Don't Miss Locavore's New Queso de Bola Cheese Tarts

IMAGE Kai Huang

In the three years that I've known the 30-year-old chef Mikel Zaguirre and after numerous menu additions and revisions, it's only now that I've mustered up the courage to ask him about the shallots, cherry tomatoes, and garlic. See, if you've been following the history of his flavor-packed Filipino restaurant, you might have noticed the strikingly similar thread that binds together most of his bestsellers. Sizzling sinigang, gising-gising, pork belly, garlic baby squid—they're all prepared with a confit of shallots, cherry tomatoes, and garlic.

You could consider it brazen: first, when you think about everyone's tendency to photograph their dishes only to end up with things that look amusingly similar; second, because the good chef uses French techniques on Filipino dishes much to the chagrin of purists. But this shouldn't be a problem when you remember that Locavore rarely disappoints—only that time when they weren't open for lunch. 


"It's one of those things that is really simple to do, but it drastically changes the flavor of the dishes," explains the chef.

Sizzling adobong baka sa gata

Locavore's latest sizzling adobong baka sa gata is a triumph. It's a family recipe and Chef Mikel first showed it off in a previous job seven years ago, but hesitated to resurrect it for Locavore. Eventually, the need to share it proved too strong. Light flavors—that familiar tartness of adobo, the zing of cilantro, the gently touch of coconut—come together for something unforgettable. Dig through the pieces of fork-tender beef and the quail eggs (a cheeky throwback to the usual chicken egg) to find the gata-soaked sigarilyas. It's the perfect surprise ending. And the confit? It's just proof that that you shouldn't mess with a good thing. And the trio has become such a restaurant signature that when the chef whips it out again for his latest menu revival, no one's complaining. 

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Hot and sour oxtail sisig

The line between tradition and innovation is difficult to cross, but it's something that Locavore knocks out of the park. And the hot and sour oxtail sisig continues this formula. It's slightly crispy, a little bit chewy. It's never going to boast the hot and sour profile you're used to in Chinese restaurants, but it doesn't shy away from it either. For those who complain that Locavore tends to serve dishes on the heavy side, co-owner Tin Magsaysay-Matic specially requested a vegan salad which she christened Ensalada ni Andres. Deep-fried, yes, but refreshingly light when it comes to the okra and eggplant. 


Ensalada ni Andres

Crispy pata

Chef Mikel's newest version of crispy pata, boneless with crackling skin, is perfect with either a cup of steaming white rice for lunch or a few bottles of beer post-dinner. 

Queso de bola cheese tarts

Dessert has always felt like an afterthought at Locavore, but only because you're usually too full to eat them. The queso de bola cheese tarts seem intent to change this preconceived notion. You would expect something rich from edam cheese, but the flavors and textures stay light and custardy even after a second piece (there are only three per order and it's not difficult to polish off everything). Grated bits of cheese on top are toasted for a nice finish. I'll have six. 

Locavore has branches at 10 Brixton Street, Kapitolyo, Pasig City; and Forbes Town Center, Burgos Circle, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.

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About The Author
Sasha Lim Uy
Sasha eats to live and lives to eat. For five years, she handled's food section and edited the last two installments of its Top 10 Food books. She also recently participated at the Madrid Fusion Manila as curator.
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