The emails I receive are mostly concerned with food, but surprisingly enough, I do get asked about other things: books, lipstick shades, and where I buy my shoes. Some time last year, I get a note from Ria, one of my readers who’s more comfortable emailing me directly instead of commenting on a post. During our discourse on the benefits of short hair, she tells me about Silantro, a Fil-Mex cantina in Capitolyo.
I grew up on Mexican, or shall I say, Tex-Mex cuisine. Back then, my idea of heaven was an enchilada with plenty of refried beans on the side. It’s ironic therefore, that I married someone who has a painfully nonchalant attitude about enchiladas, burritos, etc.
That is, until Silantro came along.
The place has what one of my chef-friends describes as a “hipster” vibe. The staff of four are guys identically dressed in rocker t-shirts, black skinny jeans and Converse kicks. One of them also sports a Panama hat, and I dare say, he carried it. For some reason, they all look sleepy but they’re friendly enough and our orders come in good time, save for our second order of burritos that requires a follow-up.
As Ria tells me, “Don’t scoff at the ‘Fil’ in Fil-Mex, I assure you I didn’t taste sugar in the meats. I come here for the soft tacos and the burrito. They do something to the meat that makes it really good. It must be a very long braise.” It’s called Silantro’s Burrito (P180) and there’s only one type, a mix of chicken and beef and two large French fries jammed in the middle. Thankfully, the burrito’s not so big so it doesn’t require commitment in terms of stomach space, it’s good for one hungry (wo)man or split for sharing so you can try other things.
There’s not much to speak of in terms of spice, those are all DIY (do it yourself). Sometime during the course of the meal, a server will plop down three small containers of sauce. The green sauce – Ria suggests “cucumber and cilantro?” – and I have to agree, although I sense some avocado in there somewhere. The sauce in the middle, which has the color and texture of split pea soup is the spice you seek, strong with cumin and chopped peppers. Careful, it’s deceptive: the heat creeps up on me and before I know it, I’m wiping sweat off the back of my neck. The white sauce is as benign as it looks, very similar to the yogurt-garlic sauce smeared on shawarmas.
Our server is happy to recommend the Fresh Dalandan Juice (P90), and so we do, it really is freshly-squeezed. We alternate sips with bites of the tangy and somewhat sweet Calliente Wings (P170). While I can live without chicken wings, if it’s on the menu, my Bin will order it. I must say that these are good, large with lots of meat. And the cabbage crunch drizzled with herb sauce is a terrific touch. My Bin, who’s never been hot on Mexican food, is nodding in between bites. “I love this, Lor!” He exclaims. “This place is changing my mind about Mexican food.” Quite an endorsement, that.
Silantro is very compact: enter and you hit the kitchen on the right hidden only by a beverage chiller. But the servers, because they’re all so skinny, are adroit at wending their way in between tables and each other. Good thing too, because the customers just keep on coming. I do suggest coming over for lunch or before dusk since it’s a better vibe overall. And you can’t beat these prices.
Other good things to have here are the Quesadillas (P160), and two other dishes that every customer seems to have on their table except for us: the Mexican Rib-Eye (P560) and the Paella Fajita Mix (P250). Ria also recommends the Soft Tacos that come with up to three meat options: oxtail, lamb, and beef. For now, the Beef Nachos (P180) are aground in a web of cheese and beef brisket chunks. I want them slightly cheesier though.
The dish that totally makes my meal though is the Dinamita (P140). Jalapeño halves carry a cargo of cheese, the lot of which is then cradled in a spring roll wrapper and fried. I bite into one that’s fresh-from-the-fryer, and melted cheese squirts out in protest. Chomp down with caution lest you be on the receiving end of a charge of molten hot cheese; pain before the pleasure I presume?
Thanks again for the recommendation, Ria!
Silantro Fil-Mex Cantina
75 East Capitol Drive, Bgy. Capitolyo, Pasig
02 654 9657
Open daily from 11am.