This little tapsilog place is nowhere near me but their tapa is unforgettable.
I eat tapsilog once a year at most, it being one of those things I never really hanker for. As someone who loves words however, I fancy the contraction of the three words into one – TAPa, SInangag, itLOG; and the various iterations of similar dishes – longsilog, tocilog, spamsilog, etc.
But seeing as how I eat tapsi so infrequently, you might understand my doubts when, over the course of several weeks, my Bin regales me with tales of the wonderful meals he has at a place called Tapsi ni Vivian. Like Countryside, it’s one of those “repeat discoveries” of my Bin and his office lunch group. My doubts turn to apprehension however when I’m told that we’ll have to drive to Marikina for it. I’ve since learned that there are other branches, but the mother of them all is in Marikina. I quite fancy long drives anyway, so off we go.
Tapsi ni Vivian, yet another contraction of its rather kilometric, complete name D’ Original Tapsi Ni Vivian at Bulaluhan, has been famous for its tapsi since 1984. Open ‘round the clock, it’s a favorite during the wee hours when inebriated folk require greasy grub to avert any impending hangovers. During the day, it’s got a clean, easy carinderia feel with the occasional jarring sound effect of jeepneys and their hybrid engines roaring/bleating/passing by.
A glass case encourages diners to pick and choose from the offerings that change daily. Laminated signs taped to the glass indicate addendums: desserts, fruit shakes, and the decidedly frightening “Soup #5.” I know what that is but I don’t have the balls to try it. (Pun not intended).
The star here, naturally, is the tapsi (P80), so order it we must. Fried and re-fried in a large kawali off to the side, it’s temptingly dark brown and surprisingly, not all that oily. When our order comes in, three eggs are immediately dispatched into a waiting hot pan of oil. The eggs slip and stick together – a crescent moon with three bellybuttons (see photo above).
I’ve never heard of Sparkle softdrink; it tastes like Mountain Dew. How great it is to be drinking soda pop from a bottle again.
While waiting, we entertain ourselves with the requisite sawsawans housed in old-fashioned bottles. Pour and portion at will of patis (fish sauce), suka (vinegar), and toyo (soy sauce). I like more toyo than vinegar in mine with an abundance of fresh chili peppers, smashed mercilessly ‘til the seeds come oozing out.
Surprise! Small bowls of free soup are served, broth from the simmering beef bones for bulalo. It sears my throat going down but it’s seasoned well and satisfying.
The tapsi arrives. The cooked white of the fried egg has crispy edges, its overhang hangs over the garlic rice like an oversized beach hat, its golden center gleaming. The tapa is much softer than I imagine it to be – it tastes like corned beef. Yes, you read that right. “It’s been like, pressure-cooked to death and seasoned with their secret spices,” my Bin surmises, in between hearty spoonfuls of tapsi. His every spoonful is exact – each must have an equal amount of rice, some egg, and tapa that’s been previously doused with hearty amounts of his specially concocted sauce.
Tapa is usually made from sirloin but of course cheaper cuts are used also. The meat at Tapsi ni Vivian’s is different, however. It’s stringier, with a more discernible grain, perhaps brisket or shoulder (kasim) that’s been cooked long and slow. Whatever it is, it’s a different kind of tapa: sweeter yes, and very beefy with a corned beef-like texture. So flavorful is it that it needs a lot of rice; no wonder the tapa itself is such a small portion.
Small portions notwithstanding, we order other things to supplement our meal. The crispy pata (P350) is hit or miss – sometimes it’s crunchy and good, and sometimes the meat is dry, but at this price, it suffices. I have high hopes for the chicharon bulaklak (P100) but it’s been re-fried to a fare-thee-well and is tougher than pig’s hide. I haven’t tried the bulalo, shameful of me really, but I suggest that you do since they’re known for it. My little girl likes their tocilog (tocino; P80) very much, and while there are better longsilogs (P95) in Manila, the one here makes me happy just because it completes our -silog triumvirate.
D’ Original Tapsi Ni Vivian at Bulaluhan
32 Gil Fernando Avenue., San Roque, Marikina
Open 24 hours.