Monday, July 29, 2019

Comforting Filipino Cuisine with a Whimsical Spin at Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan

Revisiting comforting Filipino dishes with a modern and contemporary twist may sound like the usual and recurring narrative in the local food scene, but it goes much deeper than that. There is a well-thought out play on weaving traditional elements of Filipino cuisine for this social media savvy generation, and it's all happening in Mabini...

Located along the always busy street of Mabini in historic old Manila, the aptly named Mabibi's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan makes its mark on the metro's culinary landscape with a repertoire of comfortingly familiar flavors and some playfully inventive dishes. From one of the country's established names in local arts and crafts, Tesoro's, Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan takes its established history in Filipino craftsmanship to the table with a lavish array of all-time Filipino favorites. With one foot firmly planted on its rich heritage and another boldly facing forward, Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan lets you rediscover the uniquely Pinoy dining experience... 

Situated at the ground floor of the famous Tesoro's Building (L) along Mabini Street, Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan is also the very first foray of one of the country's enduring names in Filipiniana, handicrafts and exquisite barongs into the competitive food scene. And they're injecting some fun in it too... 

The former space of the iconic Tesoro's store has been transformed into a modern yet homey restaurant, with vibrant murals exuding a cool modern vibe. A panoramic glass window reveals the semi-open kitchen offering diners a glimpse on the preparation of each dish. The contemporary look and feel is infused with touches of Filipiniana that Tesoro's is known for, including elegant capiz enclosed ceiling lights and rustic wooden furniture. On one side of the spacious restaurant, the Tesoro's store allows diners to indulge in some shopping after a meal. At Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan, the menu doesn't reinvent Filipino cuisine. It's all about updating familiar favorites with novel touches and a touch of whimsy which you'll find all over their menu with some creative names for their dishes.

Since 1945, the name Tesoro's has been synonymous with traditional giftware, embroideries, shellcraft, local apparel and other local heritage art guided by one mission, to showcase and purvey only the very best of the Philippines. Now, Tesoro's turns another page in its storied history as it includes Filipino cuisine to its repertoire.

Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan is everything you'd expect from a Filipino restaurant. And then some. Pushing the culinary boundaries while preserving authentic flavors, Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan's extensive menu showcases the best of local flavors championing Filipino cuisine while adding fun, hip and whimsical elements to your dining experience. The nostalgic vibe of the old district, the signature passion and commitment of Tesoro's to Filipino craftsmanship, tradition and a modern approach to flavor come together in a refreshing reinterpretation of Filipino cuisine. Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan's Culinary Creative Director, Mikey Del Rosario, takes the lead in developing and curating the extensive menu. And what a menu...

Culinary Creative Director Mikey Del Rosario starts our dining experience at Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan with a popular street food staple, reinterpreted with their modern style... 

The Balut Mata Pobre (P 289) is a sizzling dish with Pateros Balut sauteed in garlic butter, red chili and taba ng talangka for a refreshing and elevated expression of the notorious duck egg. Draped in garlicky and rich butter layered with crab fat, the humble balut becomes a lavish and indulgent flavor experience.

Transforming local flavors is something Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan does very well. Other tasty starters with whimsical names include the Sikmura (P 269) with chillied green mangoes, singkamas, crispy binagoongan, siling patis and salted sugar; the Anak ng Tokwa (P 159) with crispy fried silky tofu and fried pork face mask draped in homemade vinegar soy sauce, ; the Promdi (P 279) with shrimp and vegetable okoy, crispy kangkong, and dulong crisps served with garlic mayo dip and spiced vinegar; and the Neck Neck Mo (P 249) with fried and crispy chicken neck served with sweet and spicy homemade ketchup. You'll also find the usual suspects in Sizzling Sisig (P 289), Chicharon Bulaklak (P 399), Sizzling Squid Steak (P 299), Chorizo Gambas (P 379) and Let's Make Tusok Tusok (P 229 good for three) with deep-fried fishballs, squid balls and kwek-kwek served with "Secret Sauce ni Manong" to kick-off your all-Filipino feast at Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan.

Craving for salad? Sing along with the Talalalalong (P 199), a local fried eggplant dish with tomatoes, salted egg, green mangoes, crispy binagoongan and pinakurat vinegar or the Crispy Hito Papaya Salad (P 169) with fried hito flakes, green papaya, Davao pomelo, cilantro and honeymansi vinaigrette.

Then, Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan served one of their newest dishes on the menu...

...the wittingly named Kuhol Center (P 389) with sweet, succulent and tender snails simmered in a thick and creamy coconut sauce spiked with the fiery heat of chili peppers. The name of the dish gives you an idea on the creative process behind the menu, but the Kuhol Center is very traditional combining the freshest ingredients for rich flavors. You really don't have to reinvent this dish at all.  

Clean and fresh flavors with just a subtle hint of sweetness, the snails are perfectly complemented by the rich coconut cream sauce tempered by the sharp notes of fiery chili for that burst of soothing heat. The amusing name doesn't come in the way of serious flavors, in fact, you get the real deal. Don't forget to scoop up that broth. Better yet, add some to your rice.

Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan also offers a variety of sumptuous soups, like the Halaan (P 249), Monggo Fridays (P 269), Sampal (P 389), their version of the Sinampalukan Manok, the Super Asim Pork Sinigang (P 349),  the Classic Sinigang na Hipon (P 429) and Sinigang sa Bayabas (P 399) with bangus belly.

For your vegetable dish, go for the amusingly named Laing Inside (P 1,100) with taro leaf coconut curry, ginger and green chilis stuffed in a baked fresh water prawn or ulang. The name and flavors of the dish is another masterful execution in Mabini's play book, with a stuffed river prawn laid on fragrant lemon grass and banana leaf.

The traditional laing may be the most unphotogenic local dish, but Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan finds a clever way not only to level up the presentation but elevate the flavors as well pairing it with the fresh river prawn. And it works. The clean and fresh, mildly sweet notes of the succulent prawns add another layer of flavor to the local laing for a totally different and creative take.

The Laing Inside is just one of many surprises at Mabini Kainan Kapihan Tindahan, reimagined for a totally new dish. Other sure-fire vegetable dishes include the Tortang Talong (P 229), Bet na Bet Pakbet (P 259), Kangkong Bagoong with Bagnet (P 229), Ubod ng Sarap (P 179), a fresh spring roll or lumpiang ubod and the Guinataang Sitaw at Kalabasa (P 299).

The Chicken Barbecue (P 469) illustrates Mabini's playful and whimsical culinary style, using scale to transform another local favorite. The massive skewer with tender and juicy chicken thighs is a complete meal in itself. Larger than the plate, the length of the chicken skewer is a sight we always wanted to see in our chicken barbecue. And Mabini's obliges with more than a foot long of grilled chicken.  

Paired with Java Rice, the delicate notes of the juicy chicken thighs are kicked up by the nutty annatto oil and subtle smoky hints from the grill. Just perfect.

No Filipino feast is complete without some pork love...

...and Mabini's Crispy Pata (P 839) with crunchy and juicy fried pork hocks topped with crisp whole garlic cloves and chili and served with a sweet onion vinegar dip completes your feast. But this isn't your regular deep-fried pork knuckles.             

The deep-fried cloves of garlic and chili add bold layers of flavor to the pork, balancing its savory richness. Culinary Creative Director shared his experience on the numerous trials and tests in perfecting their Crispy Pata resulting in juicy pork capped with a lightly crisp outer layer of crackling, and this is proof they clearly nailed it. The secret?

Well, it seems the process will remain a secret. But it really doesn't matter. As long as you enjoy that juicy pork followed by the crunch from the layer of crackling, everything's good. Other savory mains include the Spicy Short Rib Kaldereta (P 369), Manok ni San Pedro (P 399), Chicken and Pork Adobo (P 259), Lechon Belly (P 299), Pork Barbecue (P 310), Bisteka (P 1,100), Callos ni Mamita (P 439), Kare-Kare (P 399), Sizzling Bulalo (P 399) and Crispy Bicol Express (P 359). You can also go all-out with Mabini's Meat Platter Sungka Sungkaan (P 1,699 good for 4), a mixed inihaw platter with grilled pork belly, pork barbecue, chicken inasal, crispy tilapia, vegetable okoy, eggplant, steamed rice, pickles and assorted sauces.

Make it a real feast at Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan with the impressive Seafood Platter Sungkaan (P 1,799 good for four) with heaping mounds of grilled squid, adobong mussels, steamed clams, steamed crabs, fried tilapia, butter garlic prawns, okra, eggplant and tomatoes on a massive wooden chopping board...

...the perfect dish for sharing with seafood-loving friends and family. The freshness of the seafood deliver a subtle briny sweetness with every bite, complemented by the vegetables. But it just isn't completely Filipino without a variety of condiments, right?

This is where the sungkaan part comes in. Here it is, all the traditional dips and condiments served on a wooden sungka. From spiced vinegar to bagoong, chilies and calamansi to pickled vegetables and ketchup, Mabini's Sungkaan is one more playful element to your dining experience.

And when you have a mound of seafood...'ll need extra rice, served in mini-kalderos. Other tempting seafood dishes include the Magellan's Nightmare (P 199/100g) with fresh whole steamed lapu-lapu in ginger, leeks, soy and sesame oil; the Pusit to the Limit (P 349) with adobong baby pusit in butter pandan squid ink sauce and garlic chili oil; the Paksiw na Bangus (P 369), the Assault of a Deadly Hipon (P 419) with fresh water prawns in butter topped with crispy garlic, red chili, rich taba ng talangka and brown butter sauce; Bangus A la Pobre (P 429), Luksong Tinik (P 459) or crispy butterflied tilapia and Crispy Hito (P 689) with pickled green mango, fermented rice or buro and fresh mustard leaves. 

Meanwhile, a chef prepares some hand-pulled noodles at the open kitchen. Hand-pulled noodles in a Filipino restaurant? That's just one more surprise at Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan. And no, you won't find the usual commercial dried noodles in their kitchen. That just won't cut it for Culinary Creative Director Mikey Del Rosario.

Instead, Mabini's goes the extra mile in preparing hand-pulled noodles every day. These guys are serious with their food. Really.

And where do the hand-pulled noodles end up? The Pancit ni Aling Doreen (P 459) with freshly pulled pancit canton noodles, vegetable stir-fry, crispy bagnet and toasted garlic longganisa is definitely a lavish upgrade from the usual noodle dish.

The fresh hand-made noodles makes a big difference in Mabini's version of the pancit canton with its springy and chewy texture for a delectable bite. Paired with the crispy pork bagnet, garlic longganisa and a medley of stir-fried vegetables, this is one seriously leveled-up pancit canton.  

Another tasty noodle dish is the Palabok Special (P 499) with soft rice noodles draped in garlic shrimp sauce, fried squid, tinapa flakes and crispy chicharon. Paella? Mabini's got that covered too with their Paella Pang Fiesta (P 759), a fully loaded dish with chicken, pork and mixed seafood on soft and fluffy rice simmered in saffron seafood broth topped with chorizo, peppers, green peas and boiled eggs.

Mabini's also offers hearty all-day breakfast and merienda fare from a variety of silog dishes to Batchoy ni Atchoy (P 259), Adobo Pandesal (P 149 2 servings), Filipino Club (P 369) with grilled chicken inasal fillet, sweet smoked ham, crispy bacon, crispy egg slathered in kalamansi garlic mayo on white bread served with a side of kamote chips, Yema Toast and Kapeng Barako (P 199) and Ensaymada at Tsokolate (P 249).

But save room for dessert...

The Dirty Ensaymada (P 239) with a fresh-baked and grilled ensaymada made in-house stuffed with four scoops of dirty ice cream takes you back on a nostalgic flashback to childhood summers with your neighborhood sorbetero. But instead of the usual soft bun, you get an indulgent ensaymada baked in-house. And it just doesn't get better than that.  

Other indulgent desserts include the Game of Turons (P 189), Saging ni Praning (P 169), Skillet Cassava Cake (P 169), Brazo ni Tita Ditas Mercedes (P 129) and Lecheng Flan (P 75). Don't forget to wash it all down with Mabini's signature drinks like the Manananggal (P 285), a soothing red wine sangria; the Peach Mango Wine Cooler (P 285), a white wine sangria and the Pinya at Sili Margarita (P 285).

After a sumptuous feast, take a walk along Mabini, spot the vintage fixtures and be transported back in time. Satisfied and still amused over the witty names of their dishes, Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan is a dining destination not to be missed when in the historic district of old Manila. There's a whole lot of fun and whimsy injected in their dishes, but one thing's clear. They're dead serious with their food. Rediscover the Filipino dining experience right here at Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan...

Mabini's Kainan Kapihan Tindahan is located at the Tesoro's Building, 1451 Mabini corner Rosario Street, Ermita, Manila or call +63 966 785 1273 or visit their FB Page at

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