Inspired by their shared love for Spanish cuisine and their dining experiences during their travels, good friends Miguel Vecin and Martin “Tinchu” Gonzalez opened a Spanish neighborhood bar-restaurant called Bar Pintxos in Alabang in 2015. Through the years, the duo expanded, gaining two new partners along the way, Carlo Calma Lorenzana and Bobby Tenchavez. Together, they opened a highly successful BGC branch, followed shortly by another one in Salcedo Village, Makati.
After five successful years, the group has gone back into expansion mode, opening not one but two additional Bar Pintxos branches: one in Cebu (their first branch outside of Manila) and another in Greenbelt 5 that just opened this week. To top it all, they also opened a completely new restaurant concept, a Spanish asador called Txoko, just this month.
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One of the owners describes this new asador concept as a refined casual restaurant featuring meat and seafood grilled with wood and charcoal using an asador or Spanish grill. They named the joint after the term, txoko (pronounced “choco”), which refers to traditional members-only gastronomic societies in the Basque country that have since evolved into modern day social clubs. The convivial atmosphere these so-called social clubs offer make them an attractive venue for people to gather together to eat, drink, and just have a good time. This is exactly what Txoko aspires to provide its diners, aside from all the Spanish delights it has on offer.
The restaurant is a warmly lit and very spacious 280-square-meter space finished with wood, marble, and dark leather. It also has semi-private sections near the corners for those seeking a bit more privacy, while another side features an elongated bar that gives you a bird’s eye view of the action in the huge semi-open kitchen.
At the helm of the kitchen is Spanish chef Alex Del Hoyo Gomez who is originally from Burgos, a small town in the north of Spain. He had stints working in two other Asian countries before moving to Manila.
Together with the owners, he prepared an extensive menu that goes beyond the quality grilled meats and seafood selection that an asador is known for. First timers may want to take note that a lot of the dishes at Txoko can be easily shared by 1 to 3 persons, depending on the total number of dishes your group ends up ordering.
For starters, you can opt for a cold or hot starter, or maybe a combination of both. But whatever you decide, do not miss trying Txoko’s whimsical take on a Spanish staple, the ubiquitous Pan de Tomate. Here, it is served as hollow bread pillows filled with tomato foam, wrapped in jamón serrano, and topped with a mini-plastic siphon filled with extra virgin olive oil. You pour it on the bread pillow right before devouring it, preferably in one big bite—it does not only give you a better taste or experience, it also prevents the tomato foam filling from accidentally squirting out.
Those who may want to indulge in some meatless dishes will be spoiled for choice with the seafood options. Canelones de Txangurro is a hefty take on a crab cannelloni, drowned in a rich seafood béchamel and finished with ink powder.
My early seafood favorite, Txiporones Pelayo, is baby squid stuffed and served with a caramelized onion stew.
You can also opt for a less rich yet indulgent and comforting bowl of Almejas ala Brasa or grilled clams in its own juice.
You can indulge your meat cravings with an order of one of their signature grill items like the Cuarto de Lechazo, suckling lamb quarter served with a mini loaf panadera potato and fennel, good for bigger groups.
There’s also the Cuarto de Cochinillo or roasted suckling pig quarter, served with salad and revolcona potatoes.
My early meat favorite is the beefsteak-like Secreto Iberico and Pineapple, an extra tender, grilled secreto iberico pork dish that you may easily mistake for premium grade beef, served on top of faux truffled couscous and a mini loaf of pineapple panadera and pineapple sauce.
For those looking for a vegetarian option, the must-try is the Arroz con Venduras en Paella, a seasonal vegetable paella served with a side of mojo verde.
Then you can end your meal with a dessert or two. The Pastel de Queso Idiazabal y Mango is a smokey-rich, indulgent cheesecake made with Idiazabal cheese from the Basque country of Spain that’s served with mango three-ways—in confit, powder, and jam form. Or you can try the delightfully simple and comforting Arroz con Leche, a creamy rice dessert topped with candied lemon and orange peel, like a champorado made without chocolate.
“At Txoko, we are offering something new and updated,” says co-owner Miguel Vecin, “where we hope to continue highlighting the constantly evolving Spanish culinary experience, as well as the traditional dishes that strongly define Spanish fare.”
Txoko Asador is currently only open for dinner until March 14. But it will be open for both lunch and dinner service starting Monday, March 16, and will eventually also offer special weekend menus that are good for families, aside from executive lunch menus.
Txoko, G/F Erlag Building, 102 Esteban Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City, (0956) 047-3224, (02) 8367-6673, email [email protected], Instagram @txokoasador
Photos by Chris Clemente
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