“Why the name, Tadeo?”
“Well, to be honest… Wala lang,” Chino Cayetano, co-owner of Quezon City’s Tadeo Filipino-Mexican Comfort Food cheekily replies.
“I guess it’s because Tadeo is a common first name in Mexico, but is also a common last name in the Philippines. You hear it, and it’s unique. It’s distinct.” And for Chino, that is all it needed to be.
After all, a name that does both rich cultures justice is what summarizes Tadeo’s restaurant concept – Filipino-Mexican fusion that doesn’t try to intimidate. Instead, it’s comfort food made easily likable for both Mexican and Filipino food lovers alike.
Hidden along Tomas Morato’s side streets is the small, humble restaurant, only 7 months old and taking up just a few square meters off the sidewalk. The minimalistic-industrial space with a 20-guest capacity bears no frills and no pretention.
The open kitchen, bar stools, and al fresco seats provide a casual dining experience most barkadas are looking for – quality food and affordable prices included.
Experiment gone… right?
When 2 become 1, that’s what foodies would usually call “fusion.”
Admittedly, fusion cuisine is a difficult and delicate path to undertake in the local resto business, especially since the concept of merging two cuisines into one is already so rampant and very competitive.
What more if you’re a self-proclaimed, non-professional “chef?”
“I don’t have any food background, actually. This is my first venture into the food industry,” Chino tells Rappler, saying that it was a risk – but one well-returned.
“I totally rely on my brother-in-law, Chef George Mendez, when it comes to the technicalities,” he added.
“But I am a foodie, and I do have all these ideas, so we combine them. We throw our own ideas to each other when it comes to each new dish, and we come up with unique and surprisingly good stuff.”
And so the concept of Tadeo was born – where every dish must have both a Filipino and Mexican aspect, whether it be the process, the ingredients, or just the concept.
‘Authentic?’ Who is she?
“No, we are not authentic,” Chino says, sharing how this truth of a lie helped solidify their concept. They knew they could never be the “real deal” – just a trying hard, second-rate version of true Mexican cuisine. They were frauds. So, why not own it?
“It’s hard to come up with a full-blown Mexican restaurant, since you have to gather authentic ingredients, which is very difficult here in the Philippines. Importing and exporting pa,” he shared.
“The humidity here in the Philippines, the water – mag-iiba talaga. Medyo takot din kami to be bashed, kasi eventually, sasabihin nila, ‘The food is good, but if you’re claiming to be authentic Mexican food, that’s not gonna happen here.’ Bye.”
With a great deal of self-awareness and wisdom from imaginary bashers, Tadeo improvised.
“That’s why we tried Filipino-Mexican, so at least we’d have room to play around,” Chino said. “Wala masyadong kaming kailangan i-follow na rules, since we make our own. That’s the beauty behind it.”
And beauty is in the eye of the sinigang burrito holder indeed, the star dish Tadeo is most known for.
Ang paburrito ng lahat, Tadeo’s sinigang burrito (P250) usually gets an incredulous “What?! Sinigang burrito?” upon first mention.
You heard right, though – it’s an interesting take on two popular cuisine staples, Mexico’s famous burrito and the Philippines’ ever-debated national dish, sinigang.
A homemade tortilla wrap is heftily stuffed with sinigang rice, chunks of crispy liempo, kangkong leaves, talong, and cherry tomatoes, and then served with honey patis and sili on the side.
Verdict? It’s flavorful, filling, and different. It’s also value for money – its serving size is fit for two, and goes for just P250.
As for the sinigang rice, the best way to describe it is white rice doused in hot sinigang soup – just like how I like it. The rice, however, is not soupy, but dry. It’s tangy, tasty, and umami-inducing, made with a hint of paprika to give it that orange, burrito-like color.
“Ha? ‘Bat walang sabaw ung sinigang?” some customers would ask Chino, as if they committed blasphemy.
From the get-go, he already knew the risk involved in taking the Filipino fusion route, knowing how protective and defensive many may get over the Pinoy childhoood dishes near and dear to their heart.
“If you’re a foodie, food is like your religion – ipaglalaban mo kung ano ang paniniwala mo,” he says.
“But once they try it, the taste is nostalgic. Familiar yung lasa,” Chino said. And for Tadeo, familiarity is still key. It isn’t a matter of changing the recipe, but rather, highlighting the best of both worlds through a new dish that can both incite curiosity and evoke nostalgia.
“Lasang sinigang ba? That’s our only question. If yes, at least meron kaming nagawa. Na-achieve namin ung gusto namin ma-achieve.” Achievement: definitely unlocked.
Still feeling taco-mata? Another Tadeo best-seller worth trying is their sisig tacos (P99), two faves in one. Just like sisig, tacos are also a form of comfort food for many, so why not combine both?
Tadeos’s soft taco shells are topped with rich sisig, the kind that fans of creamy, mayo-like sisig would love.
One bite welcomes your palate to crispy pork belly, crunchy chicharon bits, sili leaves, and punchy red onions, enveloped in a smooth, savory dressing, complemented by fresh pipino, onion atchara, and salty cured egg on top.
On the flipside, if you’re fishing for something a bit more guilt-free, Tadeo also has a pescetarian option featuring the local staple tilapia.
The tilapia fish rebosado tacos (P160) is Tadeo’s own take on the fish taco, starring beer-battered tilapia fillet, fried to a golden crisp.
Aside from the crispy, well-cooked tilapia, adding extra crunch to the soft taco is red cabbage, radish, and green onions perched atop the fish. Drizzled on afterwards is a garlic sour cream sauce, adding a creamy, tangy layer to this pretty dish.
Thirsty? Tadeo’s espasol horchata (P95), a sweet crossover between Mexico’s famous horchata (a sweet rice milk beverage) and the powdery Filipino rice cake, has got milk tea shaking in its boots.
The cold drink tastes like smooth coconut milk with notes of rice milk, peppered with comforting cinammon spice and finished off with sweet espasol powder on top, making for a refreshingly sweet accopaniment to a heavy meal.
Another appetizer to note, Tadeo’s layered beef nachos (P230), is nacho ordinary platter.
An interactive barkada fave, it’s got beef guisado, beans, tomatoes, onions, and annato cheese sauce sandwiched in between 4 crispy tortilla rounds.
The best part, though, is the last step of the ritual. Before it’s served, the top tortilla is blow-torched, giving it that extra crunch and the cheese sauce a distinct smoky flavor.
Next: the break-up. Diners are given the honor of cracking the top tortilla with a spoon and seeing everything fall apart to the beautiful mess that it is.
Need extra flavor? Tadeo’s one saucy step ahead of you – each table comes with 3 bottles of homemade sauce – there’s garlic sour cream, salsa verde, and a spicy chili sauce.
Last but never the least is dessert, and Tadeo’s take on the local street treat maruya (P95) – the deep-fried fritter made from saba bananas and sprinkled with sugar – is a clever reinvention of the Filipino classic.
This version instead uses lakatan bananas, freshly grilled, and then mashed.
In a bowl, the banana mixture is then topped with light crema dulce (sweet cream), and toppings hailing from Mexico – Buñuelos de viento dos, light-as-air churro fritters.
They provide an intense crush upon first bite, which is then followed by the creaminess of the crema dulce and the mashed texture of the grilled bananas, providing a multi-textural dessert of subtly sweet proportions.
Tadeo’s menu is worth discovering on your own, or in the company of foodie friends and hungry family members. The food will surprise (in a good way) and spark curiosity, urging you to try out the rest of Tadeo’s fusion offerings.
“Kahit di kami comforting pagdating sa upuan or sa ambiance, sa food nalang kami babawi,” Chino said, and this is what Tadeo has achieved, and continues to do so for customers both loyal and new. – Rappler.com
For more information on Tadeo, you can visit their official Facebook page.
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