It has been open only half a year but Rambla at Joya Building in Rockwell has already changed its menu four times. Despite this—or maybe because of this—it continues to lure diners who are keen to try the Barcelona fare prepared by its executive chef, Pepe Lopez.
It certainly helps that the owners who check on things are easy on the eye.
Since Rambla opened, owners Uri Singla, Sergi Rostoll and Dani Aliaga have had to divide their time between their new baby and Las Flores, the Spanish bar at The Fort that mainly serves tapas and cocktails.
Singla said their clients at Las Flores and Rambla are different from one another.
“At Las Flores, we attract the late-night crowd. These are people who hop from one bar to another; they have a drink and a few tapas before transferring to another bar. Those who come to Rambla linger over their lunch or dinner, although there are turnovers most nights.”
Singla clarified that the changes they made in the menu were minimal.
“Some slow-moving items were replaced with dishes we hoped would catch the diners’ attention,” he said.
Judging by the full house last Tuesday afternoon, they seem to be doing something right.
That afternoon, Lopez prepared a 10-course meal that highlighted some of the items Barcelona food is known for, namely pork and seafood. We started with a crisp piece of bread—listed as an “air baguette”—piled with thinly sliced Iberian ham and served on top of a glass of gazpacho.
This was followed by slices of Manchego cheese, toast and homemade strawberry and mango jams. The solitary spherical olive served on a Chinese soup spoon looked like an olive but was more than that. It had been pitted, chopped up, flavored and re-formed, but once your teeth pierced the gelatinous membrane, there was this burst of sourness and saltiness with a bit of sweetness thrown in.
More appetizers followed, including a foie gras mousse with coffee-Bailey’s foam that was decadent and would have been perfect with more of the house bread; meaty prawns with garlicky shiitake mushrooms; and veal cheeks wonton served in a bamboo steamer.
This appropriation of decidedly Asian kitchen implements like the Chinese soup spoon, bamboo steamer and a hot pot for the Balearic seafood rice points at a fusion of cultures. Executive chef Lopez, however, said he used these implements only because it was very difficult to find the Spanish dishes and platters he was more comfortable using.
“I came up with the dishes in the menu after seeing what was available locally. There really was no conscious effort to do fusion,” Lopez said.
Still, the main dish of Iberian pork belly with caramelized onions and a chutney of apples and pears reminded my dining companion of pork asado
although served differently and with more dash.
“The food of Barcelona is healthy because we cook using only olive oil. It is also rich in fish and seafood, not so much heavy stews,” owner Singla said.
“I think the reason why Las Flores and Rambla are doing well is because Filipinos are very familiar with Spanish food given our history. The tastes and flavors are familiar.”
To cap the meal that lasted well into the afternoon, we sampled two desserts: churros with hot chocolate and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side, and xuxo (chucho), a popular pastry from Barcelona filled with orange-flavored cream.
Rambla is at G/F, Joya Bldg., Joya Drive, Rockwell, Makati; tel. 8236468