The audition began as soon as we were seated on the quaint table of Beeffalo by Hot Rocks, a steak restaurant located in Sto. Nino, Marikina City. After telling the waitress who handed us the menu that we really wanted some piece of meat, she came back holding up plastic-wrapped pieces of meat, with each red circle of beef and pork displayed like models walking on the runway in a fashion show.
In her hands were high-quality, locally-sourced T-bone steak, porterhouse in 250 and 450-gram sizes, and slab of baby back ribs. The pieces de resistance were like actors auditioning for important roles on a stage called our meal. As the waitress held up each meat, we saw the fine veins of white creating unique patterns in the dense fresh meat. It didn’t take us long to pick just the right size of meat that would be enough to satisfy our cravings.
Curiosity led us to this hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Beeffalo opened its door to the public last October 2013. That time, Louie Abad, his wife Girlie Cosio-Abad and friend Caren Diaz had to close down Hot Rocks, a hole-in-the-wall bar-restaurant that started at Auto Camp Ortigas Center in 2004 then, later in the compound of ClubSixFifty on Libis, after their lease contract expired and give way to the property development in Libis.
But their unbridled passion in serving good food to anyone who would have it pushed them to find another location where they could put up another dining concept. One of their good friends pointed the trio to a vacant space along Gil Fernando Avenue. That time, the area was nothing but a field of talahib (tall weeds). Every time the sun set, darkness would cloak the area, and eerie silence would descend.
While most entrepreneurs would think twice about establishing their business in the middle of nowhere, the trio thought it was the perfect place for the concept the have in mind. The considerations that most business-minded people avoid when choosing a location were the exact things that attracted Louie and his partners. Being outdoor adventurers, this was the closest to nature they could have.
“Back when we were still building the restaurant, some would advise us that it was a business suicide, telling us that unless they needed a shortcut, the residents of Marikina would often avoid this road. It was not a busy thoroughfare, so they thought business would be slow,” shared Louie.
But the well-intent piece of advice seemed to be all for naught as proven by the number of cars parked out-front and the line of people waiting to be seated and served. Lunch here is not too busy, while dinner is a totally different scenario. It is always a full house, particularly on weekends and special occasions.
Louie shared that the name came from their friend Chie Lago. “When we were still thinking of a name, we called Chie and asked for suggestions. She mentioned Beeffalo, and we like it instantly. It rolled off the tongue easily and has a good recall. It combines two words: beef and buffalo (from the popular chicken dish). The funny thing was Chie suggested it thinking we would be serving buffalo wings. But that time, we didn’t include it on the menu. After we made our mind to use Beeffalo, we had to put buffalo wings on the menu.”
Its homey ambiance draws guest who want to eat good familiar comfort food without the restrictions of fine dining. Dining at Beeffalo is like eating at one’s own backyard. Diners often come here in their most comfortable clothes, with their family in tow. One would see the owners manning the place — Louie cleaning the tables, Girlie cooking in the kitchen and Caren handling the finances — and sometimes moving from table to table as if they are entertaining friends.
It is designed like a patio, with indoor section and al fesco dining. The place is peppered with vintage items such as bikes, 1964 Vespa scooter, old typewriter, a rotary phone, among others. Some items were donated and lent by their customers. The indoor section can accommodate 56, while the roofed al fresco can dined 36, and the garden can seat 32. But more than the ambiance, people come here for the great food.
But more than the ambiance, people come here for the great food. “Girlie developed the menu. She loves hosting and cooking dinners for friends and family. We are particular with what we served. We only include a dish in the menu when it agrees with our palate. Nothing fancy really, we serve dishes the way we served them in our home,” enthused Louie.
Just its name implies, Beeffalo is all about grilled meat. You should never leave the place without trying any of its meat dishes. But before the main event, one can have some appetizers to open the curtain.
For soup, it is a choice between the seafood and corn chowder (with chunky morsels of seafood and vegetables) or the roasted pumpkin soup. Spiced with herbs and spices, the roasted pumpkin is a delight, with the right texture and consistency. Or you may opt for the Taco BBQ Salad, gorgeous lettuce leaves topped with nachos, taco beef, salsa, cheddar cheese and dressed with barbecue sauce and ranch dressing.
Not to be missed is the Beeffalo Wings, which comes in spicy or sweet variant. Word of advice: The spicy Beeffalo Wings is not for the faint of heart. The word “Hot” beside the buffalo wings on the menu is not there for decoration. When ordering it, the waiter would even double (or triple check) if one is really up to the challenge. It is spicy to the truest sense of the word. But you can still have a taste of their wings, just order the sweet ones. And oh, the fiery red color doesn’t spell spicy.
The quaint restaurant also serves pizza and pasta. The pizza comes in biscuit-thin crust topped with the freshest ingredients. They have Margherita, with fresh tomato and basil, Three Cheese, Pepperoni, and Garlic and Mushroom.
After several minutes, our waitress came with plates of meat dishes on both hands. The smokey aroma of grilled meat that flooded our senses signaled the start of the main event. The porterhouse was soft and chewy, and grilled to medium rare perfection. With the juice oozing out from the meat, it was definitely not dry.
True, the meat has gristle but that is understandable because the the beef is locally sourced. A raw meat is usually composed of four components: the muscle tissue, the fat, the collagen and the elastin. The part we usually eat comes from the muscle tissue. The fat usually melts as the meat is cooked, giving the muscles tissue its flavor. A connective tissue, collagen is usually initially tough but breaks down under heat. It gives the meat that tender, smooth texture.
Elastin is also a connective tissue usually found in the ligaments, but it is the opposite of collagen because it doesn’t break easily. This is where we often get the gristle, that tough and lumpy part of the meat. It all boils down on how the cows are raised and fed. Most cows in the Philippines need to work their muscles to eat grass, making their muscles tough and creating more elastin.
Gristle or not, the juicy goodness filled our mouth that we couldn’t help but chase the tender little its hidden between the fat and bone.
Beeffalo’s Baby Back Ribs is a delight. The meat is soft and easily falls out the bone. The meat closest to the bone was smooth and sweet. We even forgot that it came with a BBQ steak sauce, we were just so happy to gnaw until the bone is stripped naked, sauce or no sauce. By the time we finished the slab, our hands and face were covered with satisfying layer of grease.
All in all,the place is not pretentious and the pricing is pretty reasonable. It is a place where you would just let go and have fun, extended kwentuhan with your friends and family over sumptuous comfort food that so familiar they are good.
NOTE: Parts of the article have been published in The New Standard (http://manilastandardtoday.com/mobile/2015/04/06/steak-your-claim/)