Monday, November 28, 2016

DINING | Gringo (Makati): The latest addition to Legazpi Village's growing foodie scene

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A mere six months or so since kicking it off at SM North EDSA's The Block, Gringo, a local restaurant serving Latin American cuisine, has already opened its third branch in Makati City. Located along C. Palanca St. close to the corner of Dela Rosa St., Gringo is the latest addition to the growing list of food joints in Legazpi Village. So far I've been there thrice already as of this writing.

Interiors and ambiance
Characterized by bare concrete, a partly exposed ceiling painted in black, metal screens, glass, galvanized iron, and plastic plants, I'd say Gringo's interiors are a cross between rustic and industrial. There's also some wood, bricks, and ceramic tiles thrown into the mix. It's not exactly homey but the informal setting makes it a place that's welcoming rather than intimidating.

Colorful banderitas, sombreros, maracas, and whatnot--otherwise staples in a lot of Mexican and South American restaurants here--are conspicuously absent. There's definitely nothing wrong with them (in fact I think they're fun) but by foregoing stereotype, Gringo has effectively distinguished itself from the rest of its kind. Maybe it wants to play it hip, I don't know.

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There may be touches of it but nothing overtly screams Latino here.

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The mismatched furniture lend a certain randomness to Gringo's overall vibe.

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Who would think this is a South American restaurant?

The food
Gringo's menu consists of typical South American fare but their specialty lies in chicken and ribs. While I have yet to try their ribs, I've already had both Gringo Original Chicken (Php148 for a quarter w/o sides; Php225 w/ two sides) and Southern Spice Chicken (Php158 for a quarter w/o sides; Php235 w/ two sides). Both are served with a sampling of nachos.

The former is a celebration of herbs and lemon, with a delightfully zingy flavor packed into the baked chicken's tender meat. The Southern Spice, on the other hand, doesn't mean hot and spicy but some unspecified South American spices. Personally I don't taste that much of a difference, except maybe this one's more lemony than the original. Nonetheless, both versions taste good. For added flavor, they also serve their standard pair of sauces, one lemony and the other hot and spicy

The menu offers about 16 different side dishes to choose from (ranging from Php 50 to Php 75). The Mexican rice was okay and so was the roasted squash, both of which went perfectly with the chicken. The mashed camote (sweet potato), on the other hand, proved to be an interesting alternative to mashed potato, but it was the roasted eggplant that packed the most flavor.

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Gringo original chicken, with mashed camote and roasted eggplant as sides.

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Southern spice chicken, with Mexican rice and roasted squash as sides.

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Garlic calamari.

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Mango cream sticky rice.

For starters, or pica-pica to go with your little drinking sesh, Gringo's nacho grande (Php265) is your best bet. It's a huge platter of crunchy nachos, shredded chicken, and some beans, all generously drizzled with melted cheese and lemon. In my opinion it's the lemon that spells all the difference. Love it!

However, one also cannot discount their delectable garlic calamari (Php235). It's got tender squid slices, a great batter, and that lovely touch of garlic that hits that perfect spot of being prominent without being offensively strong. Heck, I even ate all the garlic! Their chicken onion melt quesadillas (Php155) are also good. Though very basic in terms of what's inside the folded tortilla, the chicken bits were flavorful as expected.

And don't forget dessert because on my first time here I was blown away by their mango cream sticky rice (Php165). I don't know about sticky rice figuring in South American cuisine but it's essentially biko (a Filipino delicacy consisting of sticky rice cooked in coconut milk and latik, a syrup from brown sugar) topped with tiny sago, mango slices, cream, and a scoop of ice cream. But Latin American dish or not, the combination just worked for me and I loved it.

However, I must admit I was disappointed with it on my second try because the sticky rice was cold and gummy. I guess they forgot to steam it or something, or maybe they prepared it way too early and let it sit in the fridge until I was ready for dessert. The third time was fine, though.

As they're open until three in the morning, Gringo's Makati branch also doubles as a watering hole, offering a healthy selection of beers and cocktails to interested patrons. I can't comment on the cocktails, though, since I have to avoid alcohol. But I hear good things about their mojito.

The service
In my three times at this resto so far, service was consistently fine, and so was the loud chorus of "Hola!" every time diners arrive. The waitstaff were attentive, pleasant, and fairly efficient. Even when the place was full, our food never took too long to serve.

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Wall accents.

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In hindsight
I think Gringo is a good find. Not only is it worth a try but the place is also worth coming back to. Hip interiors, decent service, and most importantly, good food--what more can you ask for?

Gringo is located at the Ground Floor of OPL Building, C. Palanca corner Dela Rosa Street in Legazpi Village, Makati City. Open daily from 11am to 3am.
☎ +632 805 5383

Their other branch is at SM Megamall. They're also set to open soon in UP Town Center and SM Mall of Asia.

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