We were baking under the heat of the sun. We had no caps, no shades, and no idea where we were going. Armed only with a camera, a pocketful of cash, and a vague recommendation from a friend, we went looking for Meat Plus. It was only a few blocks from the hotel Venezia. And since taxis inside the Subic Bay Freeport Zone were very scarce, we decided to get there by foot. The hotel staff had assured us it was only three blocks away. Of course, when you have me navigating, those three short blocks became ten. Aggravated by the sweltering Philippine heat, it was a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, we found our way to Sampson road and spotted it.
The restaurant pops out from its location. Sitting beside old duty-free shops, the smell of smoke and grease rips through the scent of stale PX goods. We let our noses point our way to the restaurant’s front porch, which both served as a smoking and waiting area for guests. There was a long list of people waiting to be seated. Most of them were families who drove all the way from Manila and nearby parts of Northern Luzon for the holiday.
We found a table on the front porch. The shade and the occasional breeze made the heat a bit bearable. Despite the first-come-first-seated rule, hungry customers would still have to line up in front of the restaurant’s counter to get their Grade A American beef. The winding line to the cashier is long, so a bit of patience and good conversation would be needed to get by. This wasn’t much of a problem for us, because we were busy debating about what to get. We ended up ordering the same thing: Oven-roasted Beef Belly. Intrigued by its name, I also ordered The Bomb, which was marketed as a baked potato bathed in a rich garlic cream sauce.
After ten to fifteen minutes of conversation and smokes, our food arrived. The beef belly was served with a cup of rice and a gravy boat. Being the gravy slut that I am, I smothered my rice with the rich brown liquid and started digging in. The gravy was nothing special. It tasted of butter, marinade, drippings, and starch. Eaten with the meat, it explodes. For a few seconds, I was left speechless. Perhaps it was its tenderness of the meat or the taste of perfectly-charred beef fat, but something about the dish made me want to savor it, despite the film of oil forming over the walls of my mouth.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for The Bomb, which made more of a poof than a kaboom. The baked potato dish turned out to be a watery gratin served in a small ramekin. The faint taste of the garlic was flatlining in my mouth. I almost didn’t even notice it. If it weren’t for that slight hiccup, the meal would have been great. But then again, this was Meat Plus. The people come there for the meat, and not its sides.
Meat Plus serves a select array of steaks and slabs by the gram. They have meat freezer where patrons can pick out the specific cut they want and have it cooked the way they want for a fee. The quality of the meat is undeniable. It’s no wonder why customers are willing to wait under the boiling sun and in the middle of a long queue just to get a taste of it. Meat Plus leaves them with a lip-smacking and heart-clogging experience that’s worth enduring all that.