- Tom Constantino and Erik Anderson at The Occidental (Source: Steven Bang)
It's past 11 p.m. at Galaxy Hut on Tuesday night, and Tom Constantino is starving after a day spent preparing pan de sal, a sweet and salty bread, in advance of tonight's A Masquerade for Charity, a ball to benefit Touching Heart, in Columbia Heights. Beside him sits Erik Anderson, with whom he runs Tarsier, a Filipino catering project named for a tiny primate in Southeast Asia.
Constantino, a former sous chef at Hook and The Occidental, worked under Chef Patrick Orange at La Chaumiere, a French bistro in Georgetown. He provides the culinary chops. Anderson, a server-by-day at Lost Society, works the creative side. And then there's David Lanexang, the financial backer, whom Constantino met at a house party awhile back.
"David wanted spaghetti, so I busted out the flour, dough, and I made spaghetti for the guy," the 28-year-old chef says. Afterward, "David said, 'You and I should work together and open a restaurant one day.'"
In a diverse city where Ethiopian, Vietnamese and Korean restaurants are as easy to find as a Starbucks, there's nonetheless a shortage of Filipino cuisine in Washington. With Tarsier, says Anderson, 26, he wants "to modernize the cuisine for people to really understand."
But don't misunderstand, he says. Their dishes aren't fusion: "The flavors will stay true, but taking modern techniques." Filipino food is "very big pots, family food, comfort food," he says. "We're trying to take it down and make it concise ... approachable for non-Filipinos."
Tarsier has catered events before, but the masquerade ball is their first solo event. It was Lanexang's idea. An IT worker by day, he'd recently been to a hipster masquerade party in Brooklyn and wanted to bring that type of party to D.C. — but to do so in the name of a good cause like Touching Heart, which provides basic necessities for disadvantaged kids.
"David picked it but it struck a chord with everyone involved," Constantino says. Growing up in Prince George's County, Constantino joined the Boys and Girls club while a student at Northwestern High School. "I wanted to give back that same thing," he says. "Every kid deserves something in life."
Tonight, among other dishes, they'll be serving a twist on turron de banana — theirs will include miso dulce de leche — and are turning lechon, a whole roasted pig, into sliders with sukang sili slaw, chili aioli, and crispy chicharron. The aforementioned pan de sal will serve as the bun.