Stephan Duhesme showcases the breadth of his talent with Automat | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Balé : Pampanga’s most happening nonrestaurant

Automat, the new “kid” to join the Karrivin block, was supposed to be Metiz, admits owner and chef Stephan Duhesme. “When Metiz started in 2019, it was supposed to be like this. And then the pandemic happened, which pushed us to offer cuisine with a better experience since it was what people were after. Automat allows us to start off where Metiz stopped being Metiz.”

By mere sight and vibe alone, the two have stark differences. Though both have an open kitchen, the new restaurant has customers dining with a closer proximity to the chefs, giving them a front row view of all the action. Automat is a lot brighter too, with fiery colors warming up the space, and the speakers are blasting rock and roll music, exactly the opposite of Metiz’s more hushed hymns. As for the food, it might have taken some time before the menu took shape. There are certain nuances that hint at their celebrated tasting menu—the form is similar (just slightly bigger portions at the new joint) and the flavor combinations still surprisingly clever. But as Duhesme points out, they’re not the same.

“We really have to be in the space to really define something,” he says, explaining why the food came last in the process. “I spent a lot of nights with Arlo Gregorio just discussing how we want the restaurant. We needed to see the kitchen and see its capacity and all that.”

Essentially Filipino

The food is still essentially Filipino but a little more unrestricted. The dishes are more meat-heavy, as opposed to Metiz’s mostly vegetable and seafood lineup. Also, they’re more open to including imported products in their inventory. “Now, I’m using olive oil. We’re okay using chorizo from Spain. For meats, I’m not against using pork or beef from abroad,” says Tatler Dining’s 2024 chef of the year. “We want to play with stuff that people in the city love—offals, the long braises, the stews, the Spanish and Western influences. So it’s really contemporary Manila cuisine.”

burong lentils.
Burong lentils.

The menu involves a choose-your-own kind of adventure as diners are asked to customize their set. There’s a salad composed of singkamas, kamatis and alugbati seasoned with a trio of sauces: salted egg yolk emulsion, burnt eggplant and peanut dressing. It came with a bowl of burong lentils and chopped shrimp kinilaw and fried vegetables akin to okoy but presented rather loosely. The tikoy palabok, rice cakes similar to tteokbokki cloaked by palabok sauce, fermented cabbage foam and a mound of Appenzeller cheese, makes for a definitely satisfying course, just as much as the pan de sal and kesong puti, whipped white cheese with mustasa pesto and sobrasada longganisa served with warm duck fat bread, which might not seem filling but will prove otherwise.

baby squid with ubod puree.
Baby squid with ubod puree.

The thrice-cooked tadyang (braised, fried then braised again) and the baby squid with ubod purée and fresh avocados are some of the options for mains. Either choice comes with sawsawan and unlimited servings of rice and soup. Whatever you pick between the two, you’ll be reminded just how savvy the Metiz chefs are, coming up with a bevy of components and flavors that might sound dubious in print but surely not in taste. It’s impressive to note that they can come up with the same level of proficiency given their comparatively limited kitchen and storage. The space may be restricted, but their culinary capacities aren’t.

It might have taken time for their original restaurant concept to come to life. But given the way it’s panning out, Automat is definitely worth the wait. INQAutomat officially opens to the public on June 4. It is located at Karrivin Plaza, second floor, building A, 2316 Chino Roces Ave, Extension, Makati.

Follow the author @fooddudeph in Instagram.

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