Watering Holes: The Teahouse

Martin Blanco

The previous owner, Rich Freedman, passed away last year. How does it feel to take over from Rich?

I knew him briefly. I worked with his other restaurant project, El Farol, as a server, and we’ve actually talked about opening a restaurant together. I’m not expecting to fill his shoes, I’m a completely different universe from what he was doing here.

What is your vision for the place?

My ultimate goal is to connect with the community authentically and bring myself out authentically; my food, my culture, what I love to do, and the flavors that I know. I grew up in the Philippines. My stepdad is from here and I immigrated when I was 20.

I grew up in a house where, we had a street food stall in my house that was feeding the village. And then my favorite pastime would be like to look for like the best street food in my city, in my friend’s city, and just to prowl the streets and look for the best grilled something, the best fried rice, you name it, and that was my pastime. And my favorite memories were in the dinner table with my family, with my friends. I either love what I’m cooking or love who I’m cooking for, those are my two values that I go by when it comes to my art.

I wanna bring all of this to the table, regardless of what people expected The Teahouse to be. They say Where is my scone? Where is my oatmeal? And I’m like, No, no, no, no.

What is an example of your dishes?

An interesting one for me is a very simple breakfast burrito. You got eggs, fried potatoes, green onions, asadero cheese from Tucumcari. But I’m using local red chile and making my own sriracha with the local red chile. So that’s a little bit of New Mexico, a little bit of Southeast Asian.

I’ve been in training for 12 years as an apprentice to chefs that I admired in Portland and here at Izanami.

How do you have the confidence to be loyal to your vision?

I’m gonna get a little emotional, ‘cause fuck man, life is hard. I’ve had a hard time getting to where I’m at. I was raised by a single mom, four siblings. And she was working three jobs, out like 16 hours a day. That’s why I’m thinking of the big picture. Life was hard. I was an undocumented immigrant for several years and it was hard. And that’s why this is where I’m going now. I’m good now.


Photo SFM