Owner Sandee Masigan and Chef Christian Kalaw really did their homework, to come up with tasty Filipino dishes. Prior to opening their restaurant, they traveled up North to Ilocos and all over the Visayas to research the best of our very own cuisine.
In fact, I’m getting really hungry just remembering the wonderful food we had and then now, while writing about it on this blog. I don’t eat at XO46 often enough, although I eat here whenever I get the opportunity.
MY OWN TOP 40
I'm a person of habit, which is rather interesting considering a Travelife requires constant novelty and change. Or perhaps it's my never-ending Travelife that encourages me to stick to what I know when I'm home. Either way, friends know that I only eat in three or four restaurants when left to my own devices, or if someone taking me to lunch or dinner actually asks me where I want to go.
At XO46, I have my standard favorites and I hardly deviate, although I always love the new dishes that are recommended to me as well. At the top of my current list is a dish called Batangas adobo which is incredibily delicious.
It's not really adobo as we know it, but it's basically tender beef with all the ligaments sautéed in annatto oil. This is a relatively new dish at XO46 but it’s really so good. If I’ve had a tough day, my idea of bliss is to order this with piping hot garlic rice, and to just have the whole order to myself, eating it without having to talk to anyone. Conversation so gets in the way of food as good as this. It's really comfort food at its best.
My other top favorites are the Cebu lechon, the Ilocos empanada, the bangus salpicao and XO46's own version of kare-kare.
DEADLY CEBU LECHON
The Cebu lechon is just amazingly good. An entire pork belly is stuffed with all kinds of herbs and slow-cooked for about six hours. Then it’s served with a sauce made out of its own drippings, which is mixed with a special vinegar. Deadly and deadly delicious.
Because this is quite a labor of love, XO46 makes a limited supply for lunch and dinner everyday, so it's best to reserve in advance if you think you really want this when you go. A couple of people have had major tantrums because they've come, psyched for their Cebu lechon, and it's run out out. It's one of the major best-sellers at the moment.
BLISS IN AN EMPANADA
The Ilocos empanada, another recent offering, is also mouth-wateringly good. Basically, everything good that’s likely to give you a heart attack is stuffed into a giant empanada that’s then deep-fried to a golden crispiness, and served with really spicy suka. I never knew a great Ilocos empanada until I had this one at XO46. Bliss personified.
BANGUS + GARLIC:
THE PERFECT COMBINATION
The bangus salpicao has been on the menu for as long as I can remember, and it's still among my top picks. Generous portions of bangus belly are sliced up and fried in a pool of garlic and herbs. I used to request XO46's owner, Sandee, to bring this over to my house all the time whenever we had dinner -- at least until the Batangas adobo and the Cebu lechon got into the picture and ruined any attempts at calorie control.
XO46's kare-kare also deserves special mention because it's delicious and so different. It's a deconstructed version and made with beef instead of oxtail, so beef stomach is fried crispy and then the kare-kare sauce is served on the side to go with it. Very creative, really, as well as a refreshing take on a favorite Philippine comfort food.
SWEETS FOR THE SWEET
Meanwhile, the desserts at XO46 are all delicious. Until Saturday, I especially liked their home-made mantecado ice cream just by itself -- or as Sandee likes to do it, with a shot of liqueur.
But on Saturday -- perhaps Sandee was trying to kill me with sweetness (joke) -- I had three plates of dessert here, and one of them had a chocolate buchi that looked like a brownie but tasted like a very deep champorado in the shape of a square.
I've had this before here, but for some reason I really thought it was absolutely delicious last Saturday, served with lashings of chocolate syrup and mantecado ice cream on the side. So much so that I woke up craving desperately for it this morning.
So of course, what do I do? I get on my Blackberry and I make plans to eat there again, sometime, somehow, as quickly as possible in my never-ending Travelife. And it's going to be sooner than you think. I can't wait.
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