Giant swordfish, fresh (not frozen) pork, organic veggies and Echiré butter at Marketplace by Rustan’s | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Fever and chills, catarrh and other ills kept me in bed for most of the week.


When I ventured forth to the neighborhood supermarket, I found that the stodgy, old establishment has been replaced by “Marketplace by Rustan’s”—signaling the buy-in and ongoing transformation of Rustan’s Supermarket by the group that operates Wellcome in Hong Kong and Jason’s in Singapore.


The renovation and rebranding of one high-end supermarket aren’t necessarily newsworthy, unless they signal things to come. This one just might be; and if it takes a pan-Asian corporation with teams of rotund men with clipboards to show us how it’s done, so be it.


I love the tumultuous bustle of the traditional wet market, but I could do without stepping in puddles of blood and fish scales and waking up at ungodly hours to buy meat before it sits for hours on an unrefrigerated slab.


We’ve never really had good supermarkets. They may occupy a niche of convenience, good for apartment dwellers or when one has unexpectedly run out of sugar, but most of the time supermarkets tend to fall between two stools: For most basic necessities, the wet market is cheaper and better; and for imported stuff, the delis and S&R are also cheaper and more expansive.


For instance, most people who live near Power Plant Mall don’t really buy their food supplies there because the Guadalupe market and S&R are just a few minutes away.


Going upscale


The solution that Marketplace by Rustan’s at Power Plant seems to envision is to go upscale. The cheese section is luxuriant and mouth-watering, and there are little wooden pots of Vacherin Mont d’Or ripening salaciously under their veil of mold.


I regretted going upstairs to buy a magazine, because when I went down to get cheese, they were gone. The cheesemonger told me that the staff had stocked two dozens, but sold all of them.


Marketplace also has boudin noir, one of the best French appellation protegée butters in a woven wooden pot; oysters flown in from the Atlantic coast; and real crème fraîche.


Which only goes to show what a hypocrite I am about eating local food and sourcing environmentally friendly ingredients. I turn up my nose at Doritos and cornflakes, but wave a French blood sausage at me and I turn into a quivering Marcos-era consumer who will do anything for “imported.”




How sustainable is this, though? I mean the grandiose fish displays with a giant swordfish glaring balefully at me while I looked through lobsters and scallops, and finally decided on a perfectly shaped cut of Norwegian salmon to cook in parcels with buma-shimeji mushrooms and a slab of butter.


I mean local pork that’s actually fresh, not frozen. Or organic vegetables at eye-watering prices. Or the presence of Waitrose, which one friend described as “Third-World junk being sold back to the Third World at First-World prices.” (I don’t entirely agree with this assessment.)


L’Artizan’s kiosk of satisfying bread at reasonable prices has disappeared, presumably in deference to the (anticipated) arrival of Eric Kayser, who is being trumpeted as a croissant expert. I’m fairly indifferent to the croissant, but his main website credits him as being an artisan baker who uses natural leaven, which I’m far more interested in.


Also gone is the extensive Japanese section with lots of funky instant noodles that seemed to keep alive the lonely salarymen of Rockwell, and me.


I have no claims to knowing anything about the clever cog work that goes behind running a supermarket. But I do know that Marketplace cannot survive on marketing alone, because when it comes to food, every Pinoy is a market maven.


I also know what I would like as a consumer: that aside from fancy cheeses, the everyday fresh produce, especially the meat, has to be really fresh; fruits and vegetables have to be local and seasonal (as opposed to apples and pears wrapped in clingfilm); and that no one will buy basic goods at inflated prices.


If you can get me into the habit of buying my basic necessities in the supermarket on a regular basis, then I’d find myself piqued to try a little luxury every week, which would be interesting for me and profitable for the owners.


But all that is market speculation for the moment. In the meantime, Echiré butter has 84 percent butterfat and is made from a secret mixture of slightly fermented and fresh cream, and a taste of the transcendent.


Marketplace is at LG/F, Power Plant Mall, Rockwell, Makati City

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