15 varieties of adobo and counting…
I’m invited to participate in the shoot for an episode of “Top Tables, Top Cities”, a food show produced for Fox International in Europe. I’m the “guide” for the show’s host, introducing him to what the producers label as a “hidden gem,” a place akin to something off the beaten food trail. The place chosen for the shoot is Adobo To’ and because I’ve never heard of it, it’s incumbent on me as a food writer to do my research and reconnaissance before the shoot date.
As you can assume by the name, Adobo To’ serves all kinds of adobo – they have 15 varieties, in fact. Owned by the Urbano family, it was begun in 2008 when the family’s matriarch was widowed. Not wanting her to be idle, her children decided to open a restaurant, conveniently located in the garage of their house. They called it Adobo To’ because they wanted to specialize in adobo and the “To’” honors To’ Urbano, their dad, who’d always wanted to open a restaurant of his own. Of course, Adobo To’ – in the local vernacular – stands for “this is adobo.” There may be other meanings but I refuse to delve deeper into semantics as my Tagalog leaves most people cold.
I’ve not been to many restaurants like Adobo To’ but it’s easy to see why they’re frequented. This is good, affordable food served in sufficient portions and really, what’s not to love about adobo? Though my food writer friends and I have had vigorous dialectics on the concept that adobo is not a dish but a cooking technique, that all seems moot here. Pork and chicken are the principals from which several permutations spawn.
The dish that “flies out of the [garage] door,” is the Cheesy Pork Adobo (P85). A surprising hit, cheese sauce and melted cheddar are draped over cubes of pork. An unusual concept yes, but the cheeses’ own brand of saltiness is a fine finish to the pork’s own.
Then there’s the straight-up Classic Pork Adobo (see cover photo; P85) that’s familiar and easy to love. All adobos are served with two scoops of rice, diced tomato, and a boiled egg. If you prefer the egg to be cooked another way – I like mine fried – then it’s easy enough to ask.
Ordering is done up front at a counter plastered with pictures of celebrities that have eaten at the restaurant. If you order a soda and here, still served in those so-retro-they’re-cool bottles, then you grab it from the chiller and find a table.
Some of the adobos have more heat such as the Spicy Binagoongan Pork (above; P85) but frankly, the spice level barely registers a blip with me. If you’re anything like my Bin, who adores tinkering with sauces, then you’ll appreciate the condiments counter where you can mix and match bird’s eye chilies with soy sauce, vinegar and calamansi, and hightail it back to your adobo of choice. In this case, my Bin used the said concoction to douse the Adobo Sisig with Egg (P110; also available without egg). This dish I like very much. It tastes like a regular sisig with the crunch that I look for, and is made by braising shredded pork with various pig parts.
Being the lover of coconut that I am (hello, previous post!), I’m partial to the Coco Chicken (not pictured; P85). It’s got a mellow coconut flavor, the creaminess of which tames the saltiness of the adobo.
Speaking of saltiness, I find all the adobos at Adobo To’ quite salty, “malasa” is the word my Bin uses. It’s not a bad thing since adobo is meant to be eaten with rice, there’s no point otherwise. On some of the times I’ve been here, I find the pork adobos to be somewhat tough, something I mention to the owner.
Aside from an assemblage of adobos, there are non-adobo dishes too such as various “–silogs”, crispy tawilis, beef steak, lechon kawali, and more. I’ve not had them however since I try to stick to a restaurant’s strengths, and this one particularly has made those abundantly clear.
All told, though it has its charms, Adobo To’ is a place that’s not easy to get to. It’s located inside the gated subdivision of San Antonio Village where you’ll have to surrender your license, no matter who you are or what hot wheels you may be driving. Once you’ve surmounted security, you’re then faced with a warren of one way streets you must traverse ‘til you get to the restaurant. Once you get there, it’s a typical carinderia with a blaring – and I do mean, blaring TV. Thank goodness the place is well-ventilated then.
But come anyway and try it out, even just once. The food is good and plentiful and for the C.O.T.Us in my life, those who are always looking to score cheap eats, this one’s a winner. And in case you’re wondering, my shoot was too.
31 Gen. Delgado St.
San Antonio Village, Pasig
(02) 631 3667 / 477 3417
Open Monday-Saturday: 9am-9pm; Sunday: 9am-7pm
On Facebook: Adobo To’