A friend lured me to Tender Bob’s by telling me that their burgers were almost as good as Elbert’s. Before this, I had never dined in Tender Bob’s, nor was I ever planning to, but that definitive statement piqued my interest; anything that’s remotely close to an Elbert’s hamburger must surely deliver. At that time, it was four in the afternoon, and I hadn’t had lunch yet. I thought, my hunger could probably make anything taste like a Michelin Star. Maybe it did.
Alas, no burger—but I ordered Tender Bob’s Flat Iron Steak Salpicao instead, which came with a cup of garlic rice (or plain rice), and a mound of buttered vegetables. The plating had an uncanny resemblance to clubhouse diner food—flat and boringly straightforward. The Salpicao was served in a medium-sized shallow white bowl on top of a larger plate where the sides are placed. In a fancier, more hipster setting, I could imagine this served in a cazuela clay pan topped with a sous vide egg, and I would’ve paid double the price.
The meat, cooked to a perfect pinkish medium (which a lot of restaurants can’t seem to get right), was so tender, and full of flavor. From the first bite, the cube of meat burst its hot juices between my teeth. I had to take a second look at the plate again, confused at how the bland vegetable siding totally underplayed this awesome dish. The oil enveloping the meat tasted like pure garlic concentrate swimming harmoniously with some beef au jus, and by the end of the meal I had to mix the leftover rice and oil together, like a cook at a teppanyaki table.
After a little bit of research I discovered that Tender Bob’s was created by the same owners of the famous Meat Plus Cafe in Subic. I haven’t eaten there myself but I’ve heard nothing but really good things about it. No wonder; this might just be the best salpicao I’ve ever tasted.