Ghetto Grub: Tapsilog CentraleFebruary 1, 2019
- Adee de LeonWords
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.
Everyone has his or her own choice of favorite comfort food. Lately, mine has been ramen, but, like a complicated, high-maintenance friend with expensive tastes, it’s only fun at first. Soon enough, you’re broke and missing your simple, unpretentious childhood buddies. This is exactly the reason why I love tapsilog.
Tapsilog is almost impossible to screw up.
Tapsilog never changes. It’s delicious almost anywhere you get to eat it. Like a true friend, it’s dependable, easy to reach, and more than willing to help in the fight against hunger and hangovers. It’s so hard to screw up this dish that I honestly can’t remember a single time I’ve had bad tapsilog.
That same reliable consistency is a double-edged sword as it also makes it hard for tapsihan places to really stand out from the crowd. After all, what else can you change about the formula? It’s perfect as it is, or so I thought until I stumbled over this popular 24/7 establishment located in the unassuming neighborhood of Kamuning.
Welcome to Tapsilog Centrale. You’ve probably heard of it on TV, and they even have their own Facebook page. I’m actually not sure if it qualifies as Ghetto Grub. On one hand, it has no air-conditioning and has slightly sketchy surroundings, but celebrities also eat there and they issue receipts. I prefer to think of it as a sosyal carinderia that uses restaurant-grade beef.
Usually, this place is always full. However, for some reason, it wasn’t during my visit. That’s great for me, because taking pictures of the place and the food makes some people uncomfortable. Fortunately, no one mistook me for a perv trying to get an upskirt shot.
Tapsilog Centrale is proud of their US Angus Beef Tapa.
Several things separate Tapsilog Centrale them from your typical neighborhood eatery. For starters, they have decent signage. Numerous tarps (that don’t have cringe-worthy layouts) proudly proclaim their US Angus Beef Tapa, emphasizing their claim of serving affordable luxury. They also have a drink selection you won’t see in just any old tapsihan.
Their tables and chairs are similar to what you could find in a mall restaurant. The place is a bit dark, but the floor was clean as far as I could tell. Utensils are stored in foodcourt style heaters to disinfect them and are kept hot enough to straighten Justin Timberlake’s hair. That’s good news for any germophobe.
Unlike most carinderias, they use a pay as you order system. Just come to the counter and tell them what you want. They have a lot of menu items, but I’ve never bothered ordering anything that isn’t tapsilog. Once you’ve paid, they’ll start cooking it in front of you.
Prices are a bit steep, but that’s true with all eateries that have achieved a cult following. I do think you get what you pay for. The Classic Angus Beef Tapsilog costs Php 138, more than double the price of the regular beef option at Php 55. Is the difference worth it? In my opinion, yes.
Their tapa isn’t on the sweet side.
One bite will tell you that this isn’t low-grade meat. It’s really tender, with lovely fat trimmings. It looks a lot like the meat you get at Yoshinoya. Most tapa meat are on the sweet side, but I’m happy this one isn’t. The marinade is well balanced so it doesn’t overpower the beef’s natural flavor. I don’t add vinegar to my tapa, but most people do so out of either habit or preference. I recommend you try it neat before deciding if it needs more tang.
I was also pleased that the egg was cooked to my liking. The garlic rice serving could be bigger, though. But it’s cooked well enough. It’s certainly preferable to the huge mound of oily, mediocre rice topped with garlic that most cheap places offer.
If you like your tapa spicy, the hot version is excellent. It’s slightly sweeter than the regular variant, and costs more too (Php 168). I have a fairly high tolerance for spicy food, but their version still made me reach for my drink a couple of times.
I think they serve the best tapsilog at this price point.
Tapsilog Centrale deserves their name and reputation. While there might be places that serve comparable or (subjectively) better tapsilog out there, you won’t find them at this price. I for one think tapsilog tastes best when it isn’t overly glamorized or ridiculously expensive.
Ghetto Factor: 6.5/10
Kamuning is a busy road, so it’s unlikely you’ll get mugged during the daytime. However, evenings in this place aren’t exactly a stroll in Katipunan. There were some street dogs fighting nearby when I was there, and a crazy-looking guy on the next street had me locking the car door.
Health Hazard: 0.5/10
As I previously mentioned, the utensils were hotter than expected. The food is cooked in front of you, and the meat is sealed in individual wrappings prior to that. If you get sick here, even Michael Cera could kick your immune system’s (figurative) ass.
If Megan Young can eat here, why can’t you?