For those who know of or know Mano Lotho, many would associate him with the local fashion scene. Always one step ahead of the curve in his own personal style, Lotho has been a present force in fashion marketing and media for several years, starting from GREYONE SOCIAL in his teen years, and now working with H&F Retail Concepts, Inc. But for those who knew Lotho before he moved to Manila, they might be inclined agree with him that he has a strong foundation in food.
“I was like 220 lbs. as a kid, so I think I had a background in food first,” he laughs. This was back when he was still living in Los Angeles, where he grew up, ” . . . and five out of ten meals would be Mexican, or Asian, or Vietnamese—not necessarily because of preference [but rather] abundance.” Upon moving to Manila, he found a there a void in the Mexican food he had grown to love back in California. It was this void that he wanted to fill with Lágrima.
What [you] shouldn’t expect is authentic. The word is played out. [It’s hard to call anything authentic because] there are so many frames to it.”
But going from voracious food-eater to making and serving food in a restaurant was more than Lotho had expected, and Lágrima had experienced a radical shift from when it first opened last year.
“Initially I thought it’d be fun,” Lotho chuckles. “It sounded like a such a great idea. Like, ‘We’ll build a sushi-style bar but serve tacos instead!’ . . . I think [many people have said], ‘Let’s start a restaurant!’ [It was not] what I expected.” From wanting to manage Lágrima with some distance, creative differences with their consulting chef jolted Lotho off the course-trajectory he had pictured for himself, and thrust him into a position of juggling the hats of manager, recipe developer, staff mentor, “and even part-time electrician,” he adds.
I have this analogy: with fashion, anyone can get into it—you read blogs, have an opinion, take photos, and suddenly you’re in it. I think there’s a higher threshold in food. That’s something I didn’t expect. From ‘food enthusiast’ to being the restauranteur is a huge leap.”
But these growing pains were necessary for Lotho to push Lágrima to its limits and become its best version of itself so far. Today’s menu is completely different from the menu that they started out with in January, Lotho tells us, and we believe that Lágrima has finally found itself in its current menu. And the dishes that had us revisiting the joint over and over again were surprisingly the vegetarian items on the menu:
Lotho tells us that this is one of the items on the menu he does not mind calling authentic. “It’s just refried beans, mashed guacamole, a little bit of crema, a little salt, lime, calamansi, cilantro, onions, and that’s it.” Spread on a crunchy, fried tortilla that can hold up its toppings as you lift the disk to take a bite, the strength of the tostada is its simplicity: quality ingredients and a well-balanced ratio of flavors, textures, and weight.
SWEET POTATO TACOS
Lágrima offers an array of meats—pork stomach, wagyu beef, grilled chicken, lengua—but it is their vegetarian option that had us believing. The sweet potatoes used are sweeter and cleaner tasting than your average, something that Lotho attributes to their farm-source, as these organic sweet potato make all the difference. The cubed sweet potatoes allow for more caramelized surface area for a contrast between the sweet and crunchy exterior and its hearty interior. We prefer the sweet potato taco in “gringa” form (with cheese), but you can customize the toppings to your preference.
A restaurant serving non-traditional Mexican food inspired by melting-pot flavors found in LA.