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You might say these are inconspicuous yet interesting food spots just off the “eaten” track. Bistros and cafes located in the quiet, seldom-frequented backstreets of the city but which offer delightful and, more often than not, very reasonably priced dining experiences. Two such spots are Sofrito and Sultan, both on San Agustin Street, parallel to Leviste St., in Salcedo Village in Makati.

Sofrito, located at the back of LPL Mansion, is owned by Sra. Millie Gutierrez, herself from Puerto Rico, who serves her own family’s recipes of authentic Puerto Rican home-cooked dishes. The name Sofrito is derived from the traditional aromatic blend of herbs and spices which serves as the flavor foundation for the range of Caribbean and Latin American dishes. Originally, sofrito is a cooking technique introduced by the Spanish colonists and means to sauté or stir-fry.

The menu at Sofrito is as simple as the place is small. I’m not usually into plantains but my taste for adventure got the better of me enough to try the Mofongo. The very sound of the word made me curious. Mofongo is the signature dish of Puerto Rico and is made from fried and mashed green plantains combined with garlic, olive oil and chicharrón or bacon. I actually liked it — it’s very tasty and does not taste banana-ish at all.

Sultan Mediterranean Grill is practically right across Sofrito, located at the back of Valero Plaza Condominium. It’s okay. I’m a bit more strict in critiquing Mediterranean and South Asian cuisines as I am more familiar with them and their distinct flavors. For me, my personal benchmarks for these cuisines are Kashmir, Cafe Mediterranean, and Persian Grill. Compared to them, Sultan’s food is good and tasty but average. Not enough of the spice/flavor level I look for. The servings are hearty and the tiny cafe cozy and charmingly interiored. All in all, however, especially with their prices, Sultan is worth a visit or more.

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