Over a pandemic year in the making, Tatatito knows how to get noticed.
Stroll along Makati City’s Dela Rosa Street and you’ll find this new 72-seat space for Filipino cuisine that stands bright in a corner of the business district heavily hit by COVID-19 closures.
To say that Tatatito is a story of ambition is an understatement. Up close, the “Filipino home kitchen” does look modern in its fittings and furnishings: a two-level space designed to invite and cuddle customers missing the dine-in experience with gleaming seafoam tiles on one side, Machuca flooring, walls in various textures like wood, gold trims, solihiya accents, and hanging plants.
Upstairs on the second floor, a bigger space with full-length glass walls overlooking Palanca Street underscores Tatatito’s relationship to its environment.
It’s a place built with the intention to feel at home in a different place. That it is an essential starting point for timeless Filipino food with just the right amount of freshness is all the more enticing.
“Tatatito has full trust in the standard of Filipino recipes and delivers from the rich anchor of Filipino culture,” says Reagan Tan, CEO of The Mc Wilson Restaurant Group. “We want to showcase Filipino food in the global setting.”
The Tatatito touch
Tatatito derives its name from the idea of “tara dito,” as if the boutique-like space is calling passersby into the belly of the friendly beast.
While true to its intent of upholding traditional Filipino cuisine, Tatatito isn’t one to shy away from a little bit of twisting and turning. Its portfolio of Pinoy plates read like a textbook out of your grandmother’s homespun cookbook, but there are elements of surprises stitched in between.
A fantastic case in point is its bamboo rice creations that are absolute killers in the comfort department—and reminders of the kind of fun Filipino flavors can lend themselves to. Served in a dried bamboo pole and in three iterations (squash and crab, chicken tinola, and pata tim), the final product is soulful and comforting in its slow-burn qualities.
Take the chicken tinola rice, for example, which plays on the idea of a food bowl you should eat when you’re sick. Conceptually, the dish is simple with supple rice immersed in chicken tinola essence and augmented by familiar trappings that make chicken tinola a true Filipino delight. It’s a meal in itself with a melt-in-your-mouth goodness that would pave the way for more comfort-driven Filipino bowls and, in this current climate, reemphasize the value of seemingly humble foods like lugaw in Filipino society.
Eyebrows may raise upon seeing a mildly spicy kalderetang fried chicken on the menu but this formidable foray into experimentation is enough to make it work. It is also exactly what Tatatito promises all along: a Filipino kitchen rife with tradition and an openness to tinkering and tweaking.
Come over for tasty Filipino fare
Elsewhere on the menu, customers are whisked back to Tatatito’s more established Filipino offerings that retain their ability to surprise, not with massive shifts in culinary styles but with subtle flourishes from the experienced hands of its chef.
The crispy shanghai hipon is an appetizing start that delivers diners straight into professional home-cooked territory. There are a lot of meat dishes driving the menu, too, that definitely makes business sense considering that Filipino meat consumption continues to rise. Statista noted in a 2021 report that pork and chicken consumption per capita was expected to rise to 14.92 and 14.03 kilograms per person.
Its classic crispy pata is everything you can expect—crisp and deserving of its rightful place on the table—while the sizzling bulalo steak and 10-hour kansi both highlight the potency of rich Filipino soups.
It might be easy to overlook Tatatito as another Filipino restaurant to add to the roster of restaurants to bring returning overseas family and friends, foreigners, or anyone really for a taste of home, but what it’s shown so far shouldn’t be relegated to the back burner.
Tatatito pays homage to what makes great Filipino food great and why anyone—Filipino or not—falls in love with it over and over again.