Near the red light district of Makati, Kat and I pace around in front of what looks like a sari-sari store while waiting for it to open. It’s almost five in the afternoon and a small crowd is gathering as the stall’s staff places wooden tables and black plastic stools in front. From afar, it doesn’t look much, with its grey concrete and unadorned counter, but it has built a steady following since opening in December.

Yep, we’ve reached Tambai. This little shack owned by Melvin Viceral and partners Franco Ocampo and Jerome Valencia was created as a place that serves yakitori-style grub in a street setting. “Glorified kanto food,” Kat says.

Tambai has that kind of hip personality that’s come to define this area of Burgos. The menu is written with chalk on the cement walls, and it’s not a place that screams its presence. But it’s also welcoming, with the owners chatting with diners who are alternately taking pictures of their food and actually eating them.

The food themselves are mostly what you’ll find in a typical barbecue stall but made with a higher quality of meat. The result are prices that are a little higher than your typical isaw but still manageable. For example, a stick of pork barbecue costs PHP 40, while a stick of chicken gizzard is worth PHP 35.

Yaki-Todo (PHP 280), Brew Kettle (PHP 45), Tofu-Yaki (PHP 70)

Undecided diners can try ordering the Yaki-Todo, which includes all yakitori sticks served on a wooden platter. At PHP 280, it may seem a bit pricey but it can easily serve four diners with modest appetites.

Still, it’s not an all-star cast on a platter. I find the pork barbecue blah, but that maybe because I’m used to the saccharine sweetness of a typical kanto barbecue. I enjoy the chicken and isaw more, as well as the tomatoes and zucchinis, which taste fresh.

The Tofu-Yaki is also delightful, with well-seasoned tofu slathered with a delicious takoyaki sauce.

Whatever you order, it makes for a nice pulutan with a bottle of the sweetish Brew Kettle, a local brand of Belgian beer, inspired by the kind of alcohol made by Trappist monks in Belgium. (Or is it? I’m not sure. Meh.)

Kimchi Fried Rice (PHP 60)

If you feel like having a full meal, there are two kinds of rice dishes available to go with the sticks – the Japanese onigiri and Kimchi Fried Rice. The latter in particular is a generous serving of carbs in a metal bowl. It tastes ordinary, truth be told, but you can have a decent meal with two yakitori sticks for around PHP 140.

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Tambai is still in soft opening and is probably still feeling its way around so menu items and prices can change. Hopefully, a bit bigger servings of their yakitori and a few tweaks on items like the Kimchi Fried Rice will do wonders.

At any rate, this is a no-frills establishment that mostly hits the right spots. As its name indicates, the owners have here a nice place to hang out and pass the night away with (relatively) cheap cholesterol and booze.

Tambai
5779 Felipe St., Poblacion,
Makati City
(0917) 842 3725
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