F&B briefs: Alma Poblacion, A Mano weekend brunch, and more | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

F&B briefs: Alma in Poblacion, A Mano weekend brunch, and more

Manila stays on course to becoming an ideal food city with Siargao-driven Spanish food, Italian weekend brunches, Asian grill favorites, and Filipino chocolates

Luis Martinez bares more of his soul with Alma Poblacion

Luis Martinez’s talent is unquestionable. After successfully opening his soulful Siargao restaurant Alma in 2020 and venturing into the capital with Terraza Martinez in BGC in 2022, the Valencian chef makes a comeback with the latest iteration of Alma—this time in the heart of Poblacion. 

He seems to be hitting his strides right now with the original beachside attraction becoming an urban addition that’s delighting Manileños. But like any good character arc, you can take Alma away from the beach but you can’t take away its Mediterranean-Spanish spirit. Or Martinez’s refined and inherently fun recipes in a spectacular second-floor location that lights up dinners.

Bright interiors of Alma Poblacion
Bright interiors of Alma Poblacion

A quick glance at the relatively succinct menu shows that at Alma Poblacion, gastronomic hedonism is the order of the night. Though littered with beloved hot and cold tapas (like the refreshing chicken and mango salad and gorgonzola and Parmesan-stuffed croquetas), references to Spanish cuisine, and a solid selection of wines and cocktails, Martinez’s menu embraces a graphic new era of ambitious styles.

On the roasted charcoal octopus, he toys with the perfectly cooked octopus with a Spanish salsa mery, extra virgin olive oil, and smoked Spanish paprika oil to create a palette of wonderful flavors. Even my Spanish companion from Cantabria gave it a nod of approval.

Alma Poblacion: Roasted charcoal octopus with mashed potatoes, EVOO, mery sauce, and smoked Spanish paprika oil
Roasted charcoal octopus with mashed potatoes, EVOO, mery sauce, and smoked Spanish paprika oil

There is also a range of main dishes influenced by travel—the prawn and tomato tagliatelle pasta is fully developed with flavors and lightly ablaze with chili flakes while a standout 1.8kg tomahawk steak with fries on the side would satiate bigger groups.

It is however in Martinez’s deft touch at wielding arroz and his childhood memories that Alma truly shines. A paella of presa Ibérico and sobrasada (spreadable chorizo) is executed properly—with an overflow of socarrat and punchy Ibérico pork slices.

Alma Poblacion: Presa Ibérico and sobrasada paella
Presa Ibérico and sobrasada paella

The dish where we find Martinez at his most personal is the simple (but not simplistic) roast caramelized pumpkin served with a side of wild honey and cinnamon ice cream, which is a formative dessert from his early days as an aspiring chef in Valencia. It’s filling, creamy, delectable, and generous that’s just right for a balmy night in the city.

There’s no pretense or slick attempts at deliberately impressing you with flamboyance here. Alma’s Poblacion iteration is simply a fearless celebration of what Martinez loves and what works for him—and hopes that it will resonate with customers, too. But so far, it does.—Eric Nicole Salta

A Mano’s hearty brunch will have late risers running to the table

Bistecca con Uova Strapazzate e Riso
Bistecca con uova strapazzate e riso

I believe meals—no matter the label—should be enjoyed at whichever hour you prefer, but A Mano’s brunch is an exception. You’ll definitely want to wake up early for the hearty Italian spread because a single bite will have you thinking of it constantly.

The dishes range from usual brunch suspects like an Italian take on avocado toast and maritozzi eggs Benedict, but the heart and soul of the menu is in their distinctly Italian dishes. Two of their heaviest hitters include the bistecca con uova strapazzate e riso or steak, eggs, and rice, and the devilishly heavenly uova al purgatorio, or eggs in parmigiano sauce with mozzarella (which is my personal favorite). 

Panettone French toast
Panettone French toast

For dessert, which is a necessary component to enjoy brunch to the fullest, get the panettone French toast or the affogato with the burrata soft serve. After a meal like this, you’ll be more than ready to take on the day. And maybe even come back the next morning.—Andrei Yuvallos 

Key Coffee to add flaky cheese tarts to kissaten menu

Sweet guava with cream cheese, black cherry with blue cheese, and pineapple with parmesan cheese tarts

Japanese coffee brand Key Coffee is expanding their BGC cafe’s menu with six flavors of cheese tarts developed by their bakery team. The tarts feature an airy, flaky crust with a creamy cheese filling and sweet and savory toppings.

The tarts are light but flavorful with each bite. Among their savory options are the bacon and tomato, which combines the smokiness of bacon and the sweet tartness of baby tomatoes all over a cheese crust backdrop. Truffle mushroom offers an earthy flavor profile, while the ham and gruyere combines a mild sweetness with the creamy, nutty notes of cheese.

Ham and gruyere, truffle mushroom, and bacon and tomato cheese tarts

Various types of cheeses also complement several fruit options, such as pineapple paired with Parmesan, sweet guava with cream cheese, and black cherry with blue cheese.—Pau Miranda

Common Man Coffee Roasters creates new PH-exclusive coffee blend

Just a few months after opening their first branch in Manila, Singapore’s Common Man Coffee Roasters (CMCR) adds a special blend to their offerings: the Araw Araw blend, a coffee they call an “ode to Manila.” 

Common Man Coffee Roasters' Araw Araw blend
Common Man Coffee Roasters’ Araw Araw blend

The Araw Araw blend features dark chocolate and black currant notes, bringing chocolatey, nutty flavors into each cup, rounded out with a fruity blueberry finish. Being inspired by the country’s vibrant culture, people, and food scene, the Araw Araw blend is exclusively available in the Philippines.

Coffee enthusiasts can enjoy the new blend at the CMCR cafe or at home by way of home brewing, as Araw Araw beans are available by pack in the CMCR store.—Pau Miranda

Getting all the flavors of Asia in one place

Dramatic, neon-lit interiors of Young Won Asian Grill
Dramatic, neon-lit interiors of Young Won Asian Grill

Don’t let the name fool you: Young Won Asian Grill at SM by the Bay isn’t just for the young ones. Although one of the neon-lit restaurant’s significant associations is meant to capture millennials and Gen Z, its Korean and Chinese ties, namely 영원히 (Youngwonil) and 阳湾 (Yang Wan), as well as its Japanese and Thai influences are indicative of something deeper than just addressing the demands of a demographic.

“We aim to strike a perfect balance, presenting the best of these rich culinary traditions while introducing novel, exciting elements that resonate with younger generations,” they say in a press release.

Selection of meats for grilling
Selection of meats for grilling

With a commitment to “endless enjoyment” and “warm hospitality,” you can find something for every kind of taste at the area’s latest bayside grill. First, there’s the unlimited grill that features various cuts of meat—with a particular focus on beef—you can cook on two types of exhaust systems: an updraft system that sucks air upwards (which is perfect for those looking to capture the smoky effect of grilling) and a downdraft system that sucks the smoke down and into the walls before it’s expelled (especially convenient for those who don’t want to smell like barbecue).

Wagyu meatballs curry
Wagyu meatballs curry

That said, the modern exhaust systems of the 170-seat restaurant isn’t the main draw, it’s the wide range of dishes available, particularly the meats sourced from Hightower Inc. that are applied into grill and hot pot formats.

Additional highlights are the six types of broth you can try based on your flavor preference:

1. Kimchi — a savory and tangy Korean-inspired collagen-rich and kimchi-infused broth

2. Mushroom collagen — a Chinese-inspired mushroom collagen broth with dried goji berries, jujube, and some ginger and scallions that’s dubbed the “beauty broth”

3. Thai suki a Thai pork hot pot broth made with soy and mirin

4. Thai yentafo a uniquely pink broth made with the Thai yentafo sauce, which is a Thai fermented sauce made from bean curd that gives a funky, tangy flavor with lots of umami 

5. Mala — a broth made with Sichuan peppers and a lot of spices

6. Miso nabe — a comforting broth made with Japanese miso, dashi, soy sauce, and mirin

The a la carte options are just as enticing. From the creamy curry wagyu balls and the kimchi gyoza to the grilled chicken skewers that come brushed in various Thai sauces, there’s something satisfying for every type of palate at Young Won Asian Grill.—Eric Nicole Salta

Burgers with a Michelin-trained touch? Find it in San Juan

Bun Run, a new burger joint in San Juan, is capturing the attention of hamburger buffs in the city—not only because of its distinctive pink and blue branding and all-caps signage but also because of the man behind it, chef Kevin David.

The joint specializes in gourmet smash burgers using a premium Angus beef blend of chuck, brisket, and beef fat. The burger mix is elevated with ingredients like dried porcini powder and bonito flakes, complemented by house-made condiments such as lacto-fermented tomato ketchup and pickles. Served on a brioche potato sourdough bun and paired with thrice-cooked fries, standout options include the truffle burger and the breakfast burger. 

In its current compact space with an open kitchen, the team of cooks prepares food calmly and quickly. David, who has trained in Michelin-star establishments in New York and Los Angeles, says, “This is a challenge for me because I could do something that’s not fine dining, to do something casual, which is the burgers, and be good at it too.”—Lala Singian

From bean to bar to your nearest marketplace

Here’s a special collaboration that’s worth mentioning alongside the aforementioned restaurants: a collaborative celebration of local chocolate.

Sample selection of Filipino artisan chocolates
Sample selection of Filipino artisan chocolates

Together with The Marketplace, the Philippine Cacao Industry Association looks to showcase local craft chocolate in a month-long exhibit called “Born and Bred Locally – Philippine Bean to Bar Chocolates” from July 5 to 31 across various branches (Shangri-La Mall, Katipunan, and Opus Mall)  and delight customers with a curated display that features fine bean-to-bar creations from brands such as Theo & Philo Artisan Chocolates, Auro, 1919 Chocolate, Godel, Cacaomistry, Tabléa and Sabroso. 

Expect not only dark chocolate dragees, coconut S’mores, and tablea mixes but also inspiring stories behind each participating brand, including how they source raw materials and process cacao that result in the creation of Philippine craft chocolate.—Eric Nicole Salta

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