Ghetto Grub: Isaw HausFebruary 3, 2019
- Lars RoxasWords
From food carts, to hole-in-the wall joints, we try out meals that literally test your intestinal fortitude. There may be flies on the counter, and the dishes aren’t always clean, but that big, hot bowl of what’s presumably food just looks so good. Yes, these are the places your mom warned you about. But it’s okay, we won’t tell if you won’t. Welcome to Ghetto Grub.
Seen from the road, Isaw Haus appears to be nothing more than a common food stall in the vein of a Baliwag or an Andok’s. The only thing that might clue in the unaware, that not everything is as it seems, is the presence of a security guard that’s just a little bit too well armed for your run of the mill roadside vendor. Manong Guard looks ready for the apocalypse, with his shiny, obviously well-maintained, 12-gauge shotgun cradled in his arms and belts of ammunition wrapped around his body. When the man waved me on to turn right, I thought it best to follow his directions. I figure it’d be unwise to disobey a dude with a gun half my size.
Inside, the Isaw Haus compound oddly reminds me of the more affordable kind of beach resort, the ones where you can sleep on the sand and there’s no free soap for the shower. The gravel road combined with the six to eight mini-kubo houses scattered all over the premises made me feel overdressed. I wish I’d worn flip-flops and board shorts instead of jeans and grown-up shoes. The whole back wall of the compound doubles as a car wash, providing the necessary water-component in my seaside fantasy. Speakers masquerading as fake plastic rocks are littered all over, blaring Christmas songs and old Christina Aguilera hits.
The place is huge, and obviously doing very well. In addition to the little Nipa huts (most popular, I suspect, with those who go here determined to drink themselves into a stupor), they have two separate dining areas. They also have two different stations for food orders, one for take-outs and another for guests staying to eat.
Isaw Haus has an abundance of comfort rooms. I don’t really know why. I counted three pairs of ladies’ and men’s rooms, but there may be more. This isn’t a knock against the place, though, you can never have too many toilets I always say, but I did find it unusual.
It’s quite easy to find Isaw Haus. If you’re coming from the Cubao/Katipunan/Tandang Sora area, just get on Marcos Highway, turn right when you reach Imelda Avenue, then left at the junction onto Ortigas Extension. You’ll soon see Isaw Haus on your right side. It’s even easier if you’re coming from Mandaluyong or San Juan. Just catch the G-Liner and you can go down directly in front of the place.
Of course, when one goes to a place called Isaw Haus, you have to order the isaw. They have a very extensive menu, but I chose to limit myself to the grilled offal. Pictured above are their Isaw Baboy (Php 17), Isaw Manok (Php 15), and Bituka ng Baboy (Php 17) as well as a few sticks of Tenga ng Baboy (Php 20) and Chickenfeet (Php 17), which aren’t really innards, but fit the theme regardless. All were quite yummy. They were tender, easy to chew, and had that smoky richness that managed to almost always stay on the right side of the umay line. They were dipped in identical marinades but the different flavors of each body part still came through. The vinegar-soy sauce they provide is also pretty good, full-flavored and thankfully, not watered down to irrelevance like the shadier establishment do.
Admittedly, all of the isaw were a lot more expensive than the ones sold at other popular places (like Mang Larry’s at UP Diliman) or the ones sold near the jeepney stop of wherever you go to school or work. They’re at best, twice the price. The good thing is you can clearly see where the extra cost goes. Each stick has generous amounts of meat on it. The Isaw Manok, in particular, deserves credit for being large enough to keep up with its bigger, fattier brethren. At other places, an entire stick of Isaw Manok is barely one mouthful. Here, I was actually forced to take my time and chew before swallowing.
I did make one mistake. The menu seduced me into ordering something that wasn’t isaw or inihaw, Lechon Rice (PHP 85). The serving was too small, which was a mixed blessing. While I’m of the opinion that more ulam is always a good thing, their Lechon Kawali was pretty bad. The skin was tough, leathery, and hard, almost painful to chew and eat. The meat itself was fine, though, but I missed my crackling pigskin. Still, I can’t really blame the place too much. They’re called Isaw Haus, so lechon kawali obviously wouldn’t be their specialty. It’s my fault, it’s as if I’d gone to a steakhouse and ordered a tofu burger.
Is Isaw Haus worth a visit?
I visited Isaw Haus during the day and ate lunch there. But I suspect, that at night, with booze in hand and your barkada around you, is when the place would really shine. The wide spaces, the pretty extensive selection of cheap alcohol, and the kubo are all pretty sweet features for a casual watering hole. Isaw Haus knows it too, the have a lot of huge tables to accommodate large groups on a mission to drink so much, so fast, they forget every little crappy thing that’s happened in the past work week.
Now that I think about it, this might also explain why Manong Guard was dressed like a Space Marine ready to fend off an alien invasion all by himself. When people get drunk and rowdy, and you’re just one guy, looking as intimidating as possible probably helps keep extreme rowdiness and random potted-plant urination by the guests to a minimum.
Ghetto factor 4/10
During the day, it’s okay, especially since the guard’s arsenal almost guarantees that everything will remain kosher. The only think I’d be worried about is trying to catch a bus or jeep from the place once it’s really late.
It has a car wash.
Health Hazard 3/10
I usually score a place in this category by observing their cooking methods. However, at Isaw Haus, the kitchen is entirely closed off and hidden away in a completely separate structure. There was no way for me to see the inside. Still, it can’t be that bad. If you order anything off the grill/ihaw menu, then I think you’re fine. I’m pretty sure there are very few nasty things that can survive an open fire.