Published on Manila Bulletin Sunday Lifestyle Section on April 29, 2012
If not for my visiting Vancouver-based Uncle R, we wouldn't even have braved the traffic and traveled all the way to SM North.
Then we wouldn't have known about this gem of a restaurant.
Tres Filipino and Spanish Cuisine.
“The way real food should taste like,” its menu cover states proudly.
So why Tres?
Tres because all dishes served in the restaurant are the labor of love of 3 master chefs whose combined experience exceeds… wait for it… 60 years! (That’s 20 x 3, by the way)
Tres because you get 3 choices for sinigang, 3 choices for kare-kare, 3 choices for vegetables, 3 choices for merienda… you get the drift.
And Tres because all prices end with the number 3. (VAT inclusive, yes!)
I leave the ordering to the rest of the group, who dine at this place so often they’ve memorized the menu like the back of their hands. I swear they ordered almost everything on offer. My heart is so happy it does little cartwheels.
We start off with some Ampalaya Ensalada and my oh my, what a surprise! The very thinly sliced bitter gourd is not bitter at all. Tossed with strips of fresh red onion in a super refreshing sweet, vinegary dressing, and then topped generously with crispy dried baby shrimps, this salad does wonders to whet my appetite (not that it needs any more whetting), but you know what I mean… WOW.
There’s a bite to the Beef Salpicao but it's all good. Really tasty and garlicky I can lick its image on my computer screen and finish a bowl of hot steaming rice. The Gambas Al Ajillo is another garlicky thing. I find the shrimps a bit mushy tonight but that’s just me. The dish is wiped out in just a few secs.
Gambas Al Ajillo
I am told that the Pancit Lomi is a recipe handed down from generation to generation in the restaurant proprietress’s family. In our home, lomi is always brown and thick, but here at Tres, they do it differently. The egg noodles are swimming in a large bowl of yellow liquid together with fish balls, shrimps and vegetables. I like that it doubles as soup, and a hearty one at that.
Not everyone is in love with the hito fish. I know that for a fact because I am not. But when fried to a crisp and dipped into a creamy coconuty sauce, it evolves into something special. The Crispy Ginataang Hito with kamote chips should be proclaimed our local Filipino Fish & Chips.
Crispy Ginataang Hito
All layers of pig belly fried to a crunch… that’s the lechon kawali part of one of Tres’ bestselling dishes, the Dinuguang Lechon Kawali. I love that the pork blood stew is served on the side, this way you can drizzle it shyly over the meat or pour heavily if you love the yummy brown gunk. How much I love it? My plate looks like an aftermath of Ondoy.
Dinuguang Lechon Kawali
The Lamb Adobo meat is a bit tough, but its gamey flavor mixed with the garlicky-coconuty adobo sauce is so tasty it possesses the power to make you forgive.
I’m glad our group ordered the Crispy Kare-Kare, a new take on the original version full of tender and gelatinous beefy things. This one uses beef kalitiran deep fried to a chocolate brown, served with neatly arranged veggies and an awesomeness sauce made from peanut and toasted rice flour. Delicious.
Of course, we still get our tender and gelatinous beefy things in the form of Callos, a flavorful and hearty stew of ox tripe and ox face in rich and sticky, pimiento-sweetened and paprika-spiced tomato sauce.
I’m sure no one at our table wanted to eat any more meat, but because of an ongoing promo, that sinful 33-peso plate of Crispy Pata is just too hard to resist!
Finally, we have something healthy to balance out the indulgent meal – vegetables! My favorite kind is any kind cooked in coconut cream. And Tres’ Gising-Gising is a beautiful balance of sweet, creamy, crunchy and spicy. Hands down my favorite dish of the night.
It’s amazing how the people at Tres think of the littlest details to make eating experience special for diners. Like the Kalkag Rice. When other restaurants serve plain old garlic rice, Tres serves garlic rice covered in kalkag, crispy dried baby shrimps so tasty they take the garlic rice experience to an all new level.
And the Banane Turon’s got ube in it and is served with a super fragrant warm langka dipping sauce. I inhale the whole thing and smile blissfully.
Banana Ube Turon with Langka Sauce
My young eat mates :)
Tres is located at SM City North Edsa, 2/F Annex Building, Quezon City, Philippines. You may call 352-7030 for reservations. Check out their facebook page Tres Cuisine for specials and promos.