Dagos po kamo! Bicolano cuisine is deeply rooted in its distinctive terrain. The abundance of coconut has made gata or coconut milk a staple ingredient in their dishes. The secret is in the niyog’s first press when it’s richest, hence is reserved for the last few minutes of a dish’s simmer. This preserves the lush gata flavor that perfectly balances the hot and spicy character of every plate.
It’s only fitting that managing partners, Marvin Ibasco, Earl Lim and Marian Lim had named their Bicolandian comfort food spot “Gata: Flavors of Bicolandia ATBP“. Opened last April 16, 2018, Gata’s unique menu is based from heirloomed dishes from Marian’s family. Masterfully executed by Chef Alan Kakilala, Gata’s dishes are reminiscent of home cooked Bicolano dishes, giving comfort for wayward Bicolanos and outsiders alike.
Gata is easily one of the best Bicolano restaurants I’ve been to in Metro Manila, if not the only one! One of the first things we got to try was a bowl of Bicolano Pork Dinuguan (PHP 210), which puts a twist on the classic pig’s blood stew by including fragrant coconut milk! I super loved it, and if you generally like dinuguan, you should try Gata’s version.
Oragons like Miguel—people who love assaulting their taste buds with spicy food, usually to portray machismo or masculinity–can rejoice for Gata’s dishes stay true to their original form and spiciness. One of the spiciest dishes would be the Original Crispy Sisig (PHP 240).
Everyone’s favorite was the Kinunot na Pagi (PHP 295) made of flaked stingray and malunggay or moringa leaves simmered in delicious coconut milk!
With gabi or taro leaves sourced directly from Bicol, Gata’s version of Laing (PHP 235) is a sweet, mildly spicy version of traditional cornerstone dish drizzled with gata.
Also known as tilmok, Pinangat (PHP 195) is another classic Bicolano dish made with seafood meat wrapped in fresh gabi leaves simmered in coconut milk.
One of my personal favorites is the Bicolano version of adobo: Adobong Bicolano Liempo (PHP 250). As opposed to typical Filipino pork adobo, the Bicolandia-style adobo doesn’t use soy sauce but rather salt along with vinegar, garlic and peppercorn. The liempo is simmered in oil, so the pork belly retains its tasty fat while having a crispy outer layer.
Second to the kinunot, the Kare-kareng Bagnet (PHP 320) is my next favorite dish at Gata Restaurant because of the creamy peanut sauce! They used generous amounts of peanut butter and coconut milk to add sweetness to the savor inherent to the pork broth. Topped with crunchy bagnet, the dish is a masterpiece with complex consistency and flavors!
The Chili Bomb Stick (PHP 130) is for those who want something more modern. It’s great as a light snack!
A rare find in Metro Manila, the Crispy Okoy with Sukang Tuba (PHP 149) is a fried shrimp cake served with special sugarcane vinegar.
A milder version of the sinigang, the Cocido na Lapu-Lapu (PHP 440) is carefully executed fish broth made with grouper using less tamarind.
Originally made in Bato, Camarines Sur, the Pansit Bato Guisado (PHP 240) is tossed with a variety of veggies and squid, topped with fried liempo.
We ended a perfect meal with Gata’s fluffy, eggy, not-so-sweet version of Leche Flan, the newest item on their menu. Definitely worth a try!
Location: Unit 3 The Grandia Place, Mother Ignacia Avenue, South Triangle, Quezon City