A Private Dining Destination to Remember

Chef Myke Tatung re-imagines regional Filipino cuisine, ever-so-sumptuously,  in his lush Antipolo hideaway

When it comes to champions of Filipino cuisine, Myke “Tatung” Sarthou is as committed as they come—so committed, in fact, that his is a voice that rises ever-so-clearly above the cacophony of culinary clamoring.

Originally from the Cebu-Bicol region of the Philippines, Chef Tatung — or simply Tatung, as he is fondly called — had his first foray into the flavorful frontier of food at the apron strings of his grandmothers. Growing up in Cebu, he fondly remembers hours spent cooking in the family kitchen. Little did he realize that those memorable moments would carve a culinary-shaped notch in his heart; one that would set the course of his career, well into adult life. It wasn’t until many years into adulthood, however, that Tatung heeded the calling (he spent almost a decade in the field of multimedia arts, prior to becoming a chef). But when he finally did, it was irrevocable. Since then, Tatung has evolved into a staunch supporter of food security in the Philippines, a passionate proponent of eating well (while keeping things as simple as possible, in the kitchen), and an animated advocate of preserving the country’s heritage through food. As the author of a series of award-winning bestselling cookbooks (the SIMPOL series) and the proprietor of a number of concept restaurants (Lore and Azadore are his most current ones, with a deli in the works) this chef-on-the-move certainly has a full plate. Yet, he still finds time to interact with his almost a quarter of a million social media followers — indeed, here is chef who is the salt of the earth despite his stature.

He also recently opened his rest house in the lush hills of Sitio Paenan, in Baras, Antipolo to the public. Tatung’s Private Dining is a haven for foodies seeking upscale re-imagined regional cuisine from across the Philippines, far from the madding crowds and chaos of the city.

The roofed deck, which is the al fresco dining area
Chef Tatung supervises the plating of dishes in the theater-style kitchen of Tatung’s Private Dining

Tatung’s sanctuary of sumptuousnes

Chef Tatung’s refuge during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic has now become a sanctuary for all-things sumptuous. Looking around the main house, atop the highest part of the property, it is easy to see that no expense was spared in its building. I ask what motivated him to open his rest home to diners, and the jovial chef jokes (with a hearty, guttural laugh): “I had to find a way to pay for what I spent on the wood of the house!”

The main dining room at Tatung’s Private Dining, with its elegantly exposed wooden beams

Centuries-old wooden beams and intricate doors run through the house, most of which the chef sourced at antique dealers and estate sales throughout the country. Traditional vintage furniture and décor are accented with eclectic pieces, lending a fanciful feel to the otherwise heavy look of antiques. The overall aesthetic is equal parts easy elegance and cozy charm, Filipino-style. The house has a main dining area, flanked by a smaller private room, as well as a separate roofed-deck area for that al fresco experience.  In all, the private dining property seats up to 40-50 people, making it an ideal venue for special occasions and intimate events. Dishes are prepared in a theater-style kitchen, making for an even more multisensory meal.

The lush gardens and pool area are the focal points of the gorgeous property

Central to the property is a bi-level swimming pool, set in stone to mimic natural hot springs. This is ensconced within verdant gardens that tie in with the overall lushness of the locale. Choco, the friendly Labrador, greets guests with the grace of one well-accustomed to company.

Regional cuisine, cleverly re-imagined

The vibrant vacation-like vibe of its venue is fitting, indeed, because Tatung’s Private Dining takes guests on a toothsome trip throughout the country through its mouthwatering menus. Degustation-style, each dish in the eight-course appetizing adventure is a masterful showcase of the Philippines’ culinary heritage — as well as a testament to the chef’s creative flair. Chef Tatung loves to create, and this is at once evident in his seasonal menus. 

At the time of our visit, the menu on offer is aptly called LIKHA: Weaving the Flavors of the Islands. Every dish we sample is a pleasure on the palate, with well-balanced, elevated flavors that do not overpower the straightforward, authentic taste of the star ingredients. You relish the intricacy of each bite, flavor-wise, but you always know what you are eating. Each dish is artfully presented and plated; a nod to Chef Tatung’s background as a multimedia artist. The courses brim with playful textures that work, both visually and in the mouthfeel. “LIKHA is a play on regional classics, reinterpreted in contemporary style. It is fresh yet familiar, even comforting to a certain level,” Chef Tatung explains.

A tasty tour of traditional treats

LIKHA features an appetite opener of Mindanao’s Kinilaw na Tuna, a local take on ceviche, made from market fresh tuna, cooked in the acids of pinakurat vinegar, seasoned with sugar, ginger, onions, tomatoes, and served with jackfruit.

Mindanao’s Kinilaw na Tuna

Aklan’s Seafood Binakol follows, a comforting soup made from fresh coconut meat, coconut juice, clams, and shimeji mushrooms. A refreshing Eggplant Salad comes next, mixed with cherry tomatoes, red onion, Laguna’s kesong puti (local white cheese), and a zesty kalamansi (Philippine lime)-honey dressing.

Aklan’s Seafood Binakol
Eggplant Salad with Laguna’s kesong puti

While it is a bit of a surprise that a Bread and Spread basket is the middle course, the breads (pandesal, sourdough, and lavash) are just too good to pass up. Spreads include strips of bacon, liver pate, and herbed butter.

Bread and Spread basket

The next dish proves my favorite course, a hearty Zamboanga-inspired Seafood Satti of perfectly-seared squid, shrimp, and scallops, wide and deep in flavor, owing to the turmeric, ginger, and lemongrass-infused satti sauce, with cumin-infused Maranao rice cooked with coconut milk and wrapped in Chinese chard.

Zamboanga-inspired Seafood Satti

To cleanse the palate, a scoop of Sorbetes (sorbet) made from pineapple, coconut milk, and rhum does the trick. The final main dish is the slow-cooked Corned Beef with Bone Marrow, chunks of beef smoked for five hours with santol (cotton fruit) wood, a helping of hot marrow, paired with baked beans, baked carrots, and garlic aioli.

Sorbetes, to cleanse the palate
Slow-cooked Corned Beef with Bone Marrow

Last but never, ever least…dessert! Ube Halaya at Pudding, a super creamy concoction of Baguio’s signature purple taro root jam, milky caramel pudding, and lemon zest totally hits the sweet spot.

Ube Halaya at Pudding, with Baguio’s signature purple taro root jam

The menu changes regularly; shoot the team a message, in advance, to check what is on offer. Kids’ menus are also available, as are bespoke meal requests (again, with ample notice).

Go ahead; embark on an unforgettable culinary journey of the Philippines, one distinctive, delectable dish at a time. But please, remind your tummy to pack lightly before your private dining trip. While it is a tasting menu, portions are on the generous side, and you’re going to want enough room in your baggage. And, like any intrepid traveler, do take lots of photos and enjoy the destination to the fullest.

Tatung’s Private Dining is open from Thursdays to Sundays for lunch and dinner, by reservation only. On Thursdays and Fridays, a minimum of six people is required per booking. For reservations, please call 0956-6605913 or message tatungsprivatedinner@gmail.com and @tatungsprivatedining. For updates, follow Tatung’s Private Dining.

Photos by Vertikal Creatives