Kusina Moderne in Poblacion, Makati, is easy to miss as it’s on a one-way street leading to the action on Makati Avenue. Its windows are braced by a black metal grid and inside, poured concrete floors and stark pendant lamps give the space an industrial feel.
The dining area consists of wood-top tables and matching chairs. Distressed wooden planks make up a wall set at an angle near the entrance—an effort to add warmth to the room.
Marketing manager and one of three owners, Albert Uy, said that he had been looking for such a space for six years now. “We had always wanted to open our own restaurant so I looked all over Makati and Kapitolyo in Pasig.”
His business partners, cousins Irell Perez who handles the finances and chef Carlo Gunio, finally realized this dream when they opened Kusina Moderne last May.
As the restaurant’s name suggests, the food is Filipino but prepared using French cooking techniques.
Before settling down in the Philippines, Gunio was a chef in the French Embassy in the US. He studied at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa where he spent the first year studying savory dishes and the second one focusing on pastry.
“I set goals for myself but once I meet them, I set newer ones,” Gunio told Lifestyle. When he left his post at the French Embassy, he was the kitchen’s pastry chef.
There are a few desserts on Kusina Moderne’s one-page menu including a tasty cheesecake flan set on a Marie biscuit.
Two weeks ago, we sampled several items, starting with the best-selling Mechado Tacos made with braised beef mechado, avocado, sour cream, cilantro, calamansi and pickled red onion “to cut through the richness.” Instead of using hard taco shell, he fries Chinese wonton wrappers for that longed-for crunch and texture.
Pork Binagoongan is a deconstructed dish, its pork “cooked for hours until fork-tender,” the salty sauce served separately.
The chef is partial to sour elements such as the cherry tomato confit and green mango salad he paired with the Binagoongan.
For his Pan-seared Tanigue —a favorite of female diners—he had his own take on bulanglang (boiled vegetable soup) using malunggay, papaya, carrot, Baguio beans, charred green onions and confit tomatoes.
The European dish Steak Frites is renamed Bistek and Frites, made with top blade steak garnished with fried onions and garlic. Each order comes with a mound of fries and side salad.
Gunio spent his formative years in the US and grew up eating and loving Filipino food. “My mom cooked Pinoy food at home like adobo and mechado but my favorite dish is chicken tinola.”
It’s not yet on the menu but as Uy pointed out, they intend to have new items every six months. And hopefully an expanded dessert selection that will showcase Gunio’s forte in pastry.