If you were to judge me from my occasional restaurant posts here on DCF, you’d think that I don’t get out much. You’d be only partly right. If I don’t like a restaurant, I don’t waste energy recounting my time there. Just like anyone else, I’ve got restaurants on my radar – I’ve been to Blackbird and Purple Yam – but rare do I have the glowing restaurant experience that I feel compelled to write about from start to finish, if I write about them at all. Thus, posts like these, of dishes that I like, a grab bag of grub, if you will.
Salmon belly arataki at Marufuku
I first wrote about Marufuku early last year and much has changed since then. The restaurant has acquired another chef, Kiyoshi Ogawa, formerly of Senju at the EDSA Shangri-La. Under his auspices, Marufuku enters a new realm of “bringing Japan to Manila,” as stated by one of the owners.
The new menu is still in the works, but on a recent visit, I try the salmon belly arataki. So simple, yet therein lies its ultimate strength. Salmon so supple, teeth are made trivial, but tongue is teased by the belly’s warmth. Then: a zing of citrus and a pitter-patter of sweet-sour similar to teriyaki but I know it’s more than that. One of those moan-inducing dishes.
Crispy Binagoongan at The Flying Pan
The Flying Pan is the latest restaurant of Mon & Monique Eugenio, owners of Myron’s Place and Franco’s. As the official dining room of the Citadines Hotel in Salcedo Village, it’s open as early as 6am. I’m told their Eggs Benedict is wonderful but when I’m here, I’m taken with the Crispy Binagoongan. One of those dishes for which there never seems to be enough rice, the pork defines (and defies!) contrasts. Crispy on soft; fatty meat on lean; and the ricocheting of salty to umami and back again. Whew! More rice, please.
Everything at Your Local
Bordering Yardstick, one of my favorite coffee places, Your Local is the poster boy of Manila’s reigning hipster design du jour. Initially, the place conjures some sort of cognitive dissonance for me: it’s too dark, the servers are dressed way cooler than I am, do I really want to sit at the communal table, etc., but on the other hand the food is spot on.
Your Local is the first restaurant experience I have that I thoroughly enjoy after suffering through a spell of awful, will-never-be-featured-here restaurants. Thus, I fall upon the food like a starved savage and am already anticipating my return visit.
The Fried Egg Sandwich bewitches with its black cover, a bun tinted with squid ink. Beneath, it protects a treasure of assortments: bacon jam stained with coffee, blue cheese, tendrils of arugula, a fried egg. Disparate but divine, the ingredients aren’t tasted individually but rather, are working together in savory synergy. I munch on the Parmesan fries and mull over the medley before me.
Smoked Salmon Donburi seems like something I can get at my favorite Japanese restaurant but it’s imprinted with the ingeniousness of chefs Denny Antonino and Nicco Santos. Salmon, smoked twice for twice the bang, is tossed with two types of roe: mentaiko (fish) and ebiko (shrimp). It makes for a fascinating exercise in texture coupled with nuances of roast corn heightened by the shiitake mushrooms and black rice that the salmon reclines on.
On the other hand, the Lamb Rendang speaks to the mastery that both chefs have of Asian cuisine. Portrayed like a painting on silk screen, the canvas is dominated by the sheer darkness of black rice on a swath of thick soy sauce. Trails of herb pastes are shooting stars on the plate ending with a cluster of lamb rendang – its glory, an organic egg cooked in sous vide. Pierced, its glory is expansive, like my appetite.
Dessert is a treat, and I do mean that literally. Chef Denny sends over a portion of the Dark Chocolate Earl Grey Cheesecake Ice Cream. The name is a mouthful, the idea of this dessert takes a little getting used to, but one bite is all it takes. Hints of bergamot mingle in a demure chocolate ice cream that is as sticky – and addictive – as the milk crumbs strewn atop it.
Warm Walnut Pie at Potts Point Café
This is my favorite café of the moment, I love it here, as I detailed in a recent post. I also love almost all the desserts on the menu. The Butterscotch Budino is my star tied almost in dead heat with the Warm Walnut Pie. It’s difficult to find a good nut pie in Manila but this is a contender as is the Pecan Pie I mention below. This is not the ooey-gooey, stick to your teeth sap that defines most pies of this category. A barely-there base holds aloft a wealth of walnuts, fresh and lightly toasted. Raked in a glistening coat of caramel, it stuns in the afternoon light. Have this with a Flat White.
Pecan Pie by Wicked
Intriguing name and the display will certainly stop any dessert lover in his/her tracks. I’ve tried almost everything here and my favorite by far is the Pecan Pie. A small 4-incher is P245, not cheap since pecans certainly aren’t. But it’s worth every cent.
A crust that’s crumbly and buttery encases a filling that’s just this side of sweet and sticky enough that it teases the tongue. The pecans are a pleasure, roasted just ‘til their inherent flavors shine in sync with the brown sugar and vanilla. Big enough to share but a happy size for a single person to savor.
In photo from lower left and counterclockwise: Brookies (pass on this one); Peanut Butter Cupcake (nicely moist); macaron ice cream sandwich (uh, no); Pecan Pie (yes!)
Addresses of establishments mentioned in this article:
G/F Crescent Building, San Miguel Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig
02 570 3989
Open daily from 11am-2pm; 6-10pm.
The Flying Pan
148 Valero Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City 1227 Philippines
02 556 8100
Open daily from 6am onwards.
G/F Universal LMS Bldg, 106 Esteban St corner VA Rufino St., Legazpi Village, Makati
02 823 6206
Potts Point Café
2/F Veranda, Eastwood Mall, Libis, QC
02 426 1635
Wicked by Cravings
5/F East Wing, Shangri-La Plaza Mall
Shaw Blvd. cor. EDSA, Mandaluyong
0 2 654 0614