How Do You Make Chicharon Sexy?
Let Tomatito show you the way.
30th Street corner 11th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City
Contact: 805-7840, 0915-588-4803
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
(SPOT.ph) Known as Shanghai’s “sexy tapas bar,” Tomatito opened its first Philippine branch in December 2016, ending the year with a bang—and with imaginative tapas and lots of alcohol. But what does it mean for tapas to be sexy?
“When we say 'sexy' we mean fun, attractive, [and] playful,” shares Chef Edgar Sanuy, head chef of La Lola Group. “You get rid of the formality of more traditional restaurants. You’re allowed to have fun, to speak a little louder, to drink.”
“Playful is a very good word [for it],” adds Chef Carlos Franco, who runs the kitchen at Tomatito Manila. “You can come here with friends, have a lot of fun, and be free.”
Anyone would find it easy to let go and have a good time at Tomatito as their bright neon lights and colorful wallpaper give the place a funky vibe. Movie posters and vinyl record covers of Latino and Latina stars from the ‘80s line the walls, while Spanish pop music from the same era plays on the speakers—but never too loud to drown out conversations. It’s all about encouraging interaction, from the low-maintenance atmosphere to the food that's meant to be shared.
“When you go to [more traditional] restaurants, the dish is [served individually]. That means while he has his gazpacho, another person has his own thing. And then your attention is [on your plate] because your dish is here and you want to give all your attention to the dish,” says Chef Edgar. “But the moment you take this dish and you put it [on the center of the table], my head is looking to you. It isn't looking to my dish anymore. It becomes about you guys [rather] than the dish.”
Tomatito Manila has almost everything the Shanghai flagship has but with several additions that cater to the Filipino palate. “Here, Filipinos like crunch and intense flavors,” shares Chef Carlos. “They want food to have a lot of 'wow' factor so that’s what we try to bring in here.”
“It’s a nice menu,” adds director for marketing Dani Aliaga, “It has most things from Tomatito Shanghai, but also a few things from here, so I think that’s what makes it very interesting.”
Aside from introducing their own tapas right from the get-go, the group also plans to regularly add specials to the menu, inspired by what’s in season. Several new items have already been introduced just this June 2017, still “sexy” and playful but also showcasing local ingredients and flavors.
Chicharron y Salmon
Chef Carlos plays around with the crunch many Filipinos seem to love through the Chicharron y Salmon (P490), where a piece of pork chicharon is topped with velvety smoked salmon tartar. The result is a contrast that is so enjoyable, you will savor each morsel. Fish caviar adds a distinct saltiness, a pop of flavor that finishes this dish nicely.
Bombas de Jamon
The Bombas de Jamon (P360) stays true to its name by exploding with flavor: from the rich Iberian cream cheese—with an earthy taste that’ll make you think of truffle—to the sharp saltiness of the Iberian ham shoulder.
Not only is the EL NIDO (P245) adorable, with tiny eggs served in a woven plate resembling a bird's nest, it’s extremely tasty, too. Think of it as the Spanish version of Scotch Eggs, with chorizo paste and Iberian chorizo giving the quail eggs wrapped in brioche a strong sweet-smoky flavor.
Pulpo ala Tomatito
The dish is served on a plate shaped liked an octopus tentacle
The Pulpo a la Tomatito (P595) may not be a newcomer on the menu, but it’ll be unfair not to give it the recognition it deserves. For one, it is served on a beautiful ceramic plate made to resemble an octopus tentacle. Each mini skewer has a piece of octopus, baby potatoes, Iberian ham, and smoked paprika. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that big things (or in this case, complex flavors) come in small packages. Have everything on your stick in one go to fully appreciate how each piece complements the others perfectly, covering a wide spectrum of flavors from salty (from the ham) to zesty (from the octopus) to crisp (from the potato) and tender (again, from the octopus).
How do you make tapas sexy? For the group behind Tomatito, it’s all about attention to flavor and texture, and to how each ingredient lifts each other up to create something truly delicious. But there’s nothing intimidating about it—it’s all casual, playful, and sexy.
Photos by Majoy Siason