As you approach the restaurant, you are instantly perked up by the sunshine yellow walls
. I was happy to be greeted by my friend, Man Eat Manila (aka Mr. Bacon Jam
) as we prepared ourselves to do some research
(errr... eating). Achiote's a good venue to catch up with a friend or a group of friends, and although it's casual, it's the perfect spot away from the usual mall
chaos. I hadn't seen Man Eat Manila in a while, and he had just returned from NYC, so I wanted to hear all about his eating spree.
The most obvious reason for choosing this: BACON
. It's definitely not typical Mexican guacamole, but it had a lot of good stuff in it: from the Dinelli bacon, the toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
, sun-dried tomatoes, spicy roasted peppers
, to the queso cotija
. The guacamole itself is made from avocados and roasted tomatoes. An order of the guacamole comes with warm tortilla chips and achiote-chipotle sauce. It's an interesting concept to have guacamole
loaded with lots of delicious ingredients and packs a bit of heat from the peppers, but in this case the whole meal we were having was pretty much on the heavy side. We agreed that the guacamole was better left "naked" since it's perfectly fine on its own, creamy and ideally mashed; just simple and delicious.
Man Eat Manila ordered the "fajita style" burrito, which means the burrito
contained no beans. That came in the form of flavorful chunks of grilled beef steak
marinated in lime, garlic, and cilantro with a mix of grilled peppers
. He asked for extra cilantro along with an array of garnishes, an ultra thick and creamy sour cream, more fresh salsa, and slices of lime. The meat was tender and there was just the right amount of rice, tomatoes, lettuce, and corn
, plus it made a big difference in the burrito sans the beans. The flour
tortilla was not too thick, which is one of the reasons why I rarely order a burrito since I get too full too quickly from the wrap. In this case, the burrito was perfect for sharing, since we ordered one more dish.
This dish was made up of beef tongue
marinated in lime, garlic, and chili powder placed on top of two layers of thin taco wraps with chopped onions, jalapenos, and thin slices of radish and cilantro. I was a bit nervous to order this because in my previous visit, the offal dishes were underseasoned
. I had no problem with the way they cook
their viand, since that's been consistent, while the tongue was clean (no funky innards taste) and tender. But this time the flavor vastly improved. I can't tell what exactly was added to the meat, but we enjoyed it a lot. A slight downside is that we left the tacos sitting too long, since we were busy eating through the burrito. The tacos were a bit of a mess to eat because the soft tacos tore apart after one bite.
In This Corner: Orale
The Juice Team (Anna, Chiara and Wanggo)
made their way to Orale one sunny day for lunch. It was my first time to dine there in the daytime. Orale is bright orange from the outside
and their windows
are hand-painted Mexican art. They say the color orange makes people hungry, but in this case we didn't need any help in the appetite department. Inside, it's very straightforward -- concrete flooring and walls
with heavy wooden tables and chairs
. There are murals of famous Mexicans above the kitchen area
, which is pretty much open for diners to see how their food is prepared. Menus are neatly framed blackboards. You order directly from the counter and the servers know the menu pretty well. I've been there quite a few times and the servers never tire of answering my endless questions about the menu. We were all pretty excited to eat, and because it was nice and sunny outside, we opted to dine al fresco
. Orale is perfect for a casual date or first date because it's not intimidating, yet at the same time it's ideal for a small group for dinner.
Here's what we have on our table:
Quesadilla Pollo Asado, P255
Orale's quesadilla is like a Mexican version of a grilled cheese sandwich
; a tortilla is used instead of two slices of bread
. I remember from a previous meal that the plain quesadilla was a tad bit too bland for my taste, despite the garlicky cream and salsa. This chicken asado version, on the other hand, with pieces of grilled chicken marinated in citrus flavors, worked really well. We were given the Ranchero salsa for this dish, a grilled
tomato sauce that brings out the natural sweetness of the tomato. The dish is topped with some chopped tomatoes, so it's a really light and fresh dish. We all enjoyed it while Wanggo hailed it as his favorite dish because the portion was good for sharing among four people. The cheese
is perfectly melted so there's that delicious bite every time.
Burrito Lengua Grande, P355
Since we were sharing among four people, a burrito made sense and we chose to get their most popular filling: the lengua. I normally order this in taco form, but it came as a great surprise to all of us that the lengua was really an explosion of deliciousness in our mouths. Be warned, though, that quantity
is not king here, but it's a pretty rich dish to have, so sharing an order is perfect. Anna, Chiara, and I enjoyed this the most while Wanggo thought it may have been a little bit on the oily
side. What makes this so decadent was the combination of the melted Monterey Jack Cheese, the thick sour cream, and the re-fried
beans. It's possible that the lengua was not at all oily but more of a sensory overload, which is probably why the server gave us the Inferno salsa to cut the richness. Think of it as a spicy palate cleanser.
Tres Tacos Pescado, P315
Finally, a fish taco that isn't fried. This stays true to the Mexican way of preparing fish tacos by using Mahi Mahi
, marinated in citrus and Mexican chili rub to give it that smoky, charred flavor when it hits the grill. The taco wraps are made up of corn, which gives it a grainy texture. This dish really needs immediate attention once served since the wrap quickly absorbs
any liquid present in the filling (which makes it fall apart) The spiced Mahi Mahi, sliced japanenos, crumbled queso fresco, and the light mango-tomato salsa makes this a great dish to have on a hot summer day. It's also a great option for those who want lighter fare. It requires special mention (and a reminder to myself) to order the tacos "street style" next time, wherein the tacos are dressed up with melted Monterey Jack cheese
and the salsa is scattered on top of the folded tacos. If we hadn't ordered the quesadilla, this would've made my day.
Special Note: Because the staff witnessed our eating enthusiasm, they gave us a sample of their new Habanero salsa. It's the hottest one they've got at the moment. The heat slowly creeps up in your mouth moments after you've eaten the chips and salsa. We enjoyed the complimentary chips and salsa. The chips are the fried version of their corn tortillas; it's a little on the hard side, which keeps it from getting soggy.
Traditional Margarita (On The Rocks), P175
This is a refreshing tequila based cocktail that goes perfectly well with the Tacos Pescados. We coined this drink our "best friend" since it's smooth, almost like lime juice
minus the strong taste of tequila. Be warned that this is a potent brew in disguise. If margaritas
are not your thing, they now serve around 12 different Mexican beers such as Sol, Dos Equis, and Corona to name a few.
Jarritos Lime, P65
It's rare that I order soda with my meal, but during our visit I saw Orale had brought in more soda flavors
(tamarind, fruit punch, grapefruit, cola, etc.) that piqued my curiosity. I've been craving for that lime agua fresca, so I chose to have it with my meal this time. For a cheapskate afternoon date, I'd get this and the grilled Corn on the Cob (P85). This brings me back to Cafe Habana in NYC