I have some friends that I call “divers” – not those who sport scuba gear and submerge themselves into the sea; rather, those who love eating in dives. There are dive bars and there are dive restaurants, cheap little places that are far from fancy but serve good, cheap food; in other words, a hole in the wall. Restaurants in this category include Countryside, Soms, Munchen near Ermita, Chariya’s (now closed), and Top Spice, otherwise known as the no-name Hunan restaurant behind Rockwell. One woman’s dive might be another man’s pricey place but dives these places are to me.
My latest dive discovery would make my diver friends happy, and is a contradiction of sorts on several levels. First, it’s spitting distance from Makati’s seedy underbelly, P. Burgos and its environs, but the restaurant’s interiors belie that fact. Secondly, its name: Combos Bread. It sounds like a bakery and indeed, its signage reads Combos Bread Company Bakery & Café but the neon sign flashing “Turkish Restaurant” is really more apt.
The owner, Mehmet Temizyurek, is a Turkish man who has called Manila home for six years after several spent in Singapore as an expat. Lean and lithe, he’s very amiable and in between orders (he does almost all the cooking), often sits outside his restaurant waiting for the next customer. He has over 25 years’ experience in making bread which might be why his 10 month-old restaurant is named so.
Turkish deli products to eat, hookahs to smoke (P250/P350)
The open air but covered space is very pleasant – as I mention, it’s not what I expect to find in this neighborhood. Wicker table sets and chairs, solidly made and of very good quality furnish the dining room; there are vases of fresh flowers on almost every surface. Paintings adorn the painted-over cement walls, renderings of bucolic life in the Philippines, and ceiling fans and lights are strategically positioned. There’s a more private space at back but for groups, there’s a long table nearer the front where an LCD tv holds court.
There’s Mehmet in the yellow shirt, making my dinner.
The open kitchen is impressive – in this neighborhood or anywhere else. A symphony of stainless steel, the high-end equipment boasts of ovens and high-powered burners, and of course the glass chillers. It’s a veritable deli of Turkish delights, everything from fig preserves, juices, yogurt, and more. Other shelves hold packs of bulgur grains with hookah pipes draped lazily over them, and alcohol, lots and lots of alcohol, and the better bottles too. Think: Jack Daniel’s, Johnnie Walker Black Label, and J&B.
Turkish cuisine has influences from Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan Cuisines. It’s also very regional, with each area boasting its own specialties. Combos Bread offers dishes from the Southeast of Turkey, thus kebabs and baklavas. The menu is very limited which is fine. The main components used here are chopped up beef, sliced chicken, and a duo of soups. The entire menu is built on permutations of the first two so if you order everything on the menu – a possibility if you are four or more – dishes will taste the same but look different.
Mehmet is quick to recommend the Chicken Kebab Pasta With Butter (P200), a surprise since I expect him to steer us straight to the kebabs. It’s my first time to see spiralini, pasta spirals that remind me of bed springs or the slinkies I used to play with as a kid. Slippery with butter and touched with the tang of yogurt, the grilled chicken strips play hide and seek with parsley and paprika. It’s a satisfying dish made even more so when I slurp the spiralini. Once you order any kebab dish, one of Mehmet’s staff members will hie to the front where a red grill prominently hangs about. It seems wrong to be here and not order kebabs so don’t miss this – have the beef or chicken kebabs with either bread or rice.
If you like heat, ask for these.
A very popular dish in Turkey is the Iskender Kebap (P500), which is traditionally made with lamb. Here, slices of beef sit atop a bed of diced bread slathered with a mild tomato sauce touched with just a bit of butter. The bread is moistened by the beef which possesses a very robust, beefy flavor. It’s like eating a very, very juicy hamburger made even better by smearing globs of the yogurt that come on the side. (Yogurt is quite the staple in the Turkish diet and it goes very well with these dishes). If you like heat, as I do, ask for the bottles of Turkish pickled peppers and chili sauce. They escalate the excitement of this dish to fiery levels. “… is good enough for the two of you,” Mehmet tells us and it is, but we order more.
The Shawarma Sandwich (P250) uses the same beef as in the Iskender Kebap ensconced in the bread that Mehmet calls his baguette. More like a panini really and cooked in a panini grill, the slices of fresh tomato are a refreshing counterpoint to the exceptional yogurt-garlic sauce that comes on the side.
At Combos Bread, all meals come with raisin juice or a softdrink of choice, served in those tiny, vintage 8-ounce bottles. The staff seems to change every time I come here and thus, they’re not very knowledgeable about the menu right off the bat, but they’re helpful and that’s what’s important. I like coming here in the early evening when it’s cooler and before the heavy drinkers take over. I’ve never tried the baklava (it’s displayed in the back) but I intend to soon, as well as the Turkish coffee. I also always buy some of the bread to take home, whether it’s a baguette, buns, or loaves. It’s the same bread really – chewy crust and soft crumb – just different shapes and they make wonderful sandwiches.
5911-B Matilde Street
Barangay Poblacion, Makati
Coming from Rockwell and headed toward Kalayaan, go straight. You’ll pass Grilla (the same street Soms is on) and a chuckle-inducing salon named Be Beautiful For Him. Combos Bread is on the next block. Park on Kalayaan Avenue or in front of Combos Bread, although as of this writing, Matilde Street was being re-paved.
(02) 553 3371
firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Open Mondays-Sundays, 1pm-1 am