Friday, July 3, 2015

Alab: Chef Tatung Sarthou's Flaming Passion for Filipino Cuisine

Fire, blaze, ardor, to burn with strong emotional feeling, enthusiasm and passion. It's the perfect description for Chef Tatung Sarthou and his new restaurant...

Ignite your rediscovery of local flavors at Alab, Chef Tatung Sarthou's newest restaurant concept featuring traditional and authentic Filipino cuisine with a contemporary twist.

Located in Scout Rallos at the corner of Tomas Morato, Chef Tatung's fans can celebrate the return of one of the metro's best chefs in the local food scene with a brand new restaurant. At Alab, you'll also find Chef Tatung's signature Honey Lechon in the menu, enough reason to drop by the new restaurant. 

Alab is Chef Tatung Sarthou's personal interpretation of classic Filipino cuisine, exploring the wide range of regional flavors to define uniquely Filipino flavors. I first met Chef Tatung in his former restaurant almost three years ago (more on Chef Tatung's comforting Filipino dishes from his first restaurant on my previous post here at, and it was great to see him again with a new restaurant. Chef Tatung cuts through the clutter of modern Filipino fusion cuisine with his honest, unpretentious, and heart-warming take on classic local flavors. Chef Tatung's seemingly defiant and unapologetically Filipino approach in his cuisine, rooted in the diverse regional flavors of our rich culinary heritage, has always been his trademark. And at Alab, this passion for Filipino flavors burns once more with his updated yet traditional signature dishes.

Start your feast with some of Alab's refreshing beverages, like the Alab Iced Tea (P 70) and the Lemonada (P 110), a blend of calamansi, dayap, dalandan and fresh mint. Or go for the Tuba (P 110), an ice blended beverage with the potent fermented coconut sap.

Once settled inside the bright, spacious and homey interiors at Alab, you can then go through the serious business of selecting from the menu. Begin your feast with Tatung's Fried Rice (P 180, Upper Left), Chef Tatung's signature fried rice flavored with yellow ginger and lemongrass and cooked with shrimps, vegetables, scrambled eggs, peanuts, and vegetables. Or go with the Aligue Fried Rice (P 180, Lower Right), a savory rice dish cooked with rich and indulgent crab fat, vegetables, dried shrimps, and scrambled eggs for that extra kick in flavor.

For the mains, Alab's Tinumok (P 170) is always a good choice, with ground pork and briny chopped shrimp wrapped in taro leaves steamed in rich coconut cream complemented by the sharp notes of bagoong alamang. Chef Tatung's version recreates the authentic flavors of the south, blending the creamy coconut base with a layer of soothing heat from the chili.

And Chef Tatung has even more local flavors to offer, like the Adobong Pula (P 280), based on one of the oldest documented versions of the iconic adobo using annatto instead of the usual soy sauce, with chicken and pork stewed in vinegar. The sauce is lighter in terms of both flavor and consistency than the usual soy sauce based adobo, with cleaner flavors. The absence of soy sauce does not diminish the flavor of the dish, in fact, the delicate flavors of the chicken and pork come through with more pronounced yet cleaner notes.

Kalderetang Kanding (P 445), a traditional Spanish-inspired stew of goat and vegetables in rich sweet and spicy tomato sauce thickened with liver puree topped with quezo de bola. The familiar rich sauce and the sweet bell peppers and vegetables are comforting, and you'll want some extra rice with this dish.

Kare-Kare (P 450), the classic Filipino dish made with beef trotters, ox-tail, tripe and vegetables thickened with ground toasted rice and peanuts, is based on Chef Tatung's old family recipe, slow-cooked for eight hours. Paired with Alab's own savory and salty bagoong, it's another of Chef Tatung's must-have dishes at Alab. Extra rice? Absolutely.

In between, add some vegetables to the feast, like the Ensaladang Pilipino (P 120), a comforting mix of blanched and grilled vegetables with ginamos dip...

...and the unique Penuneng (P 150), an Ilocano dinuguan longganisa, or blood sausage, served with a vinegar dip. At Alab, you can find regional dishes from around the country for your own culinary journey of local flavors.

Alab also offers a variety of seafood dishes, including the Sugpo sa Palapa (P 560), plump prawns cooked in palapa.  Palapa is a Maranao spice mix made with sakurab, a local shallot from Mindanao and enriched with crab fat. One of my personal favorites at Alab, the richness of the dish makes this yet another must-have at Alab.

Round out your feast with some of Chef Tatung's tempting pork dishes, like the Pritson na Crispy Pata (P 580), roasted boneless leg of pork stuffed with lemongrass and leeks, thrice cooked for that perfectly crisp outer layer of crackling. The lemongrass and leeks add layers of subtle sweetness and aromatic fragrance to the dish, while the contrasting textures of tender and juicy pork with that outer layer of crackling reminds you why you just love a good crispy pata.

Honey Lechon (P 390), tender pork belly that melts in your mouth releasing a delicate sweetness, one of Chef Tatung's signature dishes. The tender pork belly is roasted for six hours on a bed of garlic and lemongrass, adding sharp nutty and minty notes to the delicately flavored yet rich pork belly. I first tried this at Chef Tatung's previous restaurant, and I'm glad the dish is here at Alab.

Cap your Filipino feast with Alab's signature desserts, including (clockwise from left) the unique and inventive Bibingka Cheesecake (P 140), Pichi-Pichi with Quezo de Bola (P 90), Tsoknut Cake (P 110), and Suman sa Lihiya (P 80). The Bibingka Cheesecake, which Chef Tatung describes as a cool "New York, Cubao" connection, is one of those inventive spins that really works. Soft and fluffy, with the rich flavors of cream cheese for a unique Filipino dessert.

Or try something distinctly local yet refreshingly different, like Chef Tatung's Homemade Ice Cream in Laing, Kamote Q, and Quezo de Bola flavors. The salty richness of quezo de bola comes through in the cheese flavored ice cream. The Kamote Q Ice Cream recreates the familiar sweetness of the popular street food, giving it a velvety smooth finish. Laing Ice Cream? This is where Chef Tatung weaves his own playful creativity and magic with some really unique ice cream flavors, and you'll be surprised with the flavors. The coconut cream base and the mild nutty sweetness of the taro leaves blend well in an ice cream, transforming it to something totally new and different. It's one of those "try it before you knock it" kind of dishes, and you'll be glad you did.

Authentic local flavors and creative dishes with a unique spin, and you can find all these at Alab.

Chef Tatung Sarthou's Alab is located at 67 Scout Rallos Street corner Tomas Morato, Quezon City or call 962-1176 and 364-9631 for inquiries and more information. 

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