a review by Joanna Ruiz
“Maayo-gandang gabi!” Josef Sagemüller says to a security guard, and quickly laughs at himself. Bacolod-born and bred and German-educated Josef has just opened a restaurant in El Nido, Palawan, and is still getting used to the language differences, although Ilonggo is one of the dialects commonly spoken in El Nido.
Tambok’s is Josef’s second restaurant, after Lina’s in Bacolod. Unlike Lina’s which serves more experimental, fusion Asian food in a gorgeous landscaped garden setting adjacent to their family home, Tambok’s serves simple yet hearty Ilonggo comfort food in a casual, airy, utilitarian, yet still genteel space along a Palawan highway.
Yellow walls and screened windows trimmed in white, along with patterned tile floors, solid wood furniture, and orange doors invite visitors to make themselves at home and feast on Ilonggo favorites like laswa (boiled vegetables in a broth livened up with lemongrass and ginger), inasal, and batchoy, and other Filipino favorites like tortang talong, pancit buco, and lechon manok which is roasted in front of the restaurant and sells out every day.
Josef’s clients are a diverse set, from neighbors who come on motorbikes for a lechon manok to take home, to local families and corporate groups who order platters of inasal, to vegetarian tourists who share a pot of laswa. Some diners, transplanted Ilonggos themselves, are simply happy that they’ve found a place that gives them a taste of home, like a couple of ladies who come in each night for steaming bowls of batchoy.
Why a restaurant in El Nido? Apart from Lina’s, Josef’s other interests and businesses have so far been based in Bacolod. A trained gemologist and avid farmer/botanist, Josef says moving to El Nido and opening Tambok’s is a step toward becoming more independent and toward building something of his own. Together with his nephew Carlo Peña and their loyal, cheerful crew of Negrense cooks and waiters, Josef is ready to take on El Nido and serve up some good old Ilonggo comfort.
Tambok’s is located along the Taytay-El Nido National Highway in El Nido, Palawan, three minutes from the El Nido Airport heading north to Nacpan. Look for it across the Villa Libertad Barangay Hall. Tambok’s is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 11am to 2pm, and 4pm to 9pm. For inquiries, please call +63 946 862 2659.