Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The best tapas in Manila are at Bar Pinxtos in Alabang. And remembering the tapas in San Sebastian, Spain.

The other night in traffic-free Manila, living a #Travelife, we took the South superhighway to Alabang to try our friend Miguel Vecin's new restaurant, Bar Pinxtos.

It's been open for close to six months now, but I'd never been until then as I've been away so much this year.


Bar Pinxtos is near Alabang Hills, at the back of a building on the main street leading towards the subdivision.

It's a little hard to find at first as it's located at the back and it doesn't even have a proper sign. But all you really need to do is look for the building with the Pancake House restaurant in front.

Fortunately, when we got there, we saw Miguel and Noel, another friend, already having a drink in front of the bar and not inside (a very Spanish thing to do, by the way), so we knew we were at the right place.



There are lots of supposed tapas bars in Manila, but I had yet to find one that transported me back to San Sebastian in Spain. Until the other night.

Bar Pinxtos does just that, with its casual atmosphere, mix of tables and bar seating, and, of course, its food.

Many foodies in the know have been making a bee-line for this restaurant for sometime now, and it's doing very well. On the night we were there, people just kept coming in all night, and this was supposed to be a slow night.


Miguel Vecin, who grew up in Spain and who still travels there whenever he can, left the corporate world to pursue his passion of running a real good pinxtos bar.

He's obviously put lots of passion and thought into the food so the tapas are really tasty.

Some of it is very authentic, like the olives and anchovies on a toothpick that Miguel serves exactly as they do in San Sebastian.

This is the original tapas of San Sebastian, by the way, and Miguel's version is just as good as the ones I've tasted in the popular bars of San Sebastian.


Meanwhile, the other tapas are pure creativity -- so delicious and also so original that I felt I actually didn't have to go to San Sebastian for tapas anymore.

Of course, I still do need to go to San Sebastian, nevertheless. But you get what I mean, right?


One of my favourites, and also the top bestseller at Bar Pinxtos, is an incredible tapas of jamon and alioli on a slice of bread.

The combination was amazingly simple -- so simple that I was surprised I'd never seen it at a tapas bar before. And it was so good that I stole my friend Catha's share of it for another serving.

With her permission, of course.


Then we had pig's ears fried crispy and served with alioli and green peppers. The tiny spicy ones. And the trick was to get a piece of pig's ear, dip it into the alioli, and then pop it into your mouth with a green pepper or too.

This is Catha's favourite. "It's basically the Spanish version of sisig," she said to me.

And it certainly was, as sisig is made with chopped up pig's ears and cheeks. Many people also like to have it with a bit of spicy hot sauce.


We ate enough tapas to last me for the rest of the year (which is ending in a few days anyway), but Noel went on and ordered Miguel's special chuleton anyway as a main course -- as if we needed one still.

Bar Pinxtos has become his "kitchen" so we were happy to eat anything he recommended.

Well, the chuleton was wonderful, cooked by Miguel himself. The meat was flavourful, well-seasoned and cooked perfectly, that I'm still thinking about it now.


We also had Miguel's very original lamb paella which came highly recommended by Noel, who does a mean paella himself. It was delicious.

Tapas aren't that hard to make, as you might imagine. But to put good ingredients together in a combination that works is quite difficult. 

Most tapas places in this city place a slice of jamon and an olive on top of a piece of bread and serve these with potato croquettes and call these tapas.

But the tapas I had at Bar Pinxtos were of another level, and these sure made me dream of returning to San Sebastian sometime soon, for another chapter in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful #Travelife.    

PS: Here are some recommendations for tapas bars in San Sebastian, Spain:

1) La Cuchara de San Telmo
2) Bar Borda Berri
3) Aggoregi jatetxea
4) Atari Gastroteka
5) Zazpi Bar

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