2019 is the year of contemporary Filipino cuisine.
Initially predicted to be an Italian takeover with the opening of Osteria Daniele, Elbert’s Pizzeria, Wildflour Italian and a mano, this year proved more to be a delicious celebration of Philippine flavors, thanks to the collective flair and creativity of our chefs.
Lampara set us off right when it opened in January. Run by chef-owners RJ Ramos and Alphonse Sotero, the restaurant has easily become top of mind for Pinoy food for visiting friends and family.
It is in hip and happening Poblacion, and the food remains true and familiar despite the unique interpretations.
There’s ubod in rice cups, which reminds us of fried lumpia, but the addition of longganisa and/or crab fat takes things to gourmet level. Same with the dish called Itum, which is similar to a Maranaw dish, where the dark color and smoky flavor of charred coconut takes centerstage.
Playing with traditional dishes may be tricky, but chefs Kevin Villarica, Thirdy Dolatre and Kevin Noa have managed to do them with much confidence and ease.
Their humble business started as private dining, with the three going to people’s kitchens to serve their version of Pinoy food. They eventually gave in to demand and opened shop.
Guests from as far as Makati would brave traffic and search for the nondescript spot, hidden behind a lugawan on Katipunan, just for a sampling of their fare.
They are rewarded accordingly with dishes like oxtail pares on toast, apahap mayonesa, and laing stones, as well as personal stories, like Kevin’s affinity for bonete, which he serves stuffed with juicy Aklan oyster, or deconstructed kare-kare that is based on his family recipe.
Fans of Cebuano chef Myke “Tatung” Sarthou drop everything to be among the first to sample his fare whenever he introduces a new restaurant.
That’s exactly what happened when he took over a rundown bungalow in Quezon City and opened Talisay with his brother Jomi. People came in droves to have their lumpiang ubod and balbacua fix.
He adds regional items to his repertoire, like the dinakdakan, pochero, duldog and lamb rendang inspired by the flavors of Mindanao.
Talisay Garden Café: 44 Maginhawa St., UP Village, Quezon City; tel. 0919-8776321
Backed by years of experience in notable restaurants like Purple Yam in New York, Matsunozushi in Tokyo and his own celebrated resto Tria Neo Bistro in Bogota, chef Stephan Duhesme, 30, came back home to serve his version of Filipino food using under-the-radar local ingredients and in-house fermented items at the now month-old Metiz.
A jiggly beef marrow flan comes capped with an annatto tuille and served with guava preserve, while pig’s cheeks and fermented jackfruit are sandwiched in a betel leaf.
His five-course-meal has two entrée options—aged catfish with duhat jam and chicken liver sauce, and/or poached chicken with coconut milk and clam sauce.
Chef Rob Pengson joined the Poblacion community midyear when he opened Beso Beso. But just months after, he left the area and moved to Chino Roces Avenue, on the second floor of a small-rise hidden behind a dialysis center.
The place is noticeably bigger, and the kitchen, a lot more spacious, allowing him and his band of chefs to move and play around more.
This move benefited them a lot and the inspired plates are proof of that.
Their sutokil is a seafood three-biter with a pair of mussels getting the sugba treatment, the clam becomes tola, and the oyster kilaw.
Relleno comes as a stuffed half crab with salted egg and crab fat aburi.
Best Beso: 2/F, Room 101-A Aleanza Institute of Arts, Autometics Center, 2257 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati; tel. 0917-1792562
Linamnam Private Dining
It does not have air-conditioned rooms or Instagram-worthy interiors or stellar service. You might even come out smelling like food. Still, you can expect a memorable dining experience with Don Patrick Baldosano’s interesting marriage of flavors, use of under-appreciated local ingredients, and infectious passion for Filipino food at his Linamnam Private Dining.
Instead of doing internship in restaurants (though he did spend hours under Jordy Navarra and Mikel Zaguirre), the talented 21-year-old opted to experiment at home and learn from his own mistakes.
He would spend hours reading up on regional food, visiting different markets to talk to vendors about their produce, and bringing them home to play around with. It’s all in preparation for the Young Talents Escoffier competition next year.
He opened the backyard to his family’s home in Parañaque and welcomed guests to indulge in his 16-course meal.
The venue may lack the luxuries of a typical private dining place, but the chef’s drive and inspiring food are more than enough to make you forget those.
He has a dish that beautifully marries two regional dishes—tiyula itum and Bicol express, a Cadiz fresh scallop appetizer with coconut milk that’s been season with guinamos, and a dry bulalo that comes with a creamy Auro chocolate sauce.
His charcuterie, beef cheeks brined and smoked, takes a week to prepare, and is simply paired with a mustardy sauce.
Like his beverages, which he himself concocts and mixes, his desserts are well thought of, like his take on the maja blanca, corn pudding with Mindanao brown sugar and cacao nibs, and a chocolate shooter with homemade pili nut butter.
Baldosano is a one-man team, with only a single help who does the bussing. I’ve dined at Linamnam twice and I left both times excited to discover what other tricks this promising chef has up his sleeves.
Linamnam: Greenvale 2, Marcelo Green Village, Parañaque; tel. 0917-5730246