Some say the best of traditional Filipino cuisine can be found in old family recipes, passed and lovingly preserved through generations. It is here where one can taste the richness and regional diversity of traditional flavors, and through time, enhanced by culinary influences and a shared history resulting in a fusion of Spanish and Chinese flavors that remain so comforting. Myke Sarthou, or Tatung as close friends fondly call him, grew up with these old family recipes, and shares them in his new restaurant, Chef Tatung's at the Acacia Estates.
Mike Sarthou began his culinary adventures sharing his favorite family recipes with close friends, and in no time, quickly gained a following. Converting part of his home into Tatung's Garden Cafe, and by word of mouth, eventually became a favorite spot among foodies searching for familiar, traditional flavors with a refreshing and contemporary twist. With everything going so well, it couldn't get any better. But it did. An opportunity to open a much larger restaurant in a new location led Chef Tatung to Acacia Estates in Taguig City. And just last Ocotber 26, Chef Tatung's formally opened in its new location.
Driving along C-5, I scanned for directional signs until I reached Acacia Estates, a sprawling new development. As I entered the gated community, I was instructed by the guards to follow the road and turn right after the "sixth hump." I guess it couldn't get any simpler than that. Following the main road felt like driving out of town, it was pleasantly quiet without the usual noise of city traffic. After a short leisurely drive, a resort-like clubhouse appeared. Very Cool.
A large al fresco dining area beside a garden catches your eye, filled with antiques and old family furniture, and one immediately feels at home.
And this homey feeling is reinforced as you enter the indoor dining area. Spacious and with a traditional old world feel, the wooden furniture and antiques make you feel like you're in someone's ancestral home.
Each piece seems to have an interesting story. Like the old wrought iron grill converted to a table, and you know there is a creative force at work here.
After being led to the table, we were then served freshly baked bread. Chef Tatung's also has a bakery specializing in artisan bread, just a prelude for more good things to come.
For appetizers, we sampled some of Chef Tatung's bestsellers. The Shrimp and Vegetable Okoy, crunchy deep-fried shrimps with vegetable strips in a light batter, a local and traditional shrimp fritter.
Crunchy, and with the vinegar dip, a perfect start. Unlike other regional shrimp fritters, Chef Tatung's version is large, hearty and quite filling. The crisp shrimp and vegetables just blend together so well, bringing back childhood memories of this traditional snack.
Next came the Chicken Sisig Lettuce Wraps, minced grilled chicken with onions and green chili topped with taro chips. A sweet mango sauce completes the wrap. A cool take on the popular Sisig, reinvented yet familiar, a totally new dining experience.
The combination of flavors and textures, the sweet mango sauce and the crisp lettuce makes this dish not only tasty but fun as well. Cool.
Next up, Chef Tatung's Fish Kinilaw, tasty bite-sized chunks of raw tanguige (local mackerel) marinated in coconut vinegar with diced cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. A traditional dish similar to Ceviche, the delicate raw fish is "cooked" with the vinegar marinade, enhanced by the sharp notes from the kalamansi and chili. The sweet freshness of the fish and the crunch of the crisp vegetables makes this light yet flavorful appetizer another winner from Chef Tatung's kitchen.
And to wash it all down, a cool Fresh Tuba Shake (Coconut Sap), just perfect. Then the main dishes arrived...
Starting off with the Poki Poki Gratin, grilled eggplant layered with tomatoes, eggs, richly flavored Vigan Longganisa and native mozzarella made from carabao milk, another traditional dish given a fresh new twist. Hearty and comforting, with subtle yet rich flavors.
This was then followed by the Seafood Gising-Gising, plump shrimps and mussels with vegetables in a rich and spicy coconut sauce. The rich and creamy coconut sauce, the fresh and crisp vegetables, the plump seafood and the nice heat from the chili provides a burst of flavor in every bite. And there's more...
Pinakbet with Crispy Hito Flakes, a medley of fresh local vegetables sauteed in tomato and bagoong (shrimp paste), and topped with crisp catfish flakes.
Kalderetang Kambing with Queso de Bola, lean and tender goat meat slowly cooked in an olive oil and spicy tomato sauce with mushrooms, carrots, black olives and potatoes, then topped with grated Queso de Bola. The richness of the sauce and the sharpness of the cheese complement the tender meat.
The Honey Glazed Slow Roasted Lechon Belly, slow roasted in a brick oven for over 6 hours, on a bed of garlic and lemongrass with a sweet honey glaze.
The tender pork belly almost melts in your mouth, and the honey glaze provides the perfect finishing touch. Perfectly roasted, one of the best roast pork dishes I've tried, highly recommended.
Tatung's Fried Rice, based on an old family favorite with shrimps, vegetables, peanuts, eggs and spring onions, perfectly paired with Chef Tatung's main dishes.
Balbacua, ox trotters stewed in ginger and star anise for over 8 hours, with black beans in a rich peanut sauce. Almost like Kare-Kare, just great with the fried rice.
Kabute, Labong at Tokwa, stir-fried oyster mushrooms, bamboo shoots and tofu in oyster sauce topped with crispy garlic, a refreshingly light vegetable dish.
A perfect dinner, great company, and a cool new place. The fully air-conditioned dining area can seat up to 100 guests, with an additional space for 110 diners at the al fresco patio, perfect for family and friends.
Chef Tatung describing the final course, signature desserts to cap a perfect dinner...
Warm Tsoknut Chocolate Cake, a moist and decadent chocolate cake topped with a classic childhood favorite, Choc-Nut, giving it a distinct yet familiar flavor. The combination works so well, you can't stop with just one bite...
Pichi-Pichi with Quezo de Bola, cassava dumplings flavored with pandan covered in a rich leche flan like custard sauce and topped with traditional Quezo de Bola. Rich and sweet, a perfect ending to a perfect meal.
Dining at Chef Tatung's is like dining in someone's home, and the extensive menu of family favorites complete one's experience. Special thanks to Chef Tatung and Angelo for an awesome dinner. Chef Tatung's is open daily from 11am to 12 midnight. And on Sundays, Chef Tatung's offers a Lunch Buffet with Cebu Lechon and a spread of of over 25 traditional dishes based on family heirloom recipes.
Chef Tatung's is located at Molave Lane, Acacia Estates, Brgy. Ususan, Taguig City or call 661-7703 for inquiries and reservations. Coming from the north along Libis/C-5, just head south past Market Market! and Heritage Park. Simply follow the directional signs for Acacia Estates and you'll easily find it, or visit the website at www.cheftatung.com for the location map.
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