|Bonifacio High Street has many specialty shops as well as interesting dining outlets|
Ten or so years ago, the Philippine gastronomic scene was dreary. Dining places were few and the choices were boring. As Filipinos learned to value food not just as a source of sustenance but also as a fount of profound pleasure in itself, dining outlets began to emerge and became varied, interesting and inventive.
Though the food landscape is yet to blossom fully, there are now what we can call dining strips or rows, particularly around Metro Manila. Many of these dining places are nurtured in modern urban developments such as the Bonifacio Global City, or BGC for short, in Taguig City, just east outside of the financial hub Makati City.
The former Philippine Army camp is being transformed into a 240-hectare sophisticated urban development of residential, office and commercial establishments. At the heart is the Bonifacio High Street, an open-air mall with a main street retail concept studded with specialty shops, as well as outlets for recreation and dining. Aside from the beautiful public parks and open spaces enhanced with public art, the dining is of notable interest.
“We are proud of our food outlets,” said Monica Llamas, arts program manager of Bonifacio Arts Foundation, a non-profit and non-stock organization that takes care of public art and holds arts events at the BGC, including building “the country’s first world-class science museum,” The Mind Museum.
That is why they are conducting a special food tour called BGC Eats — to highlight the dining scene of BGC.
According to Llamas, they were thinking of “a twist to explore the city” and “literally wanted people to explore BGC,” thus coming up with BGC Eats, which is an afternoon tour of about three hours on a BCG Hop-On Hop-Off Bus, a special bus available weekends that goes around BGC for those who want to explore the area, and on foot, tackling about four restaurants.
Each tour is different from the others, revealed JJ Yulo, food connoisseur, contributing editor of Rogue magazine, a blogger on food and BGC habitué who is the tour’s guide and “curator.”
Yulo said they will “feature the restaurants ‘indigenous’ to the area. Although some have branches in other areas they have their origins here.”
It is like a sampler of eating places, said Llamas.
“It is also an opportunity for people who find some restaurants ‘intimidating’ to come in,” she added, “and break the notion people have about how expensive these restaurants are.”
Not only that, restaurant owners and chefs will come out to personally welcome and talk to participants, affording them an intimate experience of the dining places.
The tour, which can accommodate up to 34 persons at a time, is limited to BGC patrons and for a limited period. People can get two free tickets if they have purchases worth P1,500 in single transaction or in accumulated receipts from retail stores or restaurants at BGC establishments such as Bonifacio High Street, The Fort Entertainment Center, Crossroads, Bonifacio Stopover, One & Two Parkade, and The Mind Museum. Purchase receipts should be from June 24 to July 21. One can get a maximum of two tickets per day, which can be claimed at the Bonifacio High Street Central Concierge (inside C1 building) from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily from June 24 until July 20. One can choose the tour dates — June 29, July 6, July 13 and July 20. If the selected tour date is full, participant will be booked on the next available tour. Tour starts at 3 p.m. at the Hop On Hop Off Bus Stop at 9th Street between Nike and Bo Concept.
Llamas said that they might consider making the tour a regular event if this one proves successful and there is clamor for it. Before the launch on June 29, we did a test run, with Ukulele Manila providing the “soundtrack” of the tour, appearing and serenading the so-called “food tourists” as they arrive at a stop.
Wildflour Cafe and Bakery
Wildflour at the Netlima Building at the corner of 4th Avenue and 26th Street served as the first stop. The cafe-cum-bakery has become known for offering Cronuts, a curious cross between a croissant and a donut, originally created by Dominque Ansel at his SoHo bakery in New York City.
The Cronuts are so in demand that people order weeks ahead, thus we did not have any. We had though two kinds of tarte flambee — bacon and wild mushrooms — with caramelized onions and gruyere cheese baked on a thin crust (both P425). The tarte flambee is Alsatian in origin — bread dough rolled out thin into rectangles, covered in cheese and baked in a wood-fired oven, similar to a pizza. At Wildflour, it is served on a wooden chopping board, creating a rustic feel, contrasting to the look of the restaurant which has all glass walls. We were also offered Agua Fresca, a refreshing cucumber, line and mint drink of Mexican origin.
Owner Ana De Ocampo and chef Allen Buhay came out to greet guests. Buhay said ther original idea was a family bakery but it turned out to be a restaurant with a bakery, offering sandwiches, pastas and dishes of mostly European origins and infleunces. Buhay emphasized their use of the freshest and natural ingredients. Menu changes almost every day depending on what ingredients are available.
|Ukulele Manila serenades participants at Wildflour|
|Wildflour’s bacon tarte flambee|
|Agua Fresca, a cucumber, line and mint drink of Mexican origin, from Wildflour|
Nolita is one of the newer restaurants located at the newest portion of the Bonifacio High Street, the BCG Central at the corner of 7th Avenue and 29th Street. The restaurant is named after a neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City, nicknamed Nolita, an abbreviation of North of Little Italy, said Nolita managing partner Patrick Santos, and owners want to bring in authentic New York pizza to Metro Manila.
When we went is to get our slices, we went to the counter and chose a slice of freshly-made pizza like the turo-turo style of the Philippine karinderya. A slice costs from P160 to P250. Intriguing pizza choices include pepperoni; chicken parmesan; shrimp carbonara; regular cheese; pesto grilled chicken with sundried tomato; sausage, pepperoni and mushroom; spinach and artichoke; spicy Italian sausage; buffalo chicken with or without blue cheese; wild mushroom and walnut with blue cheese or ricotta; and cheeseburger.
Aside from the pizza, we had fried shrimp with Creole Hollandaise sauce and Tex-Mex savory bread pudding (P270), downing them with iced wild berry herbal tea. Nolita also offers burgers, sandwiches, salads and other American comfort foods.
|Tex-Mex savory bread pudding|
|Different pizza flavors of Nolita|
"Bacon chicharon is really, really crisp bacon, and it made us pretty known," said Nadine Howell, and we grabbed the strange-looking ribbon lying on the plate and dipped it in spiced vinegar. The bacon chicharon (P315) also comes with muscovado mustard dip, and tossed in Buffalo Sauce and served with blue cheese dip (P325).
With head chef Mikko Reyes helming the kitchen, 2nd's restaurant serves comfort food with a twist. The restaurant is located at the second floor of Building 1 of Quadrant 3 of Bonifacio High Street, thus the name, said one of the owners Indy Villalon, who is known as a kart racer. But he added: “We want it to be a second home, and we want everyone to come back for seconds.”
2nd opened in Dec. 27, 2010, and the menu was created when owners thought of comfort food that reminded them of their childhood.
One of Howell's ideas is their best burger — the Benedict burger (P575). It is a burger with an Eggs Benedict twist with USDA beef patty on top of slices of Spam topped by a fried egg. The ketchup on the side is homemade with spices. It was a hefty and delicious eat. The Spam, a favorite of multitudes, made the difference.
|From left: 2nd’s chef Mikko Reyes, 2nd's owner Nadine Howell, BGC’s Monica Llamas, 2nd’s owner Indy Villalon and JJ Yulo|
|2nd's Restaurant’s famous bacon chicharon with two dips|
Cupcakes by Sonja
What better way to cap a food tour than with cupcakes? And the best cupcakes in the country can be found here, particularly at the Serendra Piazza of Serendra, Ayala Land's flagship condominium development.
I was not fond of cupcakes, finding them lackadaisical, until Cupcakes by Sonja came about. Its first store opened on Sept. 8, 2006. Sonja Ocampo, a classically trained chef, is said to have introduced the idea of the gourmet cupcake, coming up with creative flavors and varieties. Suddenly cupcakes present a limitless potential for creativity. Right now, there is a delightful array of flavors and varieties that include Valrhona dark chocolate with peppermint frosting; pineapple upside down passion fruit; Red Velvet Vixen; peanut butter and jelly; Vanilla Sunshine; Bunny Hugger Carrot; Chocolate Overload; Chocolate Surprise; lemon drop; pistachio, berries and cream; Loa Lani coconut cream pie and Banana Monkey Cream Pie. More flavors are promised and more branches, particularly at the Glorietta 2 at the Ayala Center and at the Shangri-La Mall in Mandaluyong City.
|Chef Sonja Ocampo with Monica Llamas and JJ Yulo|
|Chef Sonja Ocampo|
One tour may not be enough to gauge and immerse in the lively dining scene, but it is an effective introduction.
For inquiries, contact Martha Asuncion through e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone number 818-3601 local 3207. Visit Facebook.com/BonifacioGlobalCityPH or Facebook.com /ArtsAtBGC, for more details.