Reviews

Tapa Threeway: A Battle Between Rufo’s Famous Tapa, Sinangag Express, and Tapa King

March 2, 2016

Tapa is one of those pervasive dishes—found both in tiny eateries and fancy hotels and everything in between—that everyone can relate to. Regardless of your social standing, there’s something about those salty cured slices of meat that make them a staple for breakfast, or anytime of the day for that matter. It is, however, considered the morning meal jerky, having found itself in an open relationship with fried rice and eggs (although the “silogs” tend to experiment with other meats). So we decided to take a look at three of the large tapa chains around the city and pit their star dishes against each other. We came, we sat, we ordered. Here’s what we found.

Rufo’s Famous Tapa: The Rufo’s Famous Tapa

Tapa2

The Meat:
The tapa comes in traditional thin slices, but with an unorthodox gravy, that has been given its own tagline: Sauce pa lang, ulam na! The claim makes sense and ordering another cup of rice because of it is a big possibility. The meat, however, runs close to being beef steak more than it does tapa. 

The Rice and Egg:
The fried rice label is a little bit of a letdown, when in truth it’s pretty much a mound of steamed rice with garlic bits. The egg is decent—cooked in a ring—with a crisp outer halo, and a runny yolk. When mixed with the tapa’s sauce, it turns the dish immensely creamy.

The Condiments:
The atchara was absent table-side. Vinegar, along with soy sauce, are at your disposal but don’t really work well with the gravy. You can order atchara (P10) but more than that, extra sauce is also available (P7).

Overall:
Ratio of rice to meat is around 60:40. It might seem that there’s more meat but it’s just being carried by the gravy, which is really the star of the show, making it a bit pricey at P119.

Sinangag Express: The Tapsilog

Tapa1

The Meat:
The tapa of SEx is unique. It comes in the form of seemingly re-hydrated tapa flakes, which can be deceiving. While it might look like wet goop, the meat is simply well coated with a thin layer of sauce. It has the same resistance and slightly tough bite you get when eating the traditional tapa but hovers more on the sweet side.

The Rice and Egg:
Whether it’s butter or margarine used isn’t clear, but Sinangag Express serves a mound of subtly sunny-colored rice, with bits of garlic mixed in. Because of its color you’d expect a richer hit to the rice, but it hits the palate like a normal spoonful would. The upside to it is how it chews just right. The egg, on the other hand, is somewhat rubbery, but still retains its runny center. 

The Condiment:
The meal doesn’t come with the mandatory pickled papayas. Both regular and spicy vinegar are available, which are mandatory for the tapa, making it taste more traditional. For the odd and truly adventurous: ketchup.

Overall:
Ratio of rice to meat is around 50:50, which is perfect. An extra order of rice is also a possibility if you’re stingy with the meat, or if you’re incredibly hungry on a high school kid’s lunch budget. Clocking in at P75, it’s the bang for buck tapa you probably already know about.

Tapa King: The Tapa King

Tapa3

The Meat: It’s the traditional tapa we’ve all come to know and love; slivers of cured meat with the right amount of saltiness and chewiness, with edges of fat for that cheap thrills rich aftertaste. It may seem under seasoned, however, in comparison to its garlic-loaded counterparts.

The Rice and Egg:
It comes with your typical fried rice, slightly brown with the garlic bits incorporated in it, rather than separately placed on top. The egg, while slightly runny, is also rubbery, which is a bit disappointing.

The Condiment:
The meal comes with atchara and options of spicy and regular vinegar. While not really a condiment, the meal comes with a cup of soup on the side. The broth works well with the tapa, either draped on the rice, or taken alternatively between bites of the tapsi combo. 

Overall:
Tapa King’s house special has a generous portion of tapa, with a 40:60 rice to meat ratio. It is the most expensive of the three at P142, but it’s worth every peso because of the amount of meat you get, plus the atchara and that little cup of soup thrown in. 

16 comments in this post SHOW

16 responses to “Tapa Threeway: A Battle Between Rufo’s Famous Tapa, Sinangag Express, and Tapa King”

  1. It would’ve been a delightful royal rumble adding the economical Rodic’s Tapa from Diliman & The high society and yet comfort food for all from Recovery Food’s Tapa. All in all, being a three-way clash: I prefer SEx Tapsilog. Thumbs up for Budget friendly and yet tasty Tapa dishes

    • Miguel Ortega says:

      Hi, Rominton. Who would be in your three-way clash? Also, SEx or Rodic’s?

      • ​It would be really difficult to choose from a wide-range of Restaurants that serves the “Best Tapa” in town.
        And yet, having to make different towns clash would be more interesting. Letting that of:

        The North: Rodic’s in Diliman – The budget-friendly, “fast-food” for everyone
        The Center? : Recovery Food in BGC – the perfect hang-over recovery food & though it may seem to be well-known for its taste is offered only to those who can “spend more for good food”
        The South: Maty’s in Parañaque​ – The local, the “we grew up eating tapa here”, the familiar taste.

        I couldn’t really try to put it in better words, so I would really be happy if you guys from Pepper could SPICE things up.
        Thanks and best regards,
        Rom! 🙂

  2. Jhunalyn Modesto says:

    I love Rodic’s and Recovery Food’s Tapa de morning! even, Pancake House’s tapa is good. The above choices though are just ‘meh’ makaraos tapas 🙁

    • Miguel Ortega says:

      Hi, Jhunalyn, thanks for the input! We’re saving the other tapa places for another three-way face off, including places that aren’t angled towards tapa, like Pancake House. How would you rank the three you mentioned though? Who would win?

      • Jhunalyn Modesto says:

        Recovery Food would be on top and Rodic’s would come to a close second because of value for money 🙂

  3. Grace says:

    At the moment, my vote for Best Tapa in Town goes to Purple Yam.

  4. lucia cruz says:

    Tapa Queen!

  5. Adrian De Leon says:

    I like the idea of featuring restaurants who serve good tapsilog on the down-low. There’s actually a lot of them, given how hard it is to screw up this dish. Although on the lower price points, there’s very little distinction amongst them, so it kinda defeats the purpose of doing so?

    I guess what I’m saying is, perhaps it might be interesting to explore restaurants that put a more creative approach to this dish? We have more than enough places that do a competent job at making the classic tapsilog. The challenge then, as with most classic Filipino fare, is to see who found a way to do something different without messing up the essential elements of this much beloved comfort food. For example, is there anyone who can do a tapa tartare? Or a tapa steak and eggs? 🙂

    Or how about a taste test of unconventional proteins for tapa? Like horse, deer, or carabao? I’ve tried the 1st and 3rd, and I have to say, they’re not bad.

    Sorry for the unsolicited advice! I missed leaving comments here e. Haha 😀

    • Victoria says:

      Maple does do the tapa steak and eggs with prime rib, and it is glorious.

    • Pepe.ph says:

      It’s an article about classic tapa. (I wouldn’t have minded more obscure contenders.) “Tapa tartare”, tapa steak and eggs, and tapa made of other proteins would just beside the point.

      • Adrian De Leon says:

        I meant for the next series of tapa articles. Start with the classics, then the obscure ones, followed by weird ones. 🙂

  6. TummyWonderland says:

    I personally like Rufo’s, but have you tried Kanto breakfast at Kapitolyo? Their New Zealand beef tapa is really good and is around 120 PHP. You should try it!

    Diane from TummyWonderland

    • Miguel Ortega says:

      Thanks, Diane. I haven’t actually tried but now that you mentioned it, we’re definitely considering it for our next tapa threeway.

  7. Janica says:

    Try Perico’s Tapsilog located in Mendiola beside KFC in front of RCBC 🙂

  8. Lon says:

    For me Rufos tapa is the best. I don’t know, before I like Tapa King best but now something must have changed in Rufos Tapa. I like Rufos tapa the best now. I even go to their restaurant every week. I crave for their tapa.

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