Sunday. My tía decided to treat us in Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafoods. Tatoy’s is perhaps the most popular and biggest restaurant in Iloílo. It is located in Villa de Arévalo, along Baluarte-Calumpang-Villa-Oton Boulevard near the John Lacson Maritime University campus. My aunt could still recall how the restaurant used to look like, huts of bamboos and nipas, before it became a hit. President Macapagal Arroyo, who married an Ilongo, dines in Tatoy’s when she’s in town.
The main attraction is their lechón manóc. They only cook native chickens, marinated in a secret mixture. Darág (or labuyò in Tagalog) are served with their heads intact. They also dish up binacól, again, native small chicken, cooked in coconut juice. Native chicken is tastier but a bit tougher compared to the market variety. In the Visayas, the demand for darág grows every year as people have started to discover its distinctive taste.
There are beach huts near the shore, facing Guimarás, that are available for dining. The main restaurant is not paved; they retained the beach brown sand as flooring. This offers customers the old dining experience of Tatoy’s. There are air-conditioned rooms that are provided for no additional cost. Aside from being a manocan (spelled with an “o”), Tatoy’s serves great seafood — I saw people with plate full of talabá and freshly grilled bañgús and maya-maya. The kinilaw (white fish meat with vinegar, mango, and sili), lucon-lucon, scallop, pasayan (sigáng) and valenciana are some of the other dishes that were served that day. Tatoy’s true appeal is its original Ilongo cooking – people wanting to experience genuine Ilongo food go here.