Perhaps it’s the trauma of hipster places serving exotic drinks and tiny, tiny morsels of fussy food, but everything about Locavore made me swear that I would never set foot in that place: the cool logo, trendy, unfinished cement walls, the association by contiguity with yoga studios and vegetarian delivery services. I imagined kilometric descriptions of provenance in a menu full of florid prose about its philosophy, terroir, the earth shaping our tastes.
I imagined myself being served two broccoli florets and a sous vide egg and being charged an organic arm and free-range leg.
Locavore is basically like a beer garden in a concrete bunker, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s a place where you feel you can manspread, put your elbows on the table, and maybe even discreetly adjust your trousers to give your stomach room to expand. And more tummy space, I promise you, is something you will need.
It’s built into a warehouse space and is shared with an automotive shop of some sort, so expect to fight for parking space with annoying drivers of sports cars during the day.
At night you can park along the street, and the outdoor seating area becomes a youthful hangout space, while the titos and titas can drape their pashmina shawls over themselves in air-conditioned splendor in the enclosed area, which has a view of the kitchen.
It’s a tavern as much as a restaurant, so there’s icy cold beer, a well-stocked bar, and some promo involving drinking seven shots in seven seconds that my younger self might have been tempted to try. You can ignore all that and come for the food.
The menu is long, but most people seemed to be getting the same thing, which was recommended to us and that we decided to order: Kinilaw, Sizzling Sinigang, baked scallops with crab fat, oyster sisig.
Most memorable dish
Nothing could be further from my mental image of tiny plates of carefully plated wisps of food than the blackened cast-iron pans that landed with a thud in front of us.
The most memorable of the dishes was undoubtedly the scallops—local scallops, as befits their name, so they’re small and chewy rather than large and luxurious—but their briny taste went so well with the crab fat that I would have ordered another platter, had it not been for the expanse of food on the table.
The oyster sisig, which I was a bit dubious about, was another winner.
After having tasted many variations on the sisig at various inventive Filipino restaurants, I have decided that making a general mush of stuff and spreading it on a hot plate does not make it a sisig. There’s been tuna sisig, tofu sisig, vegetable sisig—this madness must stop.
Sisig is made from the grilled ear, face and other off-cuts of a pig, and is assembled with a creamy sauce made from the pig’s brain. Because a pig has, after all, only one brain, there is a general shortage of brains (as is the case in life, in general), so mayonnaise has become an acceptable substitute for the creamy goodness of the little gray cells.
Soft tofu (but not tokwa) is another stand-in that restaurants use. Now this is sisig. Putting it on a sizzling plate to get a crunchy crust and fumigating your guests with oily fumes is optional. Many restaurants, most notably Trellis in Quezon City, claim to have invented this.
But apart from falling short of what I believe is the acceptable definition of sisig, Locavore’s oyster sisig was one of the best things I’ve had in recent memory. The oysters are first fried, and then served in a general mush that includes (I was told) chicken liver sauce. It arrives in a cast-iron pan, the contents cheerfully bubbling over and covered in a savory brown gloop, as though someone had pumped KFC gravy liberally over the whole thing.
Actually it bore a striking resemblance to the Sizzling Sinigang, what the table next to us described as a “deconstructed” sinigang. This sinigang was liberally topped with fresh green vegetables and sautéed small onions.
Although Filipino food does not lend itself easily to rhapsodic aesthetic appraisal, this is part of its charm and familiarity. I love gloop. I love mushy stuff.
And I loved the fried greasy starchy flavor bombs that Locavore dishes out. They make me feel happy and warm inside, just as the casual, unpretentious, deliberately down-market (note that the prices are mid-range, despite the vibe, and this is reflected in the ingredients) feel of the place.
You can leave the tortoiseshell glasses at home—this is not a place for preening, but for unwinding and stuffing yourself silly.
Locavore, 10 Brixton St. Kapitolyo, Pasig City; Call 6329600.