Written by: Nastasha Verayo De Villa
Past its glossy facade, the restaurant’s muted lights, sophisticated interiors and soft ambient music immediately envelop guests in a sort of intimacy that’s hard to come by these days.
Taking its cue from the original in Roppongi, there are no excesses to be found in Ruby Jack’s Steakhouse and Bar’s new location at The Shops Ayala Triangle Gardens (ATG) in Makati City. No unnecessary flourishes or fripperies or frills, no distracting decorations or gaudy gimmickry; their tables even devoid of the usual floral arrangements. The extravagance lies in the artful precision with which everything has been tastefully selected to electrify the senses even while cloaked in sophisticated simplicity—and that extends to their food.
What sets Ruby Jack’s apart from other local steak places is its Japanese heritage, says marketing director Lorent Adrias. But it won’t be found in traces of Orientalia. Instead, it becomes apparent in the close attention to detail given to every aspect of the restaurant.
The décor is kept minimalist, with every element deliberately handpicked to create a classy yet welcoming feel. The private dining area in the 60-seater space is tucked away on the other side of the floor-to-ceiling wine wall displaying bottles upon bottles of top-notch Old World and New World vino. The bar made of onyx disperses light in a way that invites guests to chill and chat in conspiratorial discourse.
It took much convincing for owner and founder Australian Matthew Crabbe, one of the most celebrated chefs in Japan, to branch out his “baby” outside the one in Tokyo. His dedication to precision and perfection is such that despite multiple offers, he had refused for the longest time to put up a Ruby Jack’s in another location that he could not personally visit every day, like he does in Tokyo.
Crabbe sought out the best meats before picking what to serve in the lone Ruby Jack’s in the entire Japan to create his carefully curated menu. So with the expansion to Manila (originally in City of Dreams, which closed recently to make way for the ATG branch), he took months prior to opening to prepare the menu, making multiple personal early-morning visits to public markets to hunt down and inspect choice raw ingredients that would complement his existing recipes. He also closely trained and mentored the chefs in the Philippine branch, and even left his trusted sous chef in charge of the kitchen.
“Everything that goes on the table has been screened and determined by Matthew,” operations director Erwin Catihanan said. According to him, all their steaks are imported from various countries—mostly Australia and Japan—and have gone through Crabbe’s strict scrutiny. Even the condiments, which are also mostly imported, have been carefully selected by Crabbe.
“The dishes are generally inspired by how Japanese people prepare their dishes: very straightforward, very quality for the ingredient more than anything else,” Catihanan said. “You wouldn’t see items in our menu that are too elaborate. And you wouldn’t see us serving steaks that are swimming in butter. ”
“The manner in which steaks are made in Ruby Jack’s has been perfected by the simplicity of how Matthew wants to highlight the flavor of the entire steak,” he added, explaining that they want the intrinsic quality of the ingredient to shine through. And why not? After all, they don’t serve anything below prime.
Their premier steak, which is a dry-aged John Dee prime rib, is aged in-house for at least 21 days, Catihanan said. They also have an A5 Sanga Wagyu steak, which is like eating butter that tastes like meat. And their most showcased steak, the tomahawk, is a study in balance of rich and robust flavors.
But the menu—purposely kept short (even with the addition of items exclusive to Ruby Jack’s ATG, including cocktails specially created by founding partners Nathan Smith and Edward Baffoe) to keep everything impeccable—doesn’t only highlight its meats. Other items are equally exquisite: the Caesar salad is blanketed in dressing and Parmesan cheese; the Miyagi oysters are fresh, plump and juicy, and only mildly briny; and they probably serve one of the biggest slices of foie gras in the country.
The dessert is likewise one for the books: Their ice cream and gelato in a variety of excitingly inventive and seasonal flavors are made every day, just like their breads. Rosemary ice cream pairs delightfully with Crabbe’s famous double-baked cheesecake; and the half-baked cookie with peanut butter ice cream has a surprisingly pleasant saltiness mixing in with the sweet. At Ruby Jack’s, there’s always something to look forward to.