Wednesday, May 31, 2017

First Bite: Empacho

Filipino cuisine will always be love. Its rich flavors and textures never fail to charm me. And when I was invited to indulge in a Filipino spread, I simply could not say no.

Hello, Empacho.

It would be easy to miss this new Filipino restaurant (and bar) as it is located on the second floor of a corner building along Tomas Morato. In fact, Waze pointed me to a nearby hospital instead of the restaurant. It seemed like a premonition to what was about to happen.
As soon as I opened the door, I was greeted by a mix of wood and cement interiors with high ceiling giving the place an airy vibe.
Food was already being served when I got there and first dish I spotted was this Empacho's Smoked Blood Sausage (PHP350) with sticky rice. It was a modern take on the Pinoy favorite dinuguan. It had a rough texture and it was a bit bitter, salty and tangy all at the same time. Though it was a lot easier and less messy to eat, I still prefer the usual soupy dinuguan
The Triple Bypass (PHP380) is one of Empacho's recommended appetizers and I could see why. It is a bar chow heaven! One order comes with crispy chicken skin, salt and pepper chicharon bulaklak and isol inasal. Though I wasn't able to dip it in any of the sauces, I liked the chicken skin and inasal. Sadly, the chicharon bulaklak failed in the crunch department. 
We also tried the Spicy Tamarind Wings (PHP370) which was flavorful but not spicy at all. I liked it that way though.
I loved the Crispy Tokwa't Baboy (PHP350) which was a combination of spicy chicharon bagnet and fried tofu. The contrast of the crunchy bagnet and the soft tofu was delightful! However, I enjoyed munching on the tofu more than the pork as it made me feel less guilty.
Speaking of feeling less guilty, we also feasted on a bowl of The Ultimate Empacho Salad (PHP390). Do not let the word salad trick you though as this bowl of greens is topped with roasted pork belly! This dish is the definition of having the best of both worlds. A mouthful of the crunchy pork belly with veggies such as cucumber, carrots, tomatoes and jicama plus strips of tangy green mango and spiced calamansi dressing is a party of textures and flavors! An order if this is a meal of its own.
For mains, we had Crispy Pork Kare-Kare (PHP395), Empacho's Lechon Belly (PHP790) and Sinigang na Lechon with Strawberry (PHP490).
The Crispy Pork Kare-Kare was amazing! The pork belly was seasoned well and each bite was crunchy and not dry at all. The kare-kare sauce was peanuty and absolutely divine. In fact, it was flavorful enough to be enjoyed without the shrimp paste (bagoong).
The lechon belly is one of Empacho's signature dishes and I could tell why even without having a bite yet. It was beautiful and made everyone drool as soon as it was served on the table. The roasted marinated pork belly stuffed with herbs and spices with sinamak on the side is a must order dish! Each bite of the pork belly oozed with juice and the crackling of the skin was music to my ears.
I also liked the Crispy Soft Shelled Crab Pinakbet (PHP490) which is a classy take on the usual mixed veggies. The contrast of textures was delightful and I loved that the pumpkin chunks were cooked right.
But what impressed me the most was its sinigang na lechon with strawberry. I've never had sinigang with strawberries though I've heard of a restaurant in Baguio that serves that. And when a bowl of piping hot sinigang was served on our table, I actually thought it was hotdogs instead of strawberries. It was until I took a closer look when I found out that it was sliced strawberries that made this sinigang more visual.
And it was not just a pretty bowl of soup. It was really good. I loved how the tangy broth complemented the tender lechon belly. I'd definitely order this again next time.
We also had some rice to pair our mains with but I barely had some to make room for more meats.
We also had a lot of drinks.
And by drinks, I mean a crazy lot!
I wasn't able to take note of the drinks' names nor taste all of it. But I was able to try the one that tasted a lot like spiked strawberry juice. No wonder they serve it with small mason jars. But I love it! Though strong, the strawberry taste was still evident and the strawberry jello flavor made me have three servings of this drink. *hic*
Before heading to our next stop, I had a bit of its Salted Egg Lava Cake (PHP150). I was blown away by the richness of the salted egg custard which was not salty at all. In fact, it tasted more like yema. Nonetheless, this dulce lava cake is now part of my top 10 desserts!

Overall, it was a fun dining experience. I'd definitely swing by again soon.

Empacho is located at Second Floor, 170 Tomas Morato corner Don Roces Avenue, Quezon City. 

 Empacho Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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