipe St., Poblacion, Makati; +63 917 8423725; 5pm to 12am https://www.facebook.com/TambaiPH
Last look is at another new venue, Arrozeria. (Props and thanks to @cheryltiu for suggesting it). The place has serious pedigree from the team at Vask under Chele Gonzalez and a quirky eye for design with upended ladders hanging from the ceiling, covered in lights.
As the Spanish name suggests, rice is their schtick, served primarily as paella. They use Filipino rice from Cordillera, like a classic Spanish Bomba – but, in my mind, even better. Any paella fan – especially one from its spiritual home of Valencia, such as chef Paco Bermudez – will tell you that the best bit of the paella is the soccarat – the crust underneath. It has to be ever so slightly burnt, the crisp reward following the softness.
This was a great version, even if the soccarat didn’t make an appearance (but it was the paella of the day so not cooked in a large pan). Chicken and seafood were generously combined, the rice cooked just so. It was beautifully aromatic through hints of saffron and long cooked stock. All this for just 275 pesos – US$6 – an absolute steal and one of the best value lunches anywhere in Manila.
They also know their desserts, as indicated by a glorious and deftly-plated chocolate cream creation:
Rounding off an excellent lunch was the album Blue Brazil playing throughout, a long time favorite of mine, the music all bossanova sweetness and light. Three great venues and three more reasons to re-evaluate the Manila food scene – with more to come.
Level 4, Century City Mall, Kalayaan Avenue, Makati City.
+63 920 974 4742 www.arrozeriamanila.com