The original tambai
They wooed the owner of the sari-sari store for almost two years. Melvin Viceral and Franco Ocampo were blessed, perhaps by the spirit of San Miguel. the first time they laid eyes on that tiny storefront, because the two friends somehow saw the potential of that simplest of sites in that most unusual out-of-the-way location, a very quiet residential area in one of Makati City’s oldest and most historic districts. When the sari-sari store owner finally relented, Melvin and Franco used the very same space, the very same proverbial hole-in-the-wall, as the bright beacon of their simple street side concept. Tambai raised its roof, literally, for the first time, a couple of days after Christmas 2014. On the menu? Ice cold beer and Filipinized Yakitori by Chef Jerome Valencia. Nothing more, nothing less. But a week after they opened, in the first days of 2015, Tambai had exploded into the consciousness of every beer and barbecue loving citizen.
Was it the Christmas spirit? The cool weather of those first days? The novelty of drinking, quite safely, on a street? The magic of Instagram and Facebook? All of the above, I’m sure. After all, I was happily drinking there on Day 2, and it was just me and the owners at 6pm, but even then, the good vibes were already apparent, and they were contagious. A few days later, Tambai was running out of beer on a nightly basis. It was insanity and serendipity and spirituality and inevitability. The party started three years ago, and it never stopped.
Melvin and Franco are still in there practically every day. Still working behind the bar, opening beers and expediting orders themselves. Smiling and hanging out with their guests. Still doing what they do best: making Tambai.