She comes from a family with a history of having established three food groups, basically engaged in restaurants. They cooked, ate, explored and discovered new dishes from master chefs, cooks and their forebears as well. They have successfully managed restaurants, which to this day are blessed with large groups of diners always craving for true Filipino food. Today, Tootsie is definitely in her element in the dining place she named after herself. She pays homage to her parents’ legacy.
Tootsie’s Tagaytay (J. Abad Santos cor. Aguinaldo Highway, Tagaytay City; call 046-4834629)
One enters the place and most likely finds it, even before lunchtime, teeming with people enjoying the hot, soothing broth from Nilagang Bulalo. That strongly whets the appetite as the menu is checked and choices are made.
Dining area—Bright with all-glass walls. Tables are made of white tiles with wooden borders. Wooden chairs are comfortable. The small bar quickly dispenses drinks.
Service—Gracious, efficient, fast from the kitchen and hot, freshly cooked.
Staff—Very knowledgeable. They make suggestions and offer alternatives such as that the Grilled Maliputo is more popular than the Sinigang na Maliputo.
Suggested orders—This is where the diner is charmed by the “stories” that tell of how the family chain has grown, how they collected and preserved recipes of traditional food, and how some friends beg and cajole them into sharing recipes, such as those from the late culinary genius Ed Quimson.
Filipino dishes with a twist
This is the place for truly Filipino food, although some dishes have been given a twist. The menu card specifies which items are offered only on weekends. Peruse the list and one would still find “old” but delicious favorites.
Some annotations about the dishes are in Tootsie’s handwriting. She regales the diners with anecdotes on how they came about, like the Roast Chicken Kawi, done in such a hurry, but which came out special. Start the meal with broth from Nilagang Bulalo, long simmering on the stove that gives it that sumptuous flavor.
Definitely, one must have the maliputo, the rare fish from Taal Lake, either grilled (as mentioned above) or cooked as sinigang (in a sour broth). Its meat has that quality of undefinable flavor and a texture that is unlike any other fish, soft and almost sweetish. It comes with mango salad and bagoong balayan. Pair this with kilawing puso ng saging; its sour taste blends well with the maliputo.
There are other dishes like the Tembutido (the first three letters are Tootsie’s initials), which is a take off from those of Nora Daza and Pia Castillo Lim. From chef Ed are the Leg of Lamb and the innovative palitaw with ube filling, very good!
Drive to Tagaytay early on a weekend, when traffic would still be light.
Service charge and government taxes are collected. Senior cards are honored.