Kalel Demetrio is on to something big. After serving as consultant for bars and restaurants in Cebu, Bicol, Bacolod, Palawan and Manila, he opened his own watering hole in hip and happening Poblacion, Makati.
On the second floor of a new building at the corner of Alfonso and Fermina streets, Agimat takes pride in being a foraging bar that highlights the produce of different provinces—its owner’s longtime advocacy.
“The more I explore, the more our land unravels itself to me,” Demetrio said. “I see our country’s geographical potential by studying other countries’ produce and what they supply globally. Considering that we are located in one of the best equatorial spots in the world, we have the capacity to grow great produce. I dedicate my skills and passion to marrying the two.”
It’s a concept that has been simmering in Demetrio’s mind but waiting for the right time and team.
“The group of Alamat (another bar in Poblacion) wanted to have a cocktail bar. They asked me what my dream bar was and they loved my idea. Like them, I wasn’t so much in it for the profit, but more for the passion.”
Both groups planned and established the bar—his partners Paolo Sayo and Cassie Laus focused on the physical space and operations, and Demetrio, with Niño Laus, the menu.
Spotlight on Batangas
Early this month, they finally opened the bar counterpart of a farm-to-table restaurant.
Agimat puts Batangas on the spotlight. Demetrio went around the city, talked to the locals, and brought home a load of ingredients he got to play with in his lab: Blue peas and hibiscus from Malvar, sampinit from Cuenca, as well as cacao, barako coffee, makabuhay, wild mulberries and honey.
To process these, he equipped his playground with a compact centrifuge and an evaporator to get extracts, kegerator to make tonic water, and a sous vide machine to preserve and prolong the shelf life of his fresh items.
“I have to beat the season, so I’m forced to ferment the ingredients so they can be used for a long time,” Demetrio said. He’s in the process of turning sugar cane into vinegar, and making an array of bitters and shrubs using papaya, tomatoes, and a variety of locally grown herbs and chilies.
To complement his libations, chef Laus produced bites that not only match the cocktails, but also make use of ingredients sourced in Batangas, like the maliputo fish, which he turned into a buro; kuhol with coconut and pumpkin puree; and tawilis with kesong puti and pipinito.
Demetrio’s beverage menu is an ode to the natural elements. Perlas ng Silanganan is made of gin, apple kalingag liquor, white rum and mango basil shrub; Balaraw ng Apoy mixes a 7-year-old rum with hibiscus and toasted peanuts; a drink composed of basi, Swabeng Delubyo is hot papaya lemongrass liquor and hibiscus; and Kontra Lamang Lupa uses kalabasa rum, bourbon and local lemon.
In print, they seem complicated and need editing; but in taste, they’re pretty smooth and make sense. Demetrio said he gets inspiration from his travels, and the rich history and culture of the land. But, most of all, from the opportunity to alleviate the lives of producers and farmers.
“I want to highlight the known and unknown ingredients in the Philippines,” he said. “Kasi ang dami. It has become my advocacy to create a demand that will benefit the farmers and communities.”–CONTRIBUTED
Agimat Foraging Bar is at 2/F, 5972 Alfonso corner Fermina Sts, Barangay Poblacion, Makati.