It’s a weekend I’m supposed to spend on a trek in the mountains of Kalinga in the Cordillera region. Generally, it’s a weekend I’m supposed to be somewhere else. But I’m here in a familiar place in Quezon City, savoring the early afternoon sun, after realizing that I will be better off practicing delayed gratification – postpone trips for now and save enough money to do more meaningful trips later. Quality over quantity.
And quality is surely not in short supply where I’m having a late lunch. I’m in Alab, a restaurant by esteemed chef Myke “Tatung” Sarthou. I had my first meal here last year to celebrate my mom’s birthday, and I’ve been wanting to eat here again since, even more so after my brush with the dining scene in Zamboanga City last month left me craving for a certain Tausug dish.
The two-story restaurant is spacious to accommodate group dining, which is usual for a Filipino dining scene, but cozy enough for intimate dining as well. Walls are painted with red, depicting flame, perhaps to signify passion for the homeland.
The menu is filled with dishes described as modern takes on traditional Filipino cuisine. Here, traditional recipes are tweaked with Sarthou’s creative touch, but not deviating too much from a Filipino tongue’s comfort zone. Today, I order almost the same dishes I had when I first dined here.
The Chef Tatung Fried Rice can already be a meal in itself, with the rice accompanied by ginger, shrimp, egg and peanuts. Plus, it can easily serve two to three people. But I order two “ulam” nonetheless.
The tinumok is a Bicolano dish, where chopped shrimps are wrapped in taro leaves and smothered in alamang.
But it’s the pianggang I’m really after, a classic Tausug fare where grilled chicken is doused with sauce made from certain herbs and coconut milk.
One dish I missed in my first visit is the Bibingka Cheesecake so I order one today. It’s, simply put, a delicious combination of the comforting Simbang Gabi staple and, uh, cheesecake.
It’s not a bad way to pass the afternoon, actually. Yup, it’s quality time indeed.