Have I ever mentioned that I absolutely love spicy food? I’m not talking about Samyang nuclear spicy, where you suffer through the heat. In fact, I’m talking about spicy that is artfully done to increase the experience of consuming a dish; the sort that makes your mouth water and crave for more rice. Because that is precisely what Gata Restaurant has done so perfectly well.
Bicol has been on my list of to-visit places mostly because they make the type of food I really like– spicy, with the creamy flavors of gata. My brother, who has visited Bicol before, often waxes poetic about the food he had there. He brought home some frozen pinangat for us and it was SO FREAKING GOOD. It was thanks to him missing Bicol that we ended up here at Gata Restaurant.
Gata Restaurant Flavors of Bicolandia Atbp. is located across ABS-CBN in Mother Ignacia, and it’s a respectable size of a restaurant. Not big but not super small either, the restaurant has a casual and sunny ambiance. There are FIlipino-themed ornaments lining the walls, and a big ole mural with bright colors beckons from behind the counter. It’s got a pleasant vibe overall.
As the name suggests, Gata Restaurant revolves around what the Bicol region is well-known for: their gata dishes that feature complex and rich flavors. I for one am a HUGE fan of that. But there’s something else that Gata Restaurant is doing aside from introducing awesome Bicolano cuisine to Manila. They are also helping out Bicolano farmers and small businesses improve their livelihood by sourcing ingredients directly from them.
The menu at Gata Restaurant is decidedly Pinoy, with a sprinkling of Western influences that have been given a Gata twist. It has been a while since I’ve eaten in a restaurant I wholeheartedly give my 10 out of 10. The fact that they’re supporting local farmers makes me feel even more strongly about the score I’ve given them.
I know I have already spoiled my rating for this review, but I think that is all the more reason why you should read about the food they serve here at Gata Restaurant and why I am RAVING about it. Because I don’t give perfect scores as easily as that! Oh, and as a note before we start, if you’re not an avid eater of spicy food, you can customize the spiciness level of the dishes here so worry not!
Sinantol (Php 190)
A seasonal dish where the santol flesh is diced, then cooked in coconut milk to create a savory and sour tapenade. This one is served with kamote chips.
I have been an avid eater of sinantol for years now, so I was a fan of this. It’s a bit oilier than I prefer, but all the flavors are there. It’s lightly sweet and savory, with a sour and spicy kick! The santol is melt in the mouth but leaves a bit of an oily feeling that can be remedied by pairing with rice. I don’t really care for the kamote chips, because something this tasty should be paired with rice. (I’m probably going to say that a lot in this review!)
Laing Bites (Php 180)
Laing encased in wonton wrapper, then deep-fried and served with a special sauce.
An interesting take on laing. I love laing so I liked this well enough, but it leaves a bitin feeling I guess. You get this small controlled portion of laing but your taste buds want MORE. The laing itself has this really creamy mouthfeel to it, providing an interesting contrast against the crispy wonton. No soggy fried food here, thankfully. In the end, I wish we had ordered laing the dish as well.
Bicolano Pork Dinuguan with Puto (Php 250)
The Bicolano version of this Pinoy stew has the pork blood washed with coconut, creating a smoother and creamier dinuguan.
My personal feelings for dinuguan are just so-so, but I make an exception for this one. It’s super creamy, with a good hint of tang that balances out the richness of the stew. It’s one of the better dinuguan versions I’ve ever had, and while it’s great with the puto, it’s even better with rice. 😉
Chicken Binakol (Php 320)
A heart-warming chicken soup sweetened with young coconut meat and juice.
I love binakol! I feel like it’s a often overlooked on the menu for sinigang. Binakol is essentially tinola, but the broth is flavored with coconut juice to make it a bit sweet. The coconut flesh is added into the soup as well, giving it such an interesting twist. This version by Gata Restaurant has good savory notes that balances the sweet.
Bicol Express (Php 250)
Gata Restaurant boasts an authentic version of this famous Bicolano dish.
This was by far the oiliest Bicol Express I’ve eaten, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. The meat is cooked well, and the flavors are good too. I would’ve preferred it a little spicier but the family was afraid they couldn’t handle the heat haha!
Kinunot na Pagi (Php 295) 🌟
Flaked stingray dish mixed with malunggay and simmered in coconut milk.
OH MY GOODNESS. This was amazing! Hands-down, this was my favorite dish on the table. I kept it close to me the entire meal and was able to have the last bite hahaha! Seriously though, as a person who loves spicy food with gata, I can easily tell you this was one of the best dishes of this kind I’ve ever had! It has this way of tickling the palate with all the wonderful flavors. MUST ORDER!
Kare-Kareng Bagnet (Php 330) 🌟
A special kare-kare complete with all the trimmings, made and served with Gata Restaurant’s own bagoong recipe.
My second favorite dish of the meal is this kare-kare that actually has the bagoong incorporated into its sauce. What a difference in flavor that makes! The peanut butter sauce is a lot punchier– not exactly salty, just more flavorful. It’s also super duper creamy thanks to the gata added in. The bagnet itself was a work of art. The meat part was so tender while the fat part was melt in the mouth. The skin was crisp even after being submerged in the kare-kare sauce.
Perfection in a palayok. Ito yung pag-aagawan ng lahat. My only wish is that the pork wasn’t so fatty, but some people would probably like that fatty part more in a dish like this.
Tinapa Rice (Php 180)
Fried rice made with Bicolano tinapa.
This rice is already flavorful on its own, with a decidedly smoky-savory taste and a bit of saltiness. Despite its strong profile, it still goes so well with any of the dishes mentioned here!
Dalandan-Cranberry Shake (Php 80)
This one was refreshing at first sip, but it feels a bit like a kiddie drink because of its sweetness. It actually tastes like a gummy bear, with a decidedly fruity punch.
Tinutong na Bigas (Php 90)
An original dessert by Gata Restaurant which is basically a Bicolano version of coffee jelly, with coconut ice cream and tinutong na bigas (toasted rice crisps).
The coffee jelly here is made with unsweetened coffee so they have a bitter note to them. Not sure if that’s something many people will find enjoyable, but I personally didn’t mind. (Just note I like my coffee black with nothing added in.) You eat it with the sweetened cream and the makunat na rice crispies, creating a good harmony with just a bit of bitter popping out.
Native Leche Flan (Php 70)
Classic leche flan that’s more on the moist spongey side rather than the silky. It has some citrusy undertones, making it a little more interesting.
I really have nothing more to say except that if there’s one restaurant you decide to try among all the restaurants I’ve reviewed so far this year, let this be it! Gata Restaurant adds new meaning to the mantra “Everything is better with gata“. The dishes here aren’t just better with the coconut and the spice, they are MIND-BLOWINGLY GOOD! No hype, just truth! I fervently hope this restaurant sticks to what it’s good at: serving up authentic BICOLANO food.
My rating: 10 out of 10!
Gata Restaurant Flavors of Bicolandia Atbp.
Full disclosure: This post is NOT sponsored in any way and I received no compensation for writing this review. All opinions stated above are my own.