In a city where a new restaurant seems to open every week, it’s hard to keep track of every single one of them, and even harder to find the time to try them all.
There are a select few that one should probably make time for, and chef Rob Pengson’s newest venture with the Del Monte Group is definitely one of them.
Pengson, who is known for his creative take on dining (the upscale The Goose Station), revisits Italian flavors and techniques in his newly opened Olive Tree Kitchen and Bar, or OTKB as people have gotten used to calling it.
OTKB offers a casual dining experience where diners can expect home-style, hearty dishes, so come hungry and don’t expect any “light” meals here.
The antipasti bar is the star of the menu, to allow people to share small tasting portions of everything.
Although there are mains as well as pasta and pizza on the menu, each small bite of the antipasti packs a mean punch.
When I visited, one of the specials was bruschetta with uni butter and lardons. The pâté-like consistency of the uni was reminiscent of chicken liver, but the taste was minus the metallic taste liver sometimes has. The lardon lent an even creamier consistency and made the whole thing more savory.
The chefs are young, and are encouraged to be creative. Sous chef Jonvic Mangibin says when some of their cooks are almost done with their internships, they are given the opportunity to create a dish that will go on the specials board.
Now, the food and drinks. My dining buddies and I started off with the signature cocktails, Ginger Lychee Mojito, Velvet Corset and Manila Mule.
The Mojito was as refreshing as one would expect and the ginger flavor quite subtle. The vodka-based Manila Mule tasted like a slightly alcoholic calamansi juice, but be careful with this one as it is one of those seemingly harmless drinks that creep up on you when you’ve had one too much.
Lastly, the Velvet Corset, a cognac drink with a splash of lime, cranberry and almond syrup, was a pleasant surprise. Even those who aren’t fans of cognac will probably enjoy the bitter-fruity blend of this drink.
My favorite antipasto, hands down, is the Prosciutto and Taleggio Panino—Prosciutto crudo, taleggio plus seared mushrooms, cognac mustard and a sous vide egg to dip all the deliciousness in. Although on the small side, this little piece of ham-and-cheese heaven would be good as a meal in itself.
Fans of risotto will also enjoy the Saffron Arancini, golf ball-sized creamy bites with your choice of fennel sausage ragu or a vegetarian tomato-based sauce. I’m not usually a fan of arancini, especially those that are too big and just have too much rice in them; but these are just the right size, and the sauce with its hint of tanginess is a perfect savory match.
A standout pizza is the Apple, Gorgonzola and Walnut, which has dates, raisins, braised red cabbage and arugula. The sweetness of the apples, the tanginess of the cabbage and the usually acquired taste of blue cheese—everything just works once you take a bite.
If you want something visually confusing but makes perfect sense when you eat it, go for the Squid Ink pizza, with black sauce, anchovy fillets, ricotta, mussels and grilled squid.
Then there’s the Rib-Eye Bistecca. I was not prepared for the huge slab of beef that arrived at the table, served with eggs, triple-fried fries and a token salad, plus bone marrow and shallot-based sauces. This can be a shared meal for about three to four people, or one to two hungry ones.
The steak was cooked perfectly pink in the middle and beautifully marbled. The fries stayed crispy on the outside and nice and soft inside even when they weren’t piping hot anymore.
You won’t find a dessert menu, but the specials board will have the sweets available for that day. I was able to try a refreshing lemon cheesecake and a pineapple upside down cake.
But my favorite dessert was, in fact, a cocktail! If you want a nightcap after your meal, order the Chocolate Alexander. It’s served in a mug to look like hot chocolate, complete with torched marshmallows. The cognac-based drink also has chocolate and cream, making it a great alcoholic beverage cum dessert.
OTKB is at G/F B3 9th Ave., Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City. For reservations, call 8230366.