Nestled along Scout Tobias in Quezon City is a small unassuming hole-in-the-wall style restaurant called Mantaro Original Peruvian Cuisine. If you don’t know where to look, the place is almost difficult to find, especially in the dark. (In fact we drove right past it and had to double back.) Now although the menu at Mantaro is as small as the restaurant itself, don’t let that fool you– All the food being served up is full of heart and big on flavour.
At the restaurant the veranda can seat ten, and inside is another ten seats but the space is shared with the open kitchen. When we arrived at half past seven we were the only ones there, but after a few minutes the place got packed real quick. I highly advise calling in a reservation if you plan to dine here during those hours. (Also they’re closed on Mondays.)
The mouth-watering scent of rotisserie chicken greets you like a gentle wave the moment you enter. The walls are lined with simple picture frames containing quotes, and being inside almost feels like sitting at your dining table awaiting your home-cooked meal. The owner Chef Luis Higa himself is hands on in the kitchen preparing orders. And yes, in case you’re wondering he is originally from Peru.
I don’t know about you but I’m not the type of restaurant-goer who judges by the number of items on the menu. Heck a food joint could sell only one brilliantly delicious thing and I’d still go and buy it! It all boils down to the food after all. I had the feeling that Mantaro is the same way in the sense that you won’t be disappointed whichever dish you pick off their one-page menu, and boy was I right.
Everything we ate was deeeelicious.
First up we have the Ceviche de Pescado (Php 320), which was literally a burst of bright flavour in the mouth. Ceviche is essentially fresh seafood cured in an acidic solution, and in the Latin Americas they use citrus as opposed to the vinegar usually used in kilawin in the Philippines.
This was my favourite of the night, and in fact it’s the best version of cured fish I have ever eaten. Drenched in a lemon sauce mixture that’s as punchy in colour as it is in taste, this dish is served with some sweet potatoes on the side to help balance out the acidity. It’s topped with canchas (semi-popped corn), onion, and cilantro, for added flavour. A bit of Peruvian chilli gives it a nice kick.
To be honest I’m still thinking about this dish, and I literally want to go back to eat this right now as I’m writing this.
The Lomo Saltado (Php 380) is a colourful dish with strips of tenderloin and fries. It’s got strong bold flavours and a hint of spiciness, but the sauce is a little salty so it’s nice that the fries are there to help counteract that. (I feel like next time I can add fries when I cook Filipino Bistek. It works incredibly well.)
The addition of tomatoes and onions also help make the flavours come together perfectly, but of course I still recommend that you eat this with rice.
Another great dish with rice is the Lengua Guisada (Php 420). It’s a fairly typical lengua dish, with a light spiciness to it, but I love the addition of mashed potatoes. It makes the sauce feel richer, thicker, and more flavourful.
The addition of whole button mushrooms gave an additional juicy pop and crunch to the dish, as if the lengua themselves weren’t cooked so juicily and tenderly already. My brother could not stop talking about this dish and I could feel his desire to lick off every drop of sauce on the plate haha!
As I mentioned, Mantaro roasts their own chicken in the restaurant. It was impossible to resist that smell while in the vicinity, so ordering this was an easy decision. The “blackened” rotisserie chicken is a signature Peruvian dish, by the way. Since there were six of us we ordered a whole Pollo a la Brasa con Arroz (Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken with Rice, Php 740) but you have the option to order Papa Fritas (fries) instead of rice if you want.
Ordering the whole chicken guarantees you four servings of rice and a bowl of coleslaw. The chicken also comes with three types of dips, from left to right– aji sauce (a thinned out mayonnaise-based sauce blended with lettuce and cilantro), chimichurri (green leafy olive oil-lemon dip), and some garlic-mayo, I believe. I loved eating the chicken with the combination of chimichurri plus aji.
The chicken was so tender and juicy, but I am more of a fan of the meat rather than the skin to be honest. The skin of Mantaro’s chicken is very smoky and flavourful verging on salty, but the way these flavours transfer to the meat is what I really like.
Well there’s not much left for me to say except I loved everything we ate. Everything was cooked to perfection, and bursting with all the right flavours to tickle the tastebuds. The service was quite snappy, and the best part was that it wasn’t too expensive. There were six of us and we paid under 2000 bucks for a filling meal with dishes that certainly did not scrimp on ingredients. The only sad part about our meal was that they ran out of dessert, and we couldn’t try the Lemon Pie. Well I guess that means we have to come back on lunch hour next time?
Mantaro feels like a really great spot to hang out. On a cool day, you can sit out on the veranda with your buddies and chat over some awesome Peruvian food. As they say in Spanish: La risa es más animada donde la comida es mejor. Laughter is brightest where food is best.
Mantaro Original Peruvian Cuisine
57B Scout Tobias Corner Scout Limbaga, Tomas Morato, Quezon City
Mobile No.: +63905 229 9605
Full disclosure: This post was not sponsored in any way. All opinions stated above are my own.