For our latest food adventure, we decided to delve further into the lesser travelled haunts of the Poblacion area. Since Tambai Alley is situated farther from its rambunctious counterparts at the main strip, we thought it was worth a visit for our date before our finals exams and presentations.
At first glance, Tambai Alley doesn’t look much to any passerby during day time as the place blends around its surroundings. At night however, it figuratively puts on its lipstick and comes to life. It is well lit and even has makeshift counters and stools by the walkway. Tambai Alley has three dining spots within. The innermost dining area is EBI 10, at the middle one is Wantusawa, and at the front is Tambai. At the top of the house is an intimate bar named Kampai, but since we do not drink we had to skip this last place.
We started our night adventure here by dining at EBI 10 first and worked our way outwards. I selected a piece of small Ebi Tempura and an order of Scallop Popcorn with some rice, while Kat decided to test their mettle with some Gyoza and rice.
While waiting for our food, I glanced around and found the place lively with Japanese-themed murals on the wall, evoking the feel of a cozy ramen and sushi spot.
If someone were to ask me about my thoughts on 55 pesos on ebi tempura, I normally look at the person in disbelief. In this case, I simply ate my words because the ebi tempura here was a treat. Each bite was crunchy, the dipping sauce was served hot and complemented the tempura perfectly. The rice complemented the other two wonderfully as well. However, I’m not a fan of the scallop popcorn as it was too rubbery for me.
The gyoza had just the right balance of natural flavors, all enclosed in perfectly cooked wrappers. They were not too crunchy (a sign of being overcooked) or soggy (a sign of being left out too long). These dumplings plus rice were already enough for an early dinner.
Stepping outside, we were again greeted by the neon blue light of an open oyster shell at Wantusawa which caught our attention a little earlier in the evening. The place was set up as a bar, with chalkboard writings of their menu filling the empty space of the walls. Coupled with the dim lighting, one would find the place perfect for unwinding after a long day at work.
The thing that sets Wantusawa apart from most bars in the area is the fresh oysters from Aklan. They serve these oysters fresh, baked, and even as a ceviche. Aside from this, Wantusawa also has other selections like spicy scallop and crab fat pasta and grilled prawn laksa, along with the typical hard liquor, beer, and wine.
In my haste, I chose the ceviche without asking them to cut back on the heat. Because of this, I unfortunately wasn’t able to enjoy the other ingredients aside from the oysters. That one was a classic case of mea maxima culpa on my part.
To make up for this, I also ordered a freshly-shucked oyster, served with kalamansi juice and hot sauce. A quick squeeze of the kalamansi and that oyster went down smoothly on my palate from the shell.
Kat wanted to try the Hiyayako “Cold Tofu” Salad. Much to her delight, this was topped with bonito flakes and drizzled generously with a sweet sauce. It was just the perfect dish to clean the palate after the hearty meal from next door.
We ended our night at Tambai, Tambai Alley’s take on a yakitori spot. By the way it’s set up, one would eat by the tables and chairs on the pedestrian walkway after ordering some booze, yakitori sticks, and even merchandise at the nearby hole in the wall.
This time around, I ordered a stick of Quail Egg wrapped in Bacon yakitori and US Beef Isaw (intestine) along with a small bowl of their take on Japanese rice (typical fluffy rice with a dash of those instant rice toppings). Kat wanted some cold soba and Japanese Sausage yakitori.
While the Quail Egg and Bacon was a pleasant experience on my palate combined with their fluffy rice, I’m not a fan of their iteration of isaw and peanut sauce put together in one plate.
The soba was rather limp, and the sauce needed a little more flavor. The Japanese sausages though were a treat, with a mild spiciness like no other. These would have been great with a cold drink to wash them all down.
To sum it up, our triple header adventure at Tambai Alley left our tummies full and we had a fun time together with one less item on our bucket list.
Food Score: 3.5/5: Even with some stars of the show, the place really is meant as a casual drinking spot with friends than a dining place.
Ambiance Score: 4/5: The place here is really something special, from casual with Tambai, private with EBI 10, and chill with Wantusawa.
Service Score: 4/5: The servers here were attentive and our food came in rather quickly. Overall, these are all good places to unwind, even on a warm summer night.
GERD Score: 3/5: I find the places slightly too limited for people with heartburn / GERD, aside from your typical salad and some exceptions.
Neurodivergent Score: 3.5/5: While some ingredients here may be highly seasoned, there are enough fresh and unseasoned selections for finicky diners. Alcohol though is a main attraction of the alley, and there’s little in the way of non-alcoholic beverages and mixes to quench one’s thirst.
Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5: For those with health conditions like ours, we highly recommend the place for a light snack, with several friends who can imbibe to unwind after a long day at work. But if you’re looking for a meal, there are some options which you can still enjoy here, though not many.