Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King
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Syntax & Steak

posted by in Continental, Others, Restaurants

Hai Chix & Steaks 026-001

Move over Bugsy’s, you’ve been replaced. A curiously-named restaurant serves the best value-for-money steak, and even chicken too.

It’s a curious combination, yes – Hainanese chicken and steak – an eponymous restaurant named for its specialties tucked away in an obscure location. Hai Chix & Steaks is hidden: to reach it involves turns and round the bends past a cupcake shop, a foot spa, discrepant car accessories stores, and bars for every proclivity. To see the restaurant looming suddenly from somewhere, all bright lights and friendly, and parking just outside to boot, is truly encouraging compared to the previous atmosphere.

Hai Chix & Steaks ~ interior

Hai Chix & Steaks is a contemplation of contrasts. Its informal name seems to save on syntax but once inside, it’s surprisingly large and well-lit. The design aesthetic reflects knowledge of efficient usage of space and sophistication merging with the casually chic. There are set-ups for more intimate eating while the center holds court for communal chow downs complete with high stools and wider tables. One can be forgiven therefore, for marching straight to a table and waiting for a menu. But no, ordering is done at the counter which faces the door head-on so directives are clear.

The chalkboard menu is scribbled and succinct, and obviously, I’m here to try the stars. The Hainanese Chicken Rice (P245) also comes Fried (P320) but I want to keep it traditional for now. The beef boss is a 950-gram USDA Porterhouse (P2,450), and Manila’s favorite cut of meat, Rib-eye, in 650 and 330 grams (P1,950 / 1,100). We go for the latter. Lamb is offered as is pork, the star in a highly appealing dish called the Beer Platter, a pork knuckle and sauerkraut extravaganza; something to come back for.

The kitchen is kitty-corner to the ordering station so the chefs can hear our every word and musings of indecision. So far, we’ve got chicken, a steak, and wings. My Bin turns to the chef who’s watching us and asks, “Anything else we should order, Chef?” “Round it off with the Butter Garlic Shrimp,” (P250) is the swift reply. So we do. As we turn to our table, I spy the bottles of wine clustered on the counter adjacent to the cashier. Looking up, there’s a Wine & Beer Menu too. That there’s wine offered and this type of selection too is impressive.

Hai Chix & Steaks ~ chefs

For a casual restaurant such as this, the orders don’t come in speedy succession but there’s much to distract. It’s a thrill to watch the chefs in action and their interaction with one another. This evening, there are three of them and their rapport is undeniable. Laughing, assisting, moving with stark alacrity to the soundtrack of hisses and sizzles amidst tongues of flames and smells that seduce.

Hai Chix & Steaks ~ Butter Garlic Shrimp

When the Butter Garlic Shrimp is delivered to table, the waiter tells us to wait for the bread. It’s a while in coming as the dish’s piquant aroma tickles our noses with garlic. The shrimp is cooked outstandingly, heated just ‘til its translucence leaves no trace. It’s juicy and bounces in the mouth. The butter sauce is one of those that makes me weak in the knees, silken and seasoned and a middle-finger-in-the-air to dietary restraint. The bread that finally arrives is well worth waiting for: grilled and buttered, it’s got that wood-fired feel and flavor and is hardy enough to stand up to repeated dunking in the butter sauce. “It tastes like Casa Marcos pandesal,” my Bin and I think, and we’re right. Driving out of Ortigas Home Depot later, we see a Casa Marcos stall.

Hai Chix & Steaks ~ Asian Soy Glaze Wings
If there’s culinary proof to the maxim that opposites attract, then chicken wings is that proof. My Bin adores this dish, while I would rather live without it. Wing tips and bumpy skin – so many bones for such little meat! – squelch my appetite but this one from Hai Chix & Steaks is admittedly good. Its Asian Soy Glaze (P200) moniker is apt, a melding of ginger, honey, dark soy sauce, and cracks of black pepper reduced to a tempting stickiness and a burnished caramel.

Hai Chix & Steaks beer

Suddenly, we want a beer. His and hers.
Hai Chix & Steaks ~ Hainanese Chix (1)

Hai Chix & Steaks ~ Hainanese Chix (2)

Divergent from its bronzed counterpart, the Hainanese Chicken Rice is gentility on a plate. Almost alabaster in appearance, it’s cut from the breast and book-ended by slices of dark meat to mimic one continuous filet. So smooth (see cross-section photo above) and oozing juice, I daresay it might even be better than those two large chains dedicated to this dish. Exceptional.

Hai Chix & Steaks 023-001

I’d describe the steak served at Hai Chix & Steak as “a steak served by a steak eater.” Presented on a chopping board, it’s already a pleasurable proposal for any meat lover but it’s the details that count. First: a boneless rib-eye, big and beefy in flavor, is sliced and shorn of its fat. That fat is then crisped up and reunited from whence it came, but this time cast as its glistening crown (see cover photo). Thus: tender, yielding meat amidst the crunching of beef crackling. Then: the juices (or au jus if you prefer that affect) that surrender in the torrid heat of cooking are siphoned and stirred with just a smack of butter and a hit of salt. Dip a forkful of meat into this elixir and feel your eyes gaze heavenward in thanks. Lastly: they call it Beef Rice but it’s really rice fried in the juices and fat of the steak, a summation of its preceding parts coming together in a triumphant, take-no-prisoners whole.

Hai Chix & Steaks ~steak
As I leave, this is the steak that bids me goodbye right before it’s served to another table.

~

Hai Chix & Steaks
Ortigas Home Depot
Julia Vargas Ave. near the corner of Meralco Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig
0917 507.5773 / (02) 661.7695
Mon: 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Tue – Thu: 11am-2pm, 5-11pm
Fri – Sat: 11am-2pm, 5pm-2am
Closed on Sundays
On Facebook: haichixandsteaks

18 Responses to “Syntax & Steak”

  • Looks like I know where to go when in the Ortigas area. God, those steaks look marvelous.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:

    Aina L. –
    And how they are! Did you see the big boss one up in front in the chefs’ shot? I’m going to order that next time. Seriously, bring B here and tell me what you think.

    –lori

    [Reply]

  • Lori, you are awful. Gotcha! :) Awfully good writer!!! You made a non-meat eater like me (I do eat but few and far between due to digestive issues with animal protein) want to run over there and devour that rib eye with the steak fat rice. The woman, The Dessert Queen, has a way with words and food….. :)

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:

    tina-
    Oh ha, yes you did! :p Thanks as always for your kind words. Do come here when your digestive system is feeling hardier than usual. If not, then have the Butter Garlic Shrimp with a glass of wine.

    –lori

    [Reply]

  • gosh, that steak looks divine! and the hainanese chicken is making my stomach growl! seriously though, i work out in the vicinity of ortigas depot, and i don’t think i can ever go there anymore without feeling the temptation.. no the urge, for that steak and that hainanese chicken!

    oh, would you know if they serve whole hainanese chicken? my family loves hainanese chicken and i’m thinking of ordering for dinner one day. :)

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:

    Hi Z-
    I’m sure they do. Call them to inquire about their party trays.
    –lori

    [Reply]

  • You might also want to try their salad. Nothing fancy about it, but it is served fresh and the serving is good enough for sharing.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:

    Thanks for the tip, Gwen M.! I’ll have that on my next trip back.

    –lori

    [Reply]

  • Bugsy’s in Makati is currently closed for renovation. Was supposed to have lunch there 2 weeks ago and was disappointed to not have my steak fix.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:

    Hi Ami-
    Hai Chix is farther but it’s another option :)

    –lori

    [Reply]

  • Your ribeye looks like love! Can’t wait to try this one.

    [Reply]

  • The owners of this place were my former students at Enderun :) VERY PROUD of them! :D

    [Reply]

  • This is very near my office! I should give this a try soon! :)

    [Reply]

  • I think I’ll have to give this place another try just for the steaks. Did not enjoy our first visit, almost everything was not good including the chicken.

    [Reply]

  • My new favorite steak, etc. place! We had the Porterhouse twice, the first time it was overcooked, so the second time, we made sure to tell the chef exactly the way we wanted it. And how can you not love the generous bits of taba served on top of the steak! We also enjoyed the Garlic Shrimp and Hainanese Chicken.

    [Reply]

  • How does their hainanese chicken compare with Stevie’s? :)

    [Reply]

  • been loving your blog!! :) just wana ask, where’s the best steak in town in your opinion.. :)

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Cez-
    My faves and the accompanying links:
    Prime 101
    Elbert’s
    I’m Angus.

    [Reply]

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