Yes, there’s a live pig at Ambos Mundos
Someone once told me of a restaurant in Manila that has a live pig tethered right outside its doorsteps. I thought that it just existed in her imagination, but one lazy Saturday afternoon last year, my friends and I stumbled upon Ambos Mundos. The restaurant is indeed real and yes, the pig is very much alive.
Ambos Mundos has been around since 1888 and is considered to be among the oldest food establishments in the Philippines. I’m not sure if our porcine fellow also shared the same history with the restaurant, because if you are a pig especially in this part of the world, you cannot exist that long. You either end up rotating over fiery charcoals during fiestas or find parts of yourself in all kinds of Filipino dishes.
“They all die a natural death,” the waitstaff politely assured us. The pig and all its predecessors, we later learned, were good luck charms of the owners. It may have served its purpose well indeed. Although the restaurant is located near two train stations in Recto, it is also stuck in a district that may not be your ideal foodie destination. Yet it still survived to this day, thanks to the pig of course and the many loyal patrons of the Ambos Mundos.
We ordered the Paella Ambos Mundos and the Callos from the list. There were also pages that contain the food offerings of Wah Sun Panciteria, the restaurant right across the street. This was only possible of course since the present owner of Ambos married the daughter of the owner of Wah Sun. That lunch time, we had not only ‘both worlds,’ the translation of ambos mundos, but ‘both restaurants’ as well.
No one in our group complained with this win-win situation. It particularly worked to our advantage since the two dishes that we earlier chose might not be enough for all of us. We then added Beef Broccoli and Nido Soup.
But I wonder why there were many people eating at Wah Sun that noon. Maybe perhaps it had more animals on display – parrots and live fishes just to name a few. You see, Wah Sun serves predominantly Cantonese fares while Ambos Mundos serves Filipino-Spanish fusion dishes. The latter supposedly takes you back to your fondest memory of Manila which you may have forgotten by now. Unfortunately, I have no nostalgic memory of this city.
My idea though of a good restaurant is that it should provide good food at very reasonable prices. The ambiance, no matter how quirky or how fancy it may be, comes next or even last on my list. If I want a trip down memory lane, I could just go to a museum any time of the week.
I could only wish that I experienced the Ambos Mundos that Carlos Celdran described. And that our paella was more flavorful. And that our ox tripe was more tender and was served without the overpowering chorizo and cheese.
Maybe we should order other items next time too. And by then, I just hope that I will be raving more about its food than the tired-looking pig of this charming restaurant.
750 Florentino Torres St.
Sta. Cruz, Manila
+63 2 7331160