Make no mistake about it: Agos is a Filipino restaurant. But Chef Myke ‘Tatung’ Sarthou, the man behind the 120-seater SM Mall of Asia restaurant, would like to acknowledge the undeniable Spanish influence of our food.
“Many of Agos’ dishes may be of Spanish origin, but they got lost in translation when Filipinos adopted them and made them their own,” the chef tells Alex Vergara of Manila Bulletin.
“Over decades, Filipinos have made these dishes their own by putting their stamp on them either by using locally available ingredients or chooking them in such a way as to suit our taste,” continues the chef behind Filipino restaurant Alab and Chef Tatung.
And so Agos has dishes like the Fiesta Filipina, Chef Tatung’s version of the classic paella that uses achuete instead of saffron, giving it a distinct red-orange color. The dish features native rice from the Mountain Province and is garnished with both seafood and sausages.
The tocino in Agos is exactly as we know it: sweet, a bit sticky, and gloriously red. But Chef Tatung twists it a little by serving it a la baby back ribs.
The Agos’ pinakbet follows a low-key tradition of some Pampanga kitchens using kamote instead of kalabasa, while the binagoongang pork chop features tomahawk pork glazed with sautéed anchovies and served with eggplant enchilada on the side.
In the very Hispano-Filipino repertoire of Agos, Chef Tatung saves a place for one of Jose Rizal’s favorite dishes: Roast beef. The Cebuano chef slices of meat are slow-roasted for six hours to make them melt-in-your-mouth tender, before serving them with savory mushroom gravy.
But you can’t pay tribute to our Spanish heritage without mentioning Mexico, and Sarthou only knows this too well. In Agos, he twists a few dishes to highlight the fact, so the chicken sisig, wrapped in lettuce leaves and garnished with shredded purple cabbage calls to mind the Mexican taco, except without its shell.
The maruyang mais features bell pepper and corn instead of bananas, and then topped with roasted garlic aioli and kesong puti. And Sarthou’s Three-cheese Bibingka Delight features cassava, a popular import from Mexico.
While the Filipino-Spanish concept of Agos isn’t particularly new, Agos’ take is Spanish food that’s become Filipino, Sarthou says. “I don’t see them anymore as Spanish, but more as Filipino.”
The 120-seater restaurant, with its blue-tiled walls and circular windows and mirrors, gives off the cruise-ship vibe. Not surprising, the restaurant is called Agos, aka the ocean’s current, after all.