We, Filipinos, strike similar taste chords together with our Mexican friends, but authentic Mexican food restaurants in the Philippines are quite scarce. What is prevalent in the local food scene is the "idea" of Mexican food that people have which is "Tex Mex" style (crispy tacos apparently aren't exactly "it") and that isn't really what authentic Mexican food actually tastes like. Lágrima resto owner and founder Mano Lotho was weary of not having a lot of options when it came to the availability of authentic Mexican food locally. He grew up in California having tasted food cooked by true Mexican immigrants. This molded the way he expected Mexican food to taste in a huge way.
Mano: "...the food we serve is very close to home. I grew up eating it in Los Angeles and it's really comfort food. We get a lot of Filipino Americans/Americans/Mexicans regulars who come in specifically to touch base with that."
Lágrima means "Tears of Joy" and it was named after Mano Lotho's grandmother.
Mano: "Well, Lágrima now really is a neighborhood taqueria. We kind of want to expand on that feeling of a neighborhood taqueria and serve another neighborhood."
For Lágrima, Mano brought in Mexican chef Jorge Barita from Oaxaca, who was already becoming quite successful because of his authentic Mexican tacos in Cebu for La Lucha, his own taqueria as they call it. Mano tasted the food there, was positively overwhelmed and after three years of trying finally succeeded in convincing the Mexican chef to help him open Lágrima. We can only imagine what it must have tasted like there at La Lucha but Lágrima certainly now gives us more than just a glimpse.
Mano: "I started with this idea of wanting it to have this sushi bar / coffee shop dynamic where the relationship is more personal and I think that now, 7 months in, we're getting there. We'll have days where service is around 60~70% familiar faces and it's great. That kind of goes in hand also with where I see it going in the future."
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In the gallery above we've included a couple of details on this simple, quaint, yet genuine Mexican restaurant in the heart of Makati, pricing on the dishes we sampled included. The first thing we tasted while we were there was their bestselling horchata drink. A non-dairy yet milky refreshing drink made of almonds and rice milk gently spiced with cinnamon. If we weren't rushing to leave for our next appointment we would have (and actually should have) ordered two.
Lágrima is still fairly new having opened its doors softly last July 1, 2016 in Legaspi Village, Makati. We walked in unannounced today and were waved over to the chalkboard menu by part-time manager and part-time cook Nico. The first thing Mano's sister, Mia Lotho recommends are the Super Burrito, the Tostadas (with a choice of meat filling, we went for the pork), and we ourselves ordered a Super Quesadilla with meat, cheese, salsa, crema and guacamole.
In observation quesadillas at various local establishments are often a popular or safe choice when people are in doubt on what to order, so we wanted to try theirs. Permit us to use their tagline right here: "Weep for it." Their quesadilla is not the flat soft type with melted cheese that we're used to. There's crispness and a lovely blend of creamy, meaty, and slightly sour with the guacamole in there.
It's still quite early to tell how Lágrima will fare in the next few years but many are hoping they'll stay. The team behind it are putting out genuine plates of good food with a lot of heart behind them. Occasionally, they experiment with limited edition offerings only served for a short time (keep up with them on Instagram at @lagrimanila) and this is when people like to be at the venue to experience the swerve.
Lágrima is located at the ground floor of BSA Mansion, 108 Benavidez Street in Legaspi Village, Makati City and they're open from 11am-10pm, Monday to Sunday. Note: For now they only accept payments in cash.
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Photography by the author