After a two-month-long vacation in LA where he and his brother sampled different Mexican dishes from food carts, trucks and restaurants, Philip Tan thought it a good idea to give authentic Mexican cuisine a try in Manila.
The Tans are big on food—all four boys cook while their sister bakes. They were trained by their mother to have curious tongues. The passion shone brightest on Philip so as all parents do, Dr. Ed and wife Baby Tan encouraged and supported their son’s dream… B&T Mexican Kitchen was born.
The restaurant offers a vast and interesting mix of pickings. In fact, when you enter and see their massive menu board, the confusion begins. I must confess that it takes me more than a few minutes to order.
Instead of just serving one or two types of flautas, they have: cordero asada, carne asada, pork carnitas, pork al pastor, pork chorizo, beef barbacoa, beef chili con, beef carne guisada, chipotle chicken, jalapeno chicken, fish, shrimp, lengua salsa verde (delicious), cabeza, tripas, pato and vegetarian. And we’re just talking flautas!
“The idea is to create your own plate. We give you the outline of a typical Mexican meal and leave you with as much freedom to pick out your favorite main ingredient. This way every visit is a brand new experience,” says Tan.
“We want you to love Mexican food as much as we do. To fully understand Mexican food one should go beyond burritos and tacos. There’s so much to try.” They even serve mole, a traditional Mexican dish made from some 20 ingredients, one of which is chocolate.
When I asked Philip how many platos combinados they have, he stopped to compute and said “around 350 combinations! I can even do vegetarian versions of all the meals we serve!”
Not once have I heard them utter the words, “Sorry, out of stock po.” Imagine that! Had my dear friend Vivian Go not taken me to this very hidden cantina, I wouldn’t have known it even existed.
What I keep going back for are the chicken wings. Imagine crunchy chicken, glazed in mango sauce tinged with spicy habanero (sprinkled with a little salt before biting into it makes the already delectable wing, one to die for!).
Tip: Have them cook the wings to a deeper golden brown; it makes all the difference. Though not authentically Mexican it is made with ingredients that the Tans import from Mexico and the US. The family takes pride in the authenticity of their chilies, flavorings, spices and herbs—the backbone of Mexican cuisine.
Their albondigas soup cooked from scratch is a delightful burst of herbs and spices, giving it a unique depth and dimension of flavors. Fresh, light, tasty, hearty all at the same time! A must!
When I asked Philip what his secret was, he replied, “there is no secret to Mexican food. It’s simple food with complex flavors due to the indigenous herbs and spices. All you need is fresh produce.”
Philip is proof that one must not be a native to cook like one. And whether his Mexican food is 100-percent authentic or not, isn’t how we must assess it. I find it more appropriate to judge it from where I was seated, on Dec. 28, watching my Manang Cristy, our friends Miriam, Carlos and Mark (all non-Mexican food fans), enjoying every dish, savoring every morsel, cherishing every bite.
(B&T’s Mexican Kitchen is at Sekai Center, 368 Ortigas Ave. cor. Madison St., Greenhills. Call 4777488, 0917-8126218.)
1 k tenderloin steak
12 flour tortillas
½ c tequila
¼ c lime juice
¼ c lemon juice
¼ c orange juice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp Tabasco
Combine all the ingredients and marinate tenderloin for at least three hours; overnight is best. Remove meat from marinade, reserving marinade. Put steak on the grill to sear. Brush steak with remaining marinade. Cook 12-15 minutes and slice into strips or cubes.
Heat the tortilla by putting on a grill Lay the tortilla and put the steak, top with grated cheese (Monterey Jack and Cheddar) and jalapeño and roll. In a pan, put enough to fry the tortilla on all sides to give you a golden brown flauta. Serve with guacamole and salsa.
5 ripe red tomatoes, brushed with oil and grilled
1 small canned tomato
1 white onion, sliced
¼ c jalapeño peppers
1 garlic, minced
1 lemon, juiced
¼ c cilantro, fresh chopped
Salt to taste
1 tbsp white sugar
Grill the fresh tomatoes, onions, jalapeño. Cool and peel. Process in a blender with the rest of the ingredients. Chill for several hours for flavors to develop.