By Sol Vanzi
It was with much hesitation and skepticism that we braved the scorching summer heat for a long drive to Kapitolyo to try Locavore, a restaurant recommended by adventurous friends as some sort of challenge to my purist attitude toward culinary traditions. They knew that fusion, deconstructed, and modernized are words I had dreaded to hear associated with food; the initial descriptions on the menu had suggested those alterations to age-old Pinoy recipes.
But my fears and worries disappeared in minutes as the restaurant seemed to embrace us like long-lost kin with its relaxed atmosphere enhanced by simple industrial fixtures, no-nonsense tables, and comfortable chairs. It was high noon, yet the diffused, filtered natural light was cool and kind to the eyes; none of the harsh sunbeams dared to directly sneak in to spoil the mood.
STARTERS FROM SCRATCH
Before our main courses, we were treated to a plate of starters that illustrated what great lengths young chef Kel Zagguire would go to achieve a simple but remarkable dish.
The large mound of gabi chips with salted duck egg was pure perfection. Each piece was handsliced, rinsed, dried, and fried twice, then generously coated with crumbled yolk of imported salted duck eggs.
Oh, and he uses only freshly harvested large gabi from Baguio, the kind that’s rich in healthy purple fibers without the stickiness of Bicol gabi used for sinigang and ginataan.
The last ingredient takes a lot of patience. The chef refuses to use ready-made salted egg powder, which he finds “too smooth and lacking in character.” Thus, he goes through all the trouble of buying unboiled salted eggs from China, separates the yolks, steams them, dries them, and crumbles them individually.
The result can only be described as heavenly—rich yet greaseless with a crisp texture that lasts.
DIFFERENT AND BETTER
One of the owners, Alta Lyttle, suggested the most popular dishes: sizzling beef ribs sinigang, oyster-lechon sisig, and sugpo with alige butter. The courses came bubbling in classic oven-proof dishes that kept them hot throughout the leisurely meal.
We tackled the sisig first to taste the farmed shellfish rare. We found firm, extra-large morsels bursting with flavor, mixed with tender cubes of lechon. Flown in daily from the Visayas, the huge oysters are kept alive and shucked to order to ensure absolute freshness.
A blanket of thick chicken liver adobo gave the sisig extra kick, elevating the preparation way above the ordinary beerhouse pulutan.
The sugpo were huge and extremely fresh. One could easily tell by the way the heads clung firmly to the bodies. I could barely finish one, sucking and scraping every bit of fat from its head. The serving was generous enough for four of us, what with the aligue-enriched butter sauce that was perfect with steamed organic brown rice.
More gravy for the rice came from the sizzling sinigang, chockfull of thick tender pieces of boneless short ribs. Yes, sinigang gravy made from real unripe green tamarind, not from a cube or sachet. The deep flavor of reduced beef stock prevailed over the classic flour-and-butter roux stirred in for body and creaminess. Gravy lang, ulam na.
After the rich lunch, we were so full that sharing one dessert was all we could do. The turon de leche was perfect— a large roll of puff pastry stuffed with custard. It was one of my most satisfying meals of the season.
Locavore is located in 10 Brixton St. Kapitolyo, Pasig City, with a second outlet at Bonifacio Global City.