Serving honest-to-goodness Filipino dishes remains the hallmark of XO 46 Heritage Bistro, whose fourth branch opened last Tuesday at SM Aura Premier, Taguig.
XO 46—which first opened on Valero Street, Salcedo Village in Makati in 2010, and later, at Century City Mall and Estancia Mall—has been recognized for reliving traditional Filipino food, replicating many of the dishes that Pinoy taste buds remember.
The husband-and-wife team of Andrew and Sandee (Siytangco) Masigan have taken seriously their Philippine culinary heritage, serving meticulously home-cooked meals the way they were prepared in olden times.
“That’s why it takes some time for us to expand and open new branches. We want to make everything right,” says Sandee.
“From ingredients to cooking to techniques, our dishes are true-blue Filipino,” Sandee says. “These are heirloom recipes from both our families, specifically from our lolas who were keepers of family recipes. The recipes lean, however, toward the Spanish because that’s the influence we know from recent memory.”
XO 46 at SM Aura is its biggest outlet; it can sit about 86, plus an intimate function room that can accommodate 12 people.
Like in its other branches, XO 46 has an air of classic charm—brick-covered walls harmonized with abaca chairs, reused capiz windows with metal railing that showcase the house’s Spanish wine offerings, vintage prints that Andrew collected from trips to Spain, and TV monitors showing food and scenery from all over the Philippines.
Servers in baro’t saya and barong Tagalog greet diners with “Magandang araw, señor/señora.” They wear white gloves when serving food.
XO 46’s menu has expanded through years while keeping the all-time favorites, such as Empanadang Bilbao a la Vigan (with stuffing of chorizo, kesong puti and salted eggs), Bangus Salpicao, Okoy, Binawang na Sotanghon at Manok, Pancit Luglog, Kare-Kareng Crispy Tadyang, and Laing.
The menu, with the help of executive chef Tanya Dizon, has added a special section focusing on newly discovered heritage dishes.
“We go around town looking for recipes or dishes not quite known in Manila,” says Sandee. “When you go to the provinces you get to discover plenty of cooking techniques and dishes we are not yet familiar with. It’s very interesting.”
One of its new discoveries is Pinaputok na Lapu-Lapu, a twice-cooked fish (steamed and fried) overstuffed with tomatoes, onions, ginger, citrus fruits and local herbs. Sandee says pinaputok is a cooking method born along the banks of Laguna de Bay, invented by fishermen as they sought a flavorful way to cook their catch.
“We wrap the fish in banana leaves with all the aromatics inside and fry it,” Sandee says. “It’s then presented right in front of you by our servers. They unwrap it before your eyes so you can see the steam coming out.”
Another must-try is Pancit Pusit from Cavite—sotanghon noodles made black with squid ink, garnished with squids, garlic, chili, kamias and coconut strips.
“Pancit Pusit is inspired by my good friends Ige Ramos and Sonny Lua. I added coconut strips for additional texture and sweetish aftertaste,” Sandee explains.
The Crispy Binagoongan is also making waves, with bagoong carefully formulated to a controlled saltiness and the pork that crackles with every bite.
The Vegetarian Mountain Fried Rice is also a filling treat combining local black rice, carrots, onions, bell pepper and lots of garlic.
Also worth trying is Spanish Tapa, Croquettas Chorizo Chistorra, which is a crusty puff pasty stuffed with chorizo.
All the dishes are prepared fresh every day.
“We’ve observed that you can easily feed your customers anything as long as it’s good and prepared honestly,” Sandee says. “You can’t fool them. When you say it is heritage, it has to be a heritage food. We may style it differently to make it look palatable, but it’s still traditional food you’re eating.
“We always say food tastes better when there is a story behind it,” adds Sandee.
XO 46 Heritage Bistro is at 3/F, SM Aura Premier, Taguig City.
E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.