There are more similarities between Korean and Mexican food than you think. Korean-style barbecued meats and kimchi surprisingly work well with wraps such as tacos and burrito-style dishes. Flavors of Mexican cuisine accentuated the spicy Korean blends and so is true the other way around.
As this unique flavor became more popular in the city it started in – Los Angeles – Korean-Mexican fusion slowly started creating waves in certain parts of the world. Thankfully for us, the unique Korean-Mexican cuisine has finally reached the Philippines.
Vatos Urban Tacos is a surprise. I think that’s how I would describe their food. It’s comfort food with a twist, and constant bursts of flavors you didn’t expect would go great together.
It’s where you would have light drinks with friends you haven’t seen in a while, plus feasting on food that’s surely not like any other. Finally, a solution to the ever-frustrating dilemma of where to eat if you’ve eaten at almost every single restaurant already.
Start off with Vatos Urban Tacos’ signature dish, the Kimchi Carnitas Fries (Php 390). Kimchi and fries? That’s one combo you don’t see often. Your beloved French fries are covered in braised pork and sautéed kimchi, topped with some melted cheese and Vatos’ original hot sauce.
It’s comfort food that will make you think. It will remind you of nachos with the abundance of toppings but one bite later and you’ll be met with the slight acidity of the kimchi. No overwhelming flavor here since it is balanced with the savory braised pork bits and gooey melted cheese.
Don’t be afraid of the kimchi. For some people, kimchi remains an acquired taste but Vatos’ blend is very easy on the taste buds. It makes us wonder why no one has ever thought of combining fries and kimchi before. This one’s revolutionary!
Kimchi Carnitas Fries
This is a place of familiar flavors. Sure, it’s a new take on the Mexican cuisine we’re used to, but Vatos Urban Tacos knows that the people who come through their door may also be in search for some of the flavors they’ve come to know and love.
Their Carne Asada Quesadillas (Php 350) lean more towards the familiar side. Although take a closer look at the tortilla used. No, that’s not what they use for Ilocos empanadas. This tortilla is made out of cheese, which gives it its unique vibrant orange color. It adds a little tartness to the dish but not too much that it takes your attention away from the gooey melted cheese and tender carne asada steak.
Carne Asada Quesadillas
Quesadilla cheese in action
Vatos’ Honey Tequila Chicken Wings (Php 420) still has that classic familiar flavor of the popular comfort food. Perfectly fried chicken wings are coated in sweet and spicy honey tequila sauce and served with deep-fried masa-battered jalapeños.
But there’s no room for ordinary fried chicken wings here. Note the slight sweetness of the Honey Tequila glaze that is a common hint of flavor in many Korean-style fried chicken dishes. It’s a sweetness you won’t miss, but it’s kind of like glazing your fried chicken with golden maple syrup.
And if you haven’t done that at least once in your life, now’s the time to do so.
Honey Tequila Wings with Bleu Cheese Dip
Giving you the full Korean-Mexican experience are these Korean Pork Belly Tacos (Php 320 for 2 tacos, Php 450 for 3 tacos). Pork belly is marinated with Korean soy paste, ssamjang aioli, sandwiched in a hard taco shell, then topped with sliced and pickled onions.
The marinade gives the pork belly that slightly sweet and spicy flavor that’s reminiscent of grilling your own meat at the unlimited Korean BBQ place then dipping it in red pepper paste. Rather than grated cheese and cabbage like the typical taco, this one is topped with a popular Korean side dish – pickled onions.
Korean Pork Belly Tacos
The sweet tooth in me is rejoicing upon seeing Vatos’ Nutella Nachos. This is Vatos’ take on the classic churro but this time in fried tortilla form. When you bite into it, it’s just like eating a churro – that familiar cinnamon and sugar taste but with the crunch of the fried ‘nacho’.
It doesn’t end there. This dish is topped with the hazelnut-chocolate drizzle that you really can’t say no to. Dip your churro-nachos in that dollop of vanilla ice cream for the experience of a lifetime. Plus the best part about this is that the party doesn’t stop once the ice cream melts. Trust us, you’re going to want more.
Nutella Nachos are topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with melted chocolate
Not going to judge you if you’re just going to Vatos for a drink. Vatos’ margaritas are served in a big goblet and topped with a bottle of cider. It’s one of those drinks that just never ends. You take a sip, you lift the bottle and there you have it – instant refill.
I’m not a beer drinker so I was surprised that I found the Vatos ‘Ritas very tasty. Vatos takes the classic frozen margarita and ups the flavor by pairing it with the best beer or cider.
For the Grow a Pear (Php 480), it’s passionfruit margarita with Magners Pear Cider. A little sweeter than that is the Gold Digger (Php 480) which is apple margarita and Hills Apple Cider. Both are great options for the ones who love fruity drinks with just a bit of the strong alcohol taste.
But if you want to taste the beer a little more, the Corona Rita (Php 480) is the one for you. It’s classic frozen margarita topped with the regular Corona beer.
These drinks are good for sharing among 2 or even 3 of your friends. It’s the perfect chillnuman drink for those times you just want to let loose for a bit after a long stressful week.
Grow A Pear Frozen Margarita with Magners Pear Cider
Corona Rita is your classic frozen margarita topped with a bottle of Corona beer
Gold Digger topped with Hills Apple Cider
True to their slogan, Vatos Urban Tacos is one of the best places to eat, chill, and drink. It’s a place for the modern city-goer, with the restaurant’s exposed pipes and bricks. The owners of Vatos Urban Tacos fell in love with this kind of look as it embodied the kind of cuisine they were going for – organic and a modern take on the familiar flavors.
Vatos is the place to be for the food explorer, someone who won’t shy away from trying brand new hints of flavor. But it’s a place where someone can find comfort too in tastes they recognize.
It’s where you the good kind of surprises are.
Vatos Urban Tacos is at Net Park, 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Hours: 11:00 am – 11:00 pm (Sunday to Thursday), 11:00 am – 1:00 am (Friday), 11:00 am – 12 mn (Saturday)
Photos by Abby Singson for Typist PH