In the whole existence of our blog, we reviewed Filipino restaurants the most compared to other cuisines. This is normal since we live in the Philippines after all. However, if there is something that I have noticed with most Philippine restaurants, they are trying to keep it as close to the original recipe as they can. There is nothing wrong with that since I really like traditional Filipino food and I grew up eating those.
Millenials like us though have adventurous palates. We are looking for something different yet we still expect a delicious experience. Thus, when we got to try Empacho Restaurant and Bar, we were blown away their novel take on classic Filipino comfort food.
Empacho is a Spanish word that means to suffer from certain symptoms of indigestion, constipation or lack of appetite. That may sound horrible but with Empacho Restaurant and Bar, it takes on a completely different meaning. What does it mean? You’ll have to read further to find out.
Located at the heart of Tomas Morato, Quezon City, entering the restaurant is a breath of fresh air as it is really spacious complete with a high ceiling.
It has an industrial look with pendant lights which is a trend with restaurants these days. What sets it apart is that there is a bar counter, of course, because it doubles also as a bar. What we loved about the place is the combination of cozy and hip ambiance it has.
For those who are looking for exclusivity, you can go upstairs to hang out at their enclosed area.
THE ULTIMATE EMPACHO SALAD, PHP 390 (USD 7.8)
Lettuce, green mango, pickled red onion, onion, turnip, carrots, and tomatoes fill the large wooden bowl. What made this salad ultimate is the added roasted pork belly.
The abundant juicy fat rendered by the roasted pork belly gave a textural complexity to the salad. Meanwhile, the spicy calamansi dressing that comes certainly added a welcoming zesty taste with a kick of spice to it. It is indeed perfect for those seeking a strike of balance between healthy and guilty pleasure.
SPICY TAMARIND WINGS, PHP 370 (USD 7.37)
These are chopped chicken wings coated with a spicy tamarind sauce and fried chili. I honestly didn’t find it spicy maybe because I have a strong tolerance for heat. Or maybe because sweet and tart taste is more apparent.
What I’m certain of though is that the coating is not just an eye-catching succulent glaze. The combination works immensely. So it is a crowd pleaser amongst our group even if we had to gnaw it to get the meat.
TRIPLE BYPASS, PHP 380 (USD 7.5)
This platter consists of deep fried chicken skin, isol (chicken ass), and chicharon bulaklak (pork large intestines) served with two vinegar sauces and pickles. It is the ultimate bar chow for me as it is fried to perfection. Plus, I can imagine that it greatly tastes better when paired with some beer.
Just make sure not to eat too much of this because it can cause a heart attack or stroke due to its very unhealthy nature. If you really can’t resist, ensure that you have a health insurance.
BALUT TEMPURA, PHP 350 (or USD 7.2)
Balut (a fertilized duck embryo or partially formed duck fetus) is quite famous all around for different reasons. Some eat it as it is a great source of protein. Others view it as an aphrodisiac. But, as an “exotic” snack, those people who don’t eat balut find it repulsive and/or disgusting.
Empacho Restaurant and Bar turned the infamous delicacy into an aesthetically pleasing and more delicious treat. The balut is coated evenly in tempura batter. It doesn’t only hide the pronounced duck parts. But it basically adds a tasty crunch which made me love this version more than the simple balut.
Those who have avoided balut all their lives may finally have the courage with balut tempura.
CRISPY PORK KARE-KARE, PHP 395 (or USD 7.85)
The Filipino rich peanut stew did not escape being reinvented as well. A spicy deep fried salted pork belly adds a crunchy crackling to the spread of deliciously nutty annatto peanut sauce. Steamed vegetables and a tiny amount of fermented anchovies temper the richness in taste.
Honestly, this is not the first time we have seen an enhanced version of Kare-Kare. I just found this version more refined than we had tried before. So I highly recommend for you not to miss this.
SOFT SHELL ALIGUE PASTA, PHP 420 (USD 8.1)
In the world where tomato and cream based pasta dominate, Empacho Restaurant and Bar smothered aligue or “crab roe” in linguine noodles. I could really taste an indulgent ocean flavor in it which makes up for any lost flavor of the battered and fried soft shell crabs. The soft shell crabs can be eaten entirely without cracking it with one’s hands. Indeed, your mouth will be the only one to do the cracking. This dish is perfect for crab lovers who want variation in their favorite seafood.
SINIGANG NA LECHON WITH STRAWBETTIES, PHP 490 (or USD 9.9)
The Filipino sour soup, sinigang, whereby tamarind is often used, had a fruity twist thanks to the use of strawberries. It is our first time to try this kind of sinigang and had no idea if it will fare well.
Surprisingly, the strawberries were able to provide sufficient sourness. It, at the same time, has a distinct subtle sweetness which is nice with the tender lechon (roasted suckling pork belly). It may be different to the taste buds. But once the flavor settles in, it starts to feel right at home.
PISTACHIO SANSRIVAL, PHP 250 (or USD 5)
These are layers upon layers of meringue, filled with buttery icing on each layer, and then finally sprinkled with crushed pistachio. Sansrival is one of my all-time favorite Filipino desserts. And although I’m not a huge fan of pistachio which was utilized in the dessert, the rich and nutty taste gave it character. One of our friends actually loved this so much.
SALTED EGG LAVA CAKE, PHP 150 (or USD 3)
I didn’t know when my salted egg craze began. However, I’m always on the hunt for new salted egg based dishes. Empacho’s dessert version is probably the best one I’ve tried to date.
This is a dulce de leche cake with a salted egg yolk filling in it. With or without the filling, the sweet moist cake is already good in itself. So I’m already at loss for words with the entirety of the cake. It is that good!
carafe of EMPACHO BITTERS, PHP 360 (or USD 7.12)
When we heard the name of this drink, we questioned why we have to drink a bitter drink. As we got to know what it is, we felt overjoyed that what we will be trying out is a non-alcoholic soft drink from Papua New Guinea. So far they are the only one to serve it.
Empacho Bitters’ sour and slightly bitter aftertaste is refreshingly great with the food we ate.
Love Empacho Restaurant and Bar
I haven’t been this excited for Filipino cuisine in a long time, and it’s all thanks to Empacho. Their twist may be distinctly different but don’t hesitate to try it as it is downright delicious. Empacho Restaurant and Bar can successfully capture those who have an adventurous palate and those who are still looking for the familiar taste of home. Eating their food is also a seriously perfect way to bond with friends.
So don’t miss out! Now, you know where to next hangout with the barkada.
Empacho Restaurant and Bar
Second Floor, 170 Tomas Morato Corner Don Roces Avenue, Tomas Morato, Quezon City.
Operating hours: 11 AM to 12 MN (Sun. to Thurs.) and 11 AM to 2 AM (Fri. and Sat.)