Through the storm, friends (of Barcino fame) open resto–and it’s packing them inBy Stef Cabal |Philippine Daily Inquirer
Experts advise that one should never do business with family or friends, if one wants friendship and kinship to last. However, childhood friends Dani Aliaga and Sergi Rostoll, who founded the successful Barcino, a Spanish wine and tapas bar, belie that truism.
After selling their business shares at Barcino, the Catalonian buddies partnered with Uri Singla, another childhood friend, to venture into another restaurant concept. The result is Las Flores, a place that showcases contemporary Spanish cuisine with Catalan and Mediterranean influences.
While the whole of Manila was hunkering under tropical storm “Gener” and signal 1 already raised up north, the partners were busy preparing for the opening of their restaurant the next day. “VERY soft opening tomorrow,” they said on their Facebook page.
When Monday night came, eight tables were booked. The second night, it was double that number, with serious foodies coming in, like Paco Magsaysay and Cyrene dela Rosa of the Tuesday Group, a foodie club that checks out the latest restaurants in the metro.
The third and fourth nights saw a steady stream of personalities and foodies, including restaurateur Malu Gamboa, designer Rajo Laurel’s group, actress Solenn Heusaff and friends, Lifestyle Asia’s Cheryl Tiu, Metro Society’s Philip Cu-Unjieng and designer Rosanna Ocampo-Rodriguez and friends.
On Saturday night, the last day of Las Flores’ trial week, the 164-sq m space was crowded with Manila’s social elite, no matter the howling winds and torrential rains. Twitter and Instagram were flooded with shots of the food and the cocktails concocted by Italian mixologist Giancarlo Mancino of GiancarloBar.
“The first week has been amazing, and the feedback from the clients, fantastic and very positive,” says Aliaga. “It’s been a mix of hard work, sleepless nights and fun.”
Singla is Las Flores’ main man and general manager, since Rostoll and Aliaga have day jobs—Aliaga with Fuego Hotels and Rostoll with Gonzalez Byass. But each brings his expertise to the table.
Las Flores’ vibrant interiors, created by Anton Barretto, offers mix-matched furnishings, with industrial lamps and wrought-iron chandeliers. An open-air dining area in the terrace can seat 40.
A small bar has a colorful mosaic tile countertop and a bar shelf glistening with spirits and various cocktail paraphernalia, such as the traditional Moscow mule copper vessel, Japanese baron classic golden shakers and vintage glassware.
For lunch or dinner, traditional Catalan dishes are on the menu, like paella de marisco (seafood paella), which Rostoll says is “the best seafood paella in Manila… You taste the paella in Barcelona and you taste it here, it’s the same.”
Variations on this dish include the Paella Negra and the vegetable risotto.
The resto flew in two chefs to oversee the kitchen—Gerard Villarrubia from Barcelona, who came from the Adilana Group of Restaurants, and Daniel Vazquez from Galicia, who used to work in San Sebastian, known to have the most number of Michelin-star restaurants per square meter in the world.
Contemporary dishes they’ve whipped up include the tuna tartare mixed with avocado and tomato jam, and the Patatas Bravas made of fried potatoes in spicy sauce.
Botifarra Catalana is pork sausage with caramelized onions and shiitake mushrooms on a bed of baked potatoes, all drizzled with olive oil.
Other must-tries: gambas al ajillo (garlic fried shrimps); croquetas de chorizo, a homemade Catalan recipe; and Mallorquin Sobrasada, sandwich with pork spread and melted mozzarella, a recipe from the Balearic Islands.
Las Flores has an arresting take on the cheesecake—its version is mixed with berries, has a crunchy crust and is served in martini glass.
Equally delicious is the Chocolatissimo hot chocolate coolant (pudding), served with vanilla ice cream.
“All ingredients are fresh and handpicked from the market. We always make sure we serve the best at a decent price,” Rostoll says.
Las Flores also offers about 30 wine selections.
“Meals are better with wines,” says Rostoll. “We want our friends and customers to enjoy the meal with wines, so we’ve drawn up the wine list carefully.”
“Filipinos are very similar when it comes to our [Spanish] culture,” says Aliaga. That is why he thinks the new restaurant will click with Filipino diners. “We both enjoy good food and the company of good friends. We just like to laugh, drink, eat and hear nice music. We are the same.”
Las Flores is at G/F, One McKinley Place, 25th St., Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; tel. 5522815; www.lasflores.ph