We've all heard of the Spaniards' unique dining habits. While the rest of the world have tucked the little ones into bed and the grown-ups are either settling into their couches for a Narcos marathon or about to step out for a drink with the guys, sultry señoritos y señoritas are just getting ready for dinner. This would be around, say, 10 p.m. and, of course, always subsequent to a round of drinks accompanied by appetizers called tapas (or pintxos, if you're in the Basque region). While Filipinos would normally have their tapas after dinner in the local tradition of pulutan, it continues to be one of the more pleasant mementos of our former colonizers. We have weeded out the poor imitations from the real deals, so don't be a cabron and get your Spanish food fix in one of these fine establishments.
JC de Terry is called El Maestro with good reason. The deli/restaurant he started 17 years ago continues to be the favorite of wealthy and well-traveled precisely because he offers high-quality ingredients for his well-curated dishes. His selection of Spanish cheeses, jamon, and chorizos from the deli section are sliced and served on a wooden board; they do right by the croquetas here and stuff them with smooth bechamel; oysters and bacalao are dipped in tempura batter and fried to perfection accompanied by an addictive alioli; jamon Ibericode bellota is hand- carved upon ordering to complement a wide selection of wine from all over, handpicked by de Terry himself. While he has a handful of favorites that never leave the menu, de Terry refuses to be stagnant and would sometimes play around with innovative recipes which rival those of his younger counterparts. It's this kind of passion and dedication to food and wine that makes this establishment an enduring, timeless classic.
Terry's Bistro has branches at G/F BCS Building, 2297 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City; LG/F The Podium, ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City; and G/F One Lafayette Square, 132 L. P. Leviste Street corner Sedeno Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City.
Bar Pintxos Tapas y Mas
This obscure Alabang dining destination burst into the food scene over a year ago and has since become the benchmark for authentic tapas and pintxos. This is no fluke—owner Miguel Vecin was a Barcelona native for many years and his former job as an executive for a logistics company had him shuttling all over Europe, eating the best food, and cooking them once he gets home. Business partner Tinchu Gonzalez was hands-on with their deli business—Tierra—and is no greenhorn in the food industry either. When they finally opened Bar Pintxos, they were ready. However, nobody was more shocked than them when their little pet project proved to be an overnight success and continues to be packed to the rails all days of the week. Their new branch in BGC has just opened its doors last December and the kitchen barely has time to breathe as it serves up bestsellers like their jamon alioli, boquerones/uni/caviar, lamb paella, patatas bravas, and what is arguably the best sangria in town.
Bar Pintxos has branches at 5th Street corner McKinley, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City; and G/F Gesu Building, Don Jesus Boulevard, Cupang, Muntinlupa City.
Donosti Pintxos y Tapas
When Donosti opened its doors a couple of years ago, it filled a void in the BGC area which ached for a proper fine dining restaurant for power-lunching execs. Its dining room, more then anything, is what sets it apart from the others on this list—an elegant, masculine vibe; starched napkins and fine crystal; well-trained and seasoned front-of-house staff that implies they don't scrimp on service. While merely sitting in their leather-lined chairs already make you feel like a power player, the food remains the most impressive feature of this establishment. Chef Pablo Lopez's Basque roots and working experience in the Spanish capital of Madrid has him expertly churning out flavorful pintxos(montadito de sobresada, croissant con jamon Serrano) and traditional Catalan bites (pulpo ala Gallega, degustacion de croquetas) using only the finest ingredients.
Donosti is at G/F NAC Building, 32nd Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.
Vask Tapas Room
Gallery Vask may be the playground that allows Chef Chele Gonzales to act out his wildest culinary dreams, but the tapas room is where, essentially, the guests can safely stay within their comfort zone. Here, the chef offers both modern tapas and his interpretation of classic Spanish dishes- there really is something here for everyone. His starters of Angus burgers and cochinillo tacos are not what you would expect from a Spaniard, but Chele doesn't let tradition constrain him from throwing together flavors he enjoys. There is a traditional menu of Spanish favorites and your standard pintxos which are at par with the best, but when Chele invites you to come out and play, we suggest you do. Pair your tapas with one or three of their cocktails—it's some of the best in the area.
Some say it might be too early to put this newcomer in any list, but there's no point in downplaying our love for this "sexy tapas bar." After all, we have already dubbed it is as one of the best restaurants to open in 2016, so expectations are high for this Willy Trullás Moreno restaurant. The Spanish restauranteur out of Shanghai (El Willy, Elefante, El Ocho, Fofo, and La Paloma) has partnered with the Las Flores and Rambla group in opening the eatery here, promising "colorful, casual dining with affordable prices and a more modern menu." It seems to be cut from the same cloth as many hip, casual eateries opening up these days, with its red neon lights and shiny tiled walls. Co-owner Sergi Rostoll calls it "a restaurant that doesn't take itself too seriously," and we all know that there is a big market for that, along with Classic Spanish flavors Filipinos are already familiar with anyway. However, playful as Tomatito may seem, early favorites such as the filete con airbag, salmon TNT, and secreto Iberico con romesco portrays a kitchen that doesn't play around.
Tomatito is at G/F BGC Corporate Center, 11th Avenue corner 30th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.
This post originally appeared in Esquire Philippines