Monday, March 19, 2018
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Excellent oyster ‘sisig’–and that’s just for starters

/ 07:25 AM November 23, 2017

The Common Table is a gastropub, and so those who don’t drink are missing out on half the fun.

There are those who have spent most of their life having healthy, loving relationships with their bodies
—and then there are people like me, for whom the relationship has always been one that is fraught and antagonistic.

I’ve always tended to think of my body as an unreliable vessel, one that would betray me when I needed it most; and admittedly, I’ve treated it in a cavalier manner as well, allowing it to run to seed, pumping it full of things it shouldn’t contain, and not taking it in at routine service intervals.

The body puts up with this sort of abuse well in one’s 20s, but after 40 years it demands a little more respect. I don’t feel betrayed by it, because I’ve never expected very much from it.


Physical problems

But despite my low expectations, the past few months has been a series of minor but annoying physical problems not just for myself but for my family and close friends: pneumonia, viral infections, coughs, migraines and strange lingering fevers. All of this is in addition to my love of sharp objects and my tendency to use them on myself: while slicing onions, I managed to take off a large chunk of my nail and the flesh underneath it; fortunately, I was making spaghetti sauce, which was red anyway.

It doesn’t matter how clean your house is, because Metro Manila is a cesspool. It’s not just the pollution and the garbage on the streets, but the incredible density of people crammed into tiny spaces who never wash their hands, and sneeze like a nebulizer in confined spaces.

It was my wife who pointed out that most men (and women) simply saunter out of bathrooms and then proceed to double-dip their french fries and such. I speculated that this was because in most public restrooms, you fear your hands will get dirtier if you actually try and wash them with icky taps and no soap—and then there’s the dreaded slimy door handle, so you have to wait until someone comes in and then do complex maneuvers with your knees to slip out without touching anything.

Basic hygiene

I know this all sounds a bit Howard Hughes, but considering that almost everyone I know has been sick to some degree or other this past month, I feel that we should do what we can to minimize the silly small stuff that can be avoided by basic hygiene—
because the big stuff, like cancer and Alzheimer’s, are coming whether we like it or not.


After an abortive few weeks, I’ve finally managed to round up some friends to review something new. One restaurant that came well recommended was The Common Table in Salcedo Village. It’s in the space that used to be Le Bistro Vert, and perhaps
—my recollection of the space is a little hazy—Capone’s, from another era.


In a way it’s the perfect Salcedo tucked-away restaurant; but restaurateurs are a superstitious lot, and they shy away from a space that has had too many closures and allow it to become a BDO or Chinabank, which seems to be what almost every space is turning into these days.

The place is a gastropub, and so those who don’t drink are missing out on half the fun. There’s an entire menu devoted to drinks, and whisky bottles line the walls. The food menu is pretty eclectic, but everything here falls into the general category of what people who like to eat like to eat.

It’s the exact opposite of diet food, or indeed, food that an ailing tummy should have, so it’s a good thing we came here this week and not the week before. We had a baked brie (there’s the option of a fried brie, which we thought might be just a bit over the top), “pull-apart” bread liberally sprinkled with cheese and herbs, and oyster sisig, which I was at first mocking but turned out to be the best dish of the evening. And that’s just the appetizers.

Most of the mains are served as rice bowls, or on a bed of potato fries, which I thought was a very good way of solving the problem of dishing out the rice. No matter how much you mold it or decorate it with sprigs of parsley, a heap of rice will always look like one. But rice bowls are true to themselves, and with a nice runny egg and some piquancy in the form of pickles or heat in the form of sambal sauce, they’re the one-dish meals you’ve been looking for, a kind of adult arroz a la cubana.

The pork was buttery soft, wagyu cubes (I don’t really mind them, though some people have strong feelings against wagyu cubes) were appropriately unctuous, and the oyster sisig was a standout.

Firmer ground

A few problems: the poutine was fairly dry, so we asked the kitchen to prepare some extra gravy, which arrived as a tiny ramekin of purple slurry. It didn’t help the poutine much.

Everything takes a little long to arrive, which is in a way a good sign that they aren’t just slamming things in a microwave, but the kitchen was deep in the weeds by the time we ordered our dessert—and the place wasn’t even at full capacity. And something had gone wrong with the credit card machine, which was only explained to me when I put down my card; this is the sort of thing you tell guests before they start eating, if possible.

But then, as I mentioned earlier, every other space is a BDO these days, so I was able to find a cashpoint within a hundred meters.

It was only much later that I discovered that Ian Padilla is behind The Common Table. I’ve reviewed Padilla in the past, both favorably and unfavorably, and I’m happy to report that, with this establishment, he’s on much firmer ground.

The restaurant needs to work on its service and the pace of its kitchen, but on the whole this is a fine addition to the Makati dining scene. And I’m sorry for making fun of the oyster sisig—I’ll be back for more, actually. —CONTRIBUTED

The Common Table, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City. Call 5410185.

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