2/F Uptown Mall, Uptown Bonifacio
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
(SPOT.ph) Thai restaurants are not as widespread in the local food scene as other Asian cuisines, and most of the ones we do have in the Metro often follow the same aesthetic of royal purple and gold, bronze fixtures, and elephants all around. We’re always ready for something new to shake things up, and Easy, Tiger fits the bill.
Easy, Tiger isn’t owner Al Puruganan’s first foray into the cuisine: He also owns Jatujak and Tamarind, which both follow the same classic Thai-restaurant aesthetic. “I didn’t want Easy, Tiger to look like a typical mall restaurant with clean lines,” he shares. “Even when you go abroad, they’ve become braver with their designs.”
Puruganan tapped design studio Serious Studio—who they have previously worked with at Easy, Tiger’s stall at The Corner Market—to do their branding, and architect Michael Chan—who worked on Café Mary Grace—to design their interiors. The result is a rustic, cozy space with mismatched walls of distressed wood and colorful tiles, giving the space a cool and edgy vibe. For Easy, Tiger’s logo, Serious Studios and Puruganan decided on a stylized cartoon tiger head on a kickboxer’s body—while it's still distinctly Thai, it’s a step away from the usual elephants and orchids.
Easy, Tiger isn’t just spicing things up in the visuals department. While you can still find excellently done Thai staples like Pad Thai (P155/chicken, P185/shrimp) and Tom Yum Shrimps or Mixed Seafood (P265), Puruganan would rather focus on dishes not yet as popular locally, particularly those from Thailand’s Isan Region.
“I’m pushing for Isan cuisine,” says Puruganan. “For example in China, there’s general Chinese cuisine, but they also have Szechuan and Cantonese cuisine. It’s the same for Thai cuisine. I think it’s time we start specializing for it to be distinct.”
Perhaps the most familiar Isan dish to many is the green papaya salad: Here at Easy, Tiger, you can have it as the Green Papaya Salad With Chicken Skin (P225), with the familiar fresh, tangy, and spicy papaya salad given a slightly sinful twist thanks to crispy chicken skin.
The Chiangmai Sausage (P220) or sai ua, Puruganan admits, is not authentic to Isan but it’s still a dish you rarely find in Thai restaurants. The addictive pork sausage is seasoned with galangal, kaffir lime, turmeric, and cilantro for a gingery-spicy flavor bomb.
Another surprising entrée is the Thai Grilled Pork Neck (P280) or kor muu yang. Thinly sliced and fatty, the pieces melt in your mouth like butter, with a smokey flavor that pairs well with the briny dried chili dipping sauce.
While Puruganan sticks to classic Thai flavors, he shares that at Easy, Tiger, they are open to experimenting with traditional Thai and Filipino dishes to create something new. Take the Crispy Pata with Red Curry (P645), a platter that's hefty enough to share with three or more. An enormous pork knuckle is deep-fried until golden and crisp on the outside, and tender and succulent on the inside. While lip-smacking on its own, the accompanying generously portioned red curry gives the pork that spicy-savory, slightly briny oomph.
For Puruganan, his love affair with Thai food began over 30 years ago, when he started working at a Thai restaurant: “When I tried pad thai and the green curry chicken for the first time, I fell in love. It was love at first bite.” With Easy, Tiger’s cool-yet-approachable vibe and explosive flavors, this could be the start of your own love story, too.
Photos by Majoy Siason