TUCKED behind Don Gesu building in Don Jesus Boulevard, Bar Pintxos is just off the southbound service road between Sucat and Alabang.
It’s as if they made an effort not be found, as there isn’t even a hint of their presence on the building. There is actually a huge signage post at the front of the building, a directory, if you will, of the building’s tenants. Cars passing could see it from afar, but, for some reason, they decided not to let everyone know they were there, at the back, unseen, unless you were heading for the parking area. But, as the saying goes: “build it and they will come. ” Better yet, “serve it and they will come—in droves, even if you hide!”
The people behind Bar Pintxos, Miguel Vecin and Martin “Tinchu” Gonzalez, never intended to go into the restaurant business. Successful in the corporate world, jet-setting between Manila and Spain, handling courier and cargo logistics, import-export of food products and cured meats production, they could’ve just kept at their careers. The love of good food and drink, however, kept calling. And as luck would have it, a space was offered to them to take over and convert. Of course, not everyone can jump into the restaurant business and expect to succeed.
Just finding a chef to create a menu is difficult enough. As Gonzales told us, Miguel did not have any formal training. He doesn’t even consider himself a chef, he is “only” a cocinero. But as someone who’s been eating for a living for years, I know from experience that these reluctant chef usually make the best food.
Miguel Vecin has lived in Spain for 25 years and his passion for food and travel more than makes up for his lack of formal training. Getting to try the best Spain and Europe has to offer, his knowledge and palate has been honed by the best and finest. Gonzalez, on the other hand, has been handling Tierra España-Filipinas, a company that produces and imports regional Spanish delicacies, specializing on cured meats. Their combined experience and expertise, not to mention their Spanish ancestry, fuel the creativity, passion and pride behind what is now Bar Pintxos.
Before anything else, though, I’d like to divulge a little disclaimer. I’ve known Gonzalez most of my life, being next-door neighbors for over 30 years. We’ve been good friend for the better part of 20 years, starting when I found out that he speaks Tagalog and is not a foreigner. Kidding aside, as happy as I am for my friend, my job requires objectivity. Not that it matters, as Miguel does the cooking and Tinchu, as usual, does the chatting. Now let’s get to the eating!
Pintxos are literally skewers, picks to poke food with. The original pintxo, the Gilda, is a combination of an olive, an anchovy fillet and a pickled chile all skewered with a wooden pick. Tapas of course, are those small servings of whatever is good with a drink. Bar Pintxos serves both tapas and pintxos, mixing tradition with creativity and boy do they do it well! Our meal started off with a few pintxos. Carefully prepared seafood and the best available charcuterie are delicately placed and combined over slices of crusty bread, meant to be enjoyed with a craft beer or wine or their refreshing Sangria. We moved from pintxos to tapas and kept on eating and drinking for hours. We literally started during lunchtime and kept on until late merienda, around five hours.
We had quite a bit more food, but between the glasses of Sangria and craft beers, I’m not even sure I got to take a picture of the rest. They serve really good coffee, too, a perfect perk-me-up for the drive back north to Quezon City. My friendship with Tinchu aside, he and Miguel has a great thing in Bar Pintxos. Comfortably casual, unpretentious, great food, great beers, wine and spirits, a sense of community and fully packed lunches, dinners and after-dinners are all a restaurateur can wish for. No wonder they want to keep their place a secret, those selfish southerners! Seriously, Bar Pintxos has everything going for it and even for someone who lives at the opposite side of the metro, I’d gladly brave the traffic for regular visits. Salud!
Image credits: Dino Datu