In between making cookbooks and creating content for his online platforms (his Simpol channel has a million followers on Facebook, and more than 700K subscribers on YouTube), the chef and bestselling author Myke “Tatung” Sarthou, or Chef Tatung to many, found time to build a house during the pandemic.
It’s a beautiful Spanish-inspired home with Filipino touches located in Antipolo, behind the Maximo Gatlabayan Memorial High School. It’s an unusual location but is no trouble to get to. The property is made up of two structures: a cabana which serves as a holding area for guests, and the main structure which sits on the higher end of a slope. In between is a swimming pool, a giant mango tree, and a collection of decorative and fruit-bearing plants that bring the whole place to life.
At a glance, it’s definitely a place meant to be shared with a lot of people, with family and friends, even strangers—meaning we think it’s a perfect place to open a restaurant in. Although Chef Tatung, who still oversees the kitchen at the popular Asian casual dining haunt Pandan in Quezon City, says that was not in his mind when he started building this home.
But things happen and minds change, and last Tuesday, he treated us to a preview of what would become his private dining tasting menu, which will be served—you guessed it—right in his home on the hill. Don’t think of it as as a restaurant. It’s the chef opening his private world to fans and showcasing his creativity without the usual restrictions of a restaurant setting.
He started us with a watermelon cocktail at the cabana and we were next ushered into his lovely dining area of textured white walls, Machuca tiles and solihiya chairs. It’s elegant and welcoming, regal yet homey, a perfect setting for long lunches and indulgent dinners. You will feel relaxed here. It helps that the chef cum host has a natural talent for making anyone feel comfortable—thanks in great part to his humor, and of course his food.
Chef Tatung whipped up a nine-course menu that pulled from his Cebuano roots, borrowed from Mindanaoan cuisine, and plucked ingredients associated with the North and other parts of the Philippines where his feet and palate have wandered. Memorable was a most refined galantina spared of unnecessary sweetness but served with strawberry jam on the side (a recipe from the chef’s mother) and a raisin jam on top (just in case you’re among those who seek out dried grapes in their meat loaf). This number also comes with a soft brick of adobo pate, which is great with the sourdough Pandesal made in house, and a gleaming, tasty bonete, a kind of bread from Batangas akin to a dinner roll—also made in house, by a nephew.
Each dish on the degustation is a highlight, but we have our favorites: the salad with burong mangga; the seafood binakol with local salmon cooked in bamboo; and the squid stuffed with shrimp sitting on a bed of Maranao rice and what looks like squid ink sauce but is actually “pinaitum,” or Chef Tatung’s version of the South’s burnt curry.
The whole dinner was very thoughtfully executed, from the portions to the sequence of flavors. By the end of it, we felt deeply satisfied but not stuffed. Full not just with good food but with discoveries, delicacies we heard about for the first time, Filipino food terms we can add to our culinary vocabulary. “It’s familiar but not too familiar,” Chef Tatung says about his dishes. “Prepared in a manner that’s a bit different, very honest.” It’s also not apologizing for Filipino cuisine, he adds, by which he means it’s not trying to downplay certain flavors to appeal to foreign tastes or a wider audience. They’re reinterpretations, yes, but he doesn’t “take it away from the original.”
We should all be so lucky Chef Tatung cultivated a serious appreciation for our own food. Now with Tatung’s Private Dinners—a name he came up with only a day or two after he hosted us in his Antipolo home—his fans can savor the results of all that he’s learned, crafted in a manner that’s both creative and confident, sophisticated but delivers where it truly counts: on the tummy and on the palate.
For how to book and other information on Tatung’s Private Dinners, please click on this link.