Wednesday, November 3, 2010
The day after our Halloween party at the bar was like a scene out of a 1980’s Bill Murray movie. Matt and I are lying completely static in bed, half-empty glasses of water on both night tables, the floor strewn with our outfits from the night before- my dark angel costume and his all-black attire- which still reek of cigarettes and spilt beer. We got home at 6 AM after a drunken food spree at the 24-hour Yellow Cab Pizza joint (Which is pure evil, I tell you) in Ayala Ave., the latest we have come home in a very long time. From what I have described, I believe you can make a fair assessment as to our physical condition when we awoke after a few hours. Yes. Not good at all.
With our heads throbbing and our bodies completely drained of energy, we have one forgettable meal in the afternoon, and then proceed to drift in and out of consciousness the rest of the day. When I finally came to, it was dark once again. Still weak, but with my stomach rumbling in protest, I force myself into the shower to finally awaken my senses. I knew I needed a meal that will revitalize my weakened body, something piping hot, hearty and succulent- a dish that will not only fortify my buckling knees but also bring me back from my half-comatose state.
It was time for some Bulalo.
Freshly-showered and finally showing some signs of life, Matt and I drive to nearby R & J Bulalohan, Tapsihan,atbp. where the fork-tender beef shank in its flavorful broth is the star. We were lucky to find parking out front and spotted a four-seater near the kitchen door which we immediately grabbed. The quaint neighborhood eatery was filled with families and barkadas enjoying the long weekend.
After ordering, we amuse ourselves by reading the posters of autographs left by R & J’s famous guests. The little girl with the group in the next table was being coaxed to dance by her adoring parents, and it reminded me of those days when it was still acceptable for me to dance at the dinner table. Now, I am usually given coffee even when I didn’t ask for it. Go figure.
We ordered three dishes to share, which is more than enough but we figured we can always take the leftovers home. Our bowl of piping-hot Bulalo Special came first, accompanied by an order of plain rice. We ladle some of the flavorful broth into our bowls and savor the calming sensation it brought to our empty stomachs. The meat was a delightful combination of marshmallow-soft beef and gelatinous tendon which is enhanced by my chosen condiment of soy sauce, calamansi and red chili. Our shank had no marrow in it and we were quick to point it out to one of their friendly and attentive servers, and she immediately gave us a piece of bone filled with butter-yellow marrow. Another feature of this dish worth mentioning is the cabbage- barely cooked through, it is placed on top of the soup just before serving so it is lightly blanched.
The two other dishes were served together, which was perfect, since I did not want to lose my momentum. The Sisig Laman-loob ng Baka (or chopped beef innards cooked sisig-style) is a new favorite of mine. Flavored with onions, chili and garlic, this tasty mélange of chopped beef meat, liver and intestines is given another flavor dimension with the addition of a little bit of beef blood. Yes, it does sound a bit hard-core, but it really is not. The flavors are actually very familiar, not off-putting at all. After tasting this, I knew we needed another cup of rice.
Matt devoured the Crispy Tawilis (deep-fried freshwater sardine from Taal Lake in Batangas) which, as every bulalo purist knows, is a popular sidekick of bulalo. It reminded him of the Crispy Galunggong (deep-fried mackerel scad) we would always eat in copious amounts at the beach. Paired with its condiment of sliced tomatoes, fish sauce and red chili, the tawilis tasted fresh and was amazingly crisp.
Everyone has their favorite bulalo joint all over the metro- and in the neighboring towns and cities as well- but R & J is my top choice. Aside from being accessible (to me, at least), the bulalo is always perfectly cooked (soft meat and tendon, tasty broth, vegetables still crisp) and, so far, the other dishes that I have tried are just as good. I noticed two ladies sharing something battered and deep-fried with something that resembled Yang Chow fried rice and it looked promising as well. It seems to be an ideal place for a quick meal at any time of the day (24/7!), and you can be sure that the food is served hot, quick and delicious.
So, did I really feel strong and revitalized after having that delicious bulalo? Not really. It would have been a good story though.
R & J Bulalohan, Tapsihan, atbp.
(From Mandaluyong Circle, make a right at Petron. R & J is right beside the gasoline station.)
Tel. no. (02) 5334811