"If I was to describe our food, it's down home, no fuss," Chef Benjo Tuason tells me after he served us our Filipino luncheon feast at Salo, located at The Fort Strip in BGC. "We use as much of the freshest ingredients that we can, with the meats that are good quality."
Salo is BGC's new Filipino restaurant for the hungry and thirsty cheapskate. In this commercialized area of Taguig, there are very few restaurant options that can stretch the mileage of P100 or P200–most of the choices are fast food joints. Chef Benjo, who is also the executive chef of Relik and URBN (both also located in BGC) shares that with Salo, they want to showcase different options for the BGC crowd, a break from all the fast food in the area, given the budget. "And siyempre, iba pag bagong luto," he adds. When asked of his influences in cooking local cuisine, the chef says that it is really home cooking. "Bahay talaga. What my family eats, what my partners eat, what our cooks eat. It's for everybody."
"When we started, I went around my corporate office, asking everyone, what do you eat at home, or what would you eat if you were drunk?" Chef Benjo shares to me. "Then I went to all my staff, just asking everybody; even my friends. Doing the actual dishes, it was an exercise. So for all my cooks I said, let's all do our own version of a dish. So pag gumawa ng binagoongan, lahat gagawa. Then we'd try everything. 'O, masarap yung version mo pag hinaluan natin ng version na 'to.' Collaborative siya, kung ano-ano yung mga kinakain namin sa bahay, niluluto namin siya.'
The partners at Salo kept it down home, straightforward, and no frills for their restaurant. "We decided to just do what we like, what we enjoy eating," says Chef Benjo. "Like every day, we cook a slab of pork belly and we display it–one for lunch and one for dinner. The lechon belly happened because we wanted to eat lechon belly. Most of the things happened here because we want to eat it." So far since its soft opening last May, Salo's best sellers include Tapsilog, Tuyosilog, Pares, and Binagoongan. When asked what his favorites are at Salo, the chef says his personal meal is the Beef Pares and Pinakbet. "Tapos kung medyo gutom pa ako, yung Longaburger, optional yun," he says with a laugh.
Here's a list of what your P200 can get you at Salo: from appetizers and rice bowls to hangover food–even cocktails!
Cheap Munchies: Salo's Pulutan for your P200 Budget
Crispy Chicken Skin (P135): Thin, crisp, and big pieces of chicken skin that gives off a loud crunch in every bite. Best dipped in sili-loaded vinegar!
Assorted Bolahan (P175): Think deep fried streetcart delights dumped into a bowl. Munch on some fish balls,squid balls, and kikiam with this appetizer.
Sisig (P185): The staple pulutan pork dish is of course part of Salo's pulutan line-up. Squeeze the calamansi, mix, and enjoy while sizzling hot.
Sinuglaw (P180): A hybrid that hails from Davao, this is a spicy and sour lip-smacking marriage of inihaw na baboy and kinilaw–a different take on the American term 'surf and turf.'
Pulutan Platter (P200): For your hungry barkada, just have a little bit of everything in one platter. That's Krispi Kangkong, Assorted Bolahan, Kamote Chips, and Crispy Chicken Skin served with three dipping sauces.
Salo's 'Hangover' Items Under P200 to Sober You Up
Salo is open until late night/early in the morning to target the after-gimik crowd, since there are so many bars and clubs in BGC. "So before they go home, hopefully we help them sober up," Chef Benjo says.
Longaburger Extra (P160): You get two sweet longganisa burger patties and a sunny side up egg sandwiched in Salo's own homemade burger buns. This burger slider of awesomeness is a throwback to your very first (or most recent) riot of a Boracay trip. Perhaps a bite of this will bring back memories of beach parties past. [Also available – Longaburger for P90, with one patty and no egg].
Goto (P95): A bowl of hot goto can lift one's mood when too tired or sick, warm up a gloomy day, and sober you up after a long night of partying. Whatever reason you may crave for this local congee, Salo's version is a no-fuss classic that hits the spot.
Cheap and Quick Silog Fix: Rice Bowls Under P200
'We have the rice bowls because we want something that's fast, something that's substantial and relatively cheap,' says the chef, 'Also, a trend that we noticed that we never really anticipated is that the different servers of the different restaurants in the area choose to eat here. During their break, they come. Sometimes the breaks are quick, like half an hour.' The bowls are served quick, and depending on your hunger, can be eaten fast and just in time before your work break (or your self-imposed early morning post-party curfew) ends.
Tuyosilog (P145): Salty with a little sour, extremely flavorful fish slices go a long way with heapings of rice. Don't forget to add some spicy vinegar. This rice bowl is so tasty that you'll wolf down your rice within minutes and you'll probably be tempted to order extra rice, just because.
Bicol Express (P130): This mild (to nearly no heat level, in my palate's opinion) version of the gata-based dish will please those who prefer to stay away from sili. It's sweet and creamy. If you want spicy with your coconut milk dishes, Salo's Gising Gising does the trick.
Bistek Tagalog (P150): A personal favorite, this homestyle dish is flavored with enough calamansi for that addicting sourness, and just an absolute treat to mix with the steamy rice in the bowl to get that perfect ulam-rice ratio per spoonful.
Tapsilog (P140): Salo's tapa has been a best seller since opening. This is your down home comfort Pinoy dish of cured beef, rice, and a sunny side up egg. Their meat's marinade is more sweet than anything else, so for those craving for a spicy and vinegary kick, request for their suka with sili.
*The Hungry Man Splurge: Special mention goes to Steak Silog (P215), the hungry budgetarian man's meal. Just by adding P15 to your P200 meal budget, a famished soul can feed himself a huge serving of rice for your carboloading needs.
*Some Veggies for Assistance: Add some spice to your rice meal with their Gising Gising (P120). "We just recently added vegetables, because sometimes you'd want to eat more than just a rice bowl," shares Chef Benjo. "So yung vegetables pang-assist mo sa rice bowl, pang padagdag ng lasa." If you need some spicy assistance, this coconut based vegetable dish has got the right amount of heat to make you load on more rice (and to wake up your tastebuds).
Cocktails: Refreshing, Colorful, and Yes–Still Cheap!
Salo's drink list will make a thirsty cheapskate's day, as all their cocktails and hard drinks are under P200, and local beer is at P60. Cocktail pitchers are only P299 each. "We have very cheap cocktails, something for you to load up," says the chef, "so you can have a quick dinner here and a round of drinks before your night out." So next time you're in BGC, make Salo your go-to affordable place to load up (pre-game, if you will).
Don't Forget Dessert!
Desserts are affordable, simple, and light at Salo–and they taste just like how your neighborhood eatery or favorite tita would prepare it. Both the Buco Pandan (with pinipig flakes to add crunch in every spoonful) and Leche Flan are simple and sweet, just enough portion and sugary goodness to cleanse the palate after it has recovered from the hangover food you've feasted on.
Salo is located at The Fort Strip, beside Pasto and right across Caffe Puccini. Open daily 10am to 4am, they will soon have delivery available. Like Salo on Facebook (/salobgc), and Follow them on Twitter and Instagram (@salobgc).