Spanish cuisine is arguably the most influential in our local food. While the Chinese come a close second, just looking at any fiesta table, it’s easy to see that until now, our dishes still contain a heavy dose of what our conquerors brought to our shores.
Being familiar brings with it some added pressure, though. Unlike other foreign cuisines, we have our own cooking to compare to Spanish dishes. Having the same flavors, similar ingredients and cooking methods as ours, Spanish restaurants have the possibility of losing to lola’s or mama’s specialties. Good food and good cooking, though, translates no matter the cuisine and this is what I came to expect from Taperia Poblacion.
It’s no secret that I admire Chef Ariel Manuel, as do many others in the food industry. His Lolo Dad’s restaurant was an icon in the 1990s and early 2000s. His current namesake restaurant—Bistro Manuel—is, for many, the best fine-dining establishment in the Metro, myself included. But Chef Ariel has always been known for French and French-inspired dishes. The question now is how do his talents translate to a cuisine that is very different from French?
Taperia Poblacion is not your typical Spanish restaurant. They don’t really claim to be authentic either. While the menu is definitely Spanish, Chef Ariel has taken liberties with the food, interpreting classic dishes his way. If it were any other chef, I’d be worried. Spanish food is already great, sticking to tradition is an easier route. But as with any great chef, stamping one’s signature is not a matter of ego, it is their way of trying to improve on something good to make it great. And what is Chef Ariel Manuel’s signature? At least for a fan like me, it is his ability to balance textures and flavors, his use of the very best ingredients, his straightforward approach to food. He cooks the best ingredients available in the best way possible. How can you beat that? No gimmicks, no fanfare, just really good eating.
I would describe the food at Taperia Poblacion as Spanish cuisine via the Filipino palate, but done at the highest level. There is a certain honesty with how Chef Ariel cooks, and it always shows in his food. He cooks to feed his patrons well, not for fame, not for likes on social media, not for acclaim.
On our visit, we had a very classic Spanish-Filipino meal. Favorites include Sautéed Angulas Pintxo, Gambas with Almonds, Sopa de Ajo, Rib Eye Salpicao, Arroz Valenciana and Pugon Lechon. I also have to mention that they serve the best Callos I have ever tasted. If only for the Callos, I’d go back to Taperia Poblacion again and again. And just like in previous visits, chatting with Chef Ariel is always worth the trip. Like a true chef, he’s always there to make sure the food and service are topnotch.
Taperia Poblacion is at Six Axis Center, 4347 B. Valdez Street, Poblacion Makati City.