From a piece I wrote for Appetite Magazine, whose editors include Mark Joseph Holandes Ubalde. A few sentences were altered from original draft I submitted. Food reviewed for this piece was complimentary. [See: Tres Restaurant’s Facebook page, Seph Holandes, Appetite Magazine,]
In this world, many things come in threes.
It is the number of musketeers and stooges, French hens and little pigs, blind mice and bears encountered by Goldilocks.
Three is also the number of the Philippine’ largest islands and three brothers — Juan, Diego, and Pedro — all attempt to save their dying father in the Filipino folktale, Ibong Adarna. [See: Ibong Adarna]
The same number is also incorporated in the menu of a newly-opened mid-scale restaurant in SM City North Edsa.
The restaurant’s name — not surprisingly — is Tres, the Spanish word for three which Filipinos also use colloquially as an alternative to “tatlo,” the Tagalog term for the number.
This helps explain why prices of the restaurant’s items — from beer (P53) to Binagoongang Lechon Kawali (P193) — all end in the first odd prime number (that is, if you happen to be a geek, a math major, or someone like myself who just looked up in Wikipedia).
The move to integrate three in its menu is “consistent with Tres’ theme,” its proprietor Juliel L. Evangelista says.
As a result, of the 30 or more items in its menu, three are considered specialties — Crispy Pata Kare-Kare (P313), Binagoongang Lechon Kawali, and Crispy Ginataang Hito (P273).
But the preoccupation with the number doesn’t end there.
Customers can order three kinds of Kare-kare — Beef (P263), Seafood (P293), and Crispy Pata (P313) — and three variants of Sinigang — Salmon sa Miso (P293), Lechon (P493), and Pork Spareribs (P243).
A side dish called Tres Pizetta (P343) offers three small pizza slices with different toppings — beef salpicao, sauteed gambas, and chorizo with mozzarella and tomato sauce.
To top it all off, it launched a three-peso promo as part of its strategy to attract customers.
From October 15 to December 31, 2010, diners with a minimum bill of P1,000 for a single food purchase are entitled to purchase its Crispy Kare-Kare for — you guessed it — three pesos.
This is not a bad deal anyway you look at it.
After all, Tres’ Crispy Kare-Kare alone gives its more established rivals a run for their money.
Take its Kare-Kare sauce.
Prepared using roasted peanuts, annatto seeds, and toasted rice, the sauce in itself is already a refreshing take on a Filipino favorite.
Served in a separate container, the sauce is later poured over crunchy slabs of pork, slices of banana blossoms, string beans, and Chinese cabbage, all in a shallow bowl slightly bigger than a netbook computer.
The short ritual — lasting no more than seven seconds — serves to whet all kinds of appetites, big and small.
Dry pork strips combined with the thick and rich sauce consumes the palate without cloying it, especially since it is best enjoyed with its specially-prepared bagoong and Kalkag Rice (P133).
By itself, its Kalkag Rice — fried rice sprinkled with a generous serving of sun-dried salted shrimps — is enough reason to visit Tres.
Kalkag Rice also goes well with another entree, its Binagoongang Lechong Kawali.
Although arguably spicier than traditional bagoong-based dishes, its sauce contains coco milk, providing a gustatory tit-for-tat to the chili.
Besides its main entrees, Tres also has a treat for those who may choose to drop by for a snack.
Its Arroz Caldo with Bangus Tinapa Spring Roll (P123) is a variation on a dish whose possibilities have been ignored by casual dining establishments.
Served hot in a deep, rectangular bowl, Tres’ Arroz Caldo has just enough flavor to enhance its side dish, a set of inch-long Bangus tinapa rolls fried in lumpia wrapper.
The fish roll is enjoyed by dropping it directly into the rice concoction, scooping it out, and then biting into it.
The taste of smoked fish then takes over the palate complemented by the warm and thick Arroz Caldo.
Tres also offers its own version on Pancit Canton.
The dish has a wide array of ingredients, beating even those served by traditional Chinese restaurants.
Noodles are topped with fresh vegetables, kikiam, shrimp, pork strips, and one whole chicken drumstick.
And to provide happy endings to its hearty meals, Tres has also conceptualized its own desserts, all of which are — pardon the exaggeration — winners.
Among the tastiest is the Layers of Banana and Cinnamon Toast (P93).
Tender banana slices are heaped on pieces of melba toast placed right beside two small scoops of vanilla ice cream.
The warm and crunchy pieces of melba toast help diffuse the sweetness of the bananas and the chill of the ice cream.
Overall, the desserts and the entrees exemplify what Evangelista calls a “reengineering” of the traditional Filipino dishes.
Tres has thoroughly reexamined long-neglected Filipino ingredients and delicacies and have come up with its unique renditions of these dishes.
Results are not only promising, they are delicious.
The question then must now be asked: Why was the restaurant named Tres?
“Our restaurant’s menu was developed by three chefs. And our servings are good for three people,” Evangelista says, as a matter of factly.
Guess you can’t argue with that.