A delusional descendant of Speedy Gonzalez, it has become my lifetime quest to honor my inanimate forefather by finding decent Mexican cuisine in Manila. While there seem to be a handful, they've been quite the letdown, serving crusty tortilla wraps, scrimping on salsa and forgetting that pico de gallo and guacamole are actually part of the Spanish vocabulary.
It is no wonder that whenever I suggest Mexican food when dining out, people just stare at me as if I've gone loco. But no, it's just that: Tengo mucho hambre! (I'm very hungry!)
This hunger was ultimately solved by this little joint along J. Abad Santos St., near P. Guevara: Ristras. At first glance, people may find it quite tedious to read the exhausting menu, but once you get the hang of it, the order process can be strangely interesting. I have learned the difference between a fajita and burrito (it's the beans, hombre) and realized that these two can be ordered naked. If dining with la familia grande, giant nachos and burritos are likewise in the menu listing for all those hungry hermanos y hermanas.
Best of all, each item is wrapped-created on the spot, which gives way to customized creations and less of OMG-what's-this-in-my-burrito? situations.
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Nine Layer Dip and Nachos P255
While I've lost count of the nine items that comprise the dip - let's see, cheese, jalapeno, beans, guacamole, okay I give up - it was Cloud Nine nevertheless. All nine flavors come in harmony and create that Mexican masterpiece to complement the chips. Nothing overwhelmingly stood out to steal the show and it was nacho heaven sitting on this cloud nine dip.
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Chicken Quesadilla P320
This grande serving is meant to be shared (by a family even) but this was mine to enjoy and finish to the very last salsa bit. And I did. The chicken looked like tofu cubes in the creation process but once tasted, burst with savory seasoning that my taste buds will forever crave. The chicken, cheese, pico de gallo and onions melted together into this wonderful que-sa-di-ya. The tortilla wrap was chewy and "fresh", and so were the guacamole and salsa. Eaten together, messed up and splashed all over the paper plate, this was perhaps the closest that I could ever have to a Mexican fiesta. (Unless of course I do get to go to Mexico. Ole!) It was rather on the expensive side, but this trip to Mexican food heaven merited a couple of satisfied burps and for that, I shall return.
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Steak Burrito P340
Not mine, but it was fun to watch the meat-eater endeavor to finish this carbo frenzy of a wrap. As if the choice between cilantro rice and chorizo rice was difficult enough, but to down this giant creation, it needed more than just a Coke and a Hail Mary. Flavorful as it is colorful, I believe Mr. Burrito will go for the que-sa-di-ya the next time around - but of course sharing is another option.
Ristras served us a rather glorious food fiesta, to make up for the faux Mexican joints that have been flooding Manila and their nasty fares that rely on Quickmelt cheese, butter and canned tomato sauce. At least at Ristras, everything was natural, fresh, authentic and well, mucho gusta! Gracias!