photo credit: Melissa Zink
Ox + Tiger
Life is mundane, work is boring, and we’re all just lemmings on a wheel that demands we eat, sleep, pay bills, and repeat. At least, that’s what we moan about to our therapist. Sometimes it feels like tasting menu restaurants, too, fall into a trap of repetition. There really are only so many cultured butters infused with the essence of a single sunchoke served atop a slab of farm-raised redwood one can take.
But Ox + Tiger is shaking things up. This spot is fusing together Japanese and Filipino flavors for a tasting menu that’s unlike anything you’ll find in town.
This is a rare spot that’ll make you wonder, Why haven’t I gotten here sooner? The restaurant is about the size of an elevator in Las Vegas with just eight bar seats and a shelf full of family photos, books, and art. It’s a deceptively casual setting to eat the anything-but-casual dishes you’ll have during the $125, six-course experience.
At Ox + Tiger, combinations you think won’t work, do. Grilled strip loin is covered with peanut sauce and served next to a panko-crusted fried eggplant. Salmon tataki and a creamy coconut-mango dip arrive alongside a bagoong tare-topped seared green mango. Take note of the range of sauces, like cherry adobo glaze, sour tamarind-plum sauce, and grape, okra, long bean, and fermented shrimp paste salsa. Then lick the plate clean.
Restaurants are personal by nature, but the themes of Ox + Tiger’s ever-changing tasting menus are driven by family heritage. Before you eat each course, one of the chefs will break from all the grilling, tweezing, and plating to deliver a spiel about their connection to each dish. If you’re someone who appreciates the finer details, like how a chef reconnected with their Filipino roots through cooking, getting here is your destiny. If you’re not, getting here is still your destiny for the food alone.
The proliferation of tasting-menu spots in the city over the last few years has been staggering. There are so many options. You could go for another California-inflected tasting menu that changes with the seasons and features specialty ingredients forged by the garden gods, blah blah blah. But you should spend the money on one you’ll actually want to relive while you’re still eating.
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Ox + Tiger switches up their tasting menu every four to six weeks. So great news for anyone hyperallergic to monotony. Curated dishes revolve around a single theme, from Summer Nights (inspired by the chefs’ childhood upbringing) to Family’s Choice (a medley of greatest hits chosen by Ox + Tiger regulars) to a menu devoted to sauce. Below is a look at our Family’s Choice experience.
Grilled pork loin is served with eggplant katsu, topped with jackfruit, long beans, and palapa condiment. Have you ever written a sonnet about fried pork? You might give it a go after eating this dish.
Another Ox + Tiger specialty that emerged from dish heaven through a ray of light. Gently seared salmon sits next to a coconut-mango sauce and a grilled green mango over umami-rich bagoong tare. Rice puffs and coconut latik really tie the dish together.
If arts and crafts was your favorite class growing up, you’ll enjoy grinding up the toasted sesame seeds, and mixing in the katsu sauce made with kabocha squash and apples. From there, do your thing. Dip the fried pork topped with long beans, okra, pickled bitter melon, and grapes into it. Eat it with rice. Or just stick your finger in the sauce like a kindergartener. Your call.
Strawberry Shortcake Carioca
A great end to a meal that’ll be a highlight of your year. Fried coconut rice donuts are amped up with black sugar syrup drizzles, strawberry calamansi jam, and cream cheese-based ice cream infused with Japanese barley.