UPDATE: This restaurant is now closed. They moved to Chef's Lab at Burgos Circle.
Every chef's dream is to open his own restaurant; Chef Bruce Lim's dream was fulfilled last Wednesday when he finally open up his own place called simply as Chef's Table.
Most of our favorites dishes in our Chef's Table Restaurant Private Dining experience are now available ala carte in the new restaurant. Naturally, to be able to deliver these dishes day and night, he created a team of chefs to help him run the restaurant.
Together with a few friends from my wife's Starting Point group, we want to share with you our Chef's Table gastronomic adventure.
The restaurant was interior designed by Jason Buensalido. You can see the signature polygonal 3D abstract design in the picture above. The acoustic is very good because of the high ceiling and geometric walls.
Your dining experience is accompanied by streaming music from Chef Bruce's friend, Randy Charle. They pipe in Ultra Low High-Fi music through the Internet directly from the Intramuros Bar of Randy Chale in San Francisco.
Chef Bruce Lim's family manufactured school chairs for most of the schools in Manila so all the tables and chairs are inspired by this heritage. The chairs are heavy and kid-friendly. It can withstand grueling plays of six years old, like my son Aidan; he can stand on these tables and chairs and they won't easily crash down.
Each table has trench carving to hold pencils where they have Chef's Table pencil so that one can write or draw something on the Manila paper placemats. You can even take the pencil with you as a souvenir.
10/01/10 UPDATE: I recently learned more about the interesting design story of these chairs.
The second floor is installed with see-through tempered glasses so that you can see the kitchen. The glass wall appears to be sturdy but I still won't let my kids near it for safety reasons.
We started with the interesting selection of House Cocktails.
House Cocktails (Special Concoctions)
Pipino Cooler (P150 +10% service charge). A refreshing cucumber cocktail blended with apple juice, ginger syrup and gin.
Pinky/Tina -- did you like your drinks?
NOCR - No One Can Run (P280 +10% service charge). A drink for the brave and adventurous; this is perfect fusion of brandy, tequila, gin, lambanog and chili extract balanced with orange and mango taste.
I ordered this one because it was quite unique and I love chili. I later on found out that it is a favorite of Chef Bruce. I like its strong chili kick and it doesn't have a tongue burning sensation. It is a good apperitif to prepare you for the modern Filipino meal ahead of you.
This is a cold soup which is an interesting twist to this Filipino restaurant. But it failed to make an impression with the group because you are just drinking watermelon juice.
This was our personal favorite from our Chef's table private dining experience. This is a soup with a bitter taste of clam, roasted tomato and cream. Tip: you have to enjoy it while it is hot. For some reason though, sadly , it did not have the same punch as when Chef Bruce prepared it then.
Chilled Carrot and Ginger Soup (P250 +10% service charge). A combination of fresh raw diced tangigue, apples, and cucumbers tossed in citrus fruit juice and a lake of invigorating carrot and ginger puree.
This is a favorite inspired by Lara Day who requested a crazy dish during one of her writing trips in Manila. Everyone loves this because of the fresh kilawin taste. The carrot/ginger puree is very refreshing. The color of this dish and the presentation makes you want to just dig and and conquer "your own island".
This is an interesting twist on the calamari, instead of being served in rings, it is served whole and blanched. Mixing it with the green mango salad makes this dish memorable. I prefer this over the hot-rocks variation below.
The squid looks depressed from being squashed between two hot rocks. The vegetables ware symphathetic to the squid and looked tired and uninspired. We can't distinguish the difference between hot rocks cooking and grilling. I don't think this is worth P250.
Pandaigdigang Pansit (Pasta)
Most of the ladies liked this because it was unexpected, light and healthy. The serving size is just good for one.
Chef Bruce Laing Linguine is very good. The cream is not overpowering and just perfectly applied on the linguine. It goes well with the grilled prawns.
Most people did not like this because it was too sweet for a pasta dish. I didnt mind the sweet taste because I am accustomed to sweet pastas like that of the Jollibee spaghetti :)
The vegetables are simple but they are done and presented really well. Everyone loves this dish. Highly recommended.
I also personally like the creamy coconut sauce and yummy bits of bagoong combination.
Chef Bruce and Aidan serving the deconstructed Kare-Kare :)
This dish received a lot of criticism because it was served deconstructed. It did not taste anywhere as good as the original thing. The bagoong is already mixed with the sauce and the Ginataang Sitaw had more bagoong than this one. The Ox tail has a lot of bones instead of meat and it did not absorb the taste of the sauce. If there's one thing you would love about this Kare-kare is the sauce. The problem in this serving is that there's just not enough. This needs some improvement.
Another deconstructed version of a classic meal, this time the inspiration is the Dinuguan. There is a lot of fat in the pork; it has a pale appearance (not really appealing) but the crispy portions delivered. Although the sauce was minimal, it was strong and flavourful which I personaly like. This one is perfect as pulutan especially the crispy ones.
Instead of beef, they corned the pork. Shredded pieces of lechon-like meat served on a bed of laing. The laing was really good and by now we realized we ordered a lot of variation of the laing dishes from the menu. This is a complete meal; it has protein, vegetables and rice.
This one is good! Its a bit different in terms of the ingredient combination and presentation style but it works. If you like aligue, this is the dish to order.
This is our all-time favorite. The deboned fresh fish on a bed of mashed ube is simply divine :) Although, I would have preferred it to be served with sauteed kamote tops korean-style.
The same lapu-lapu fillet is served with Italian style tomato sauce (like escabeche). It is very healthy and creatively served on banana leaves.
This was recommended by the Chef and we find it ordinary. It is like any biko but plated in the most playful presentation.
This item was served with some drama involved because they have to flame it when it is served. It is a good Filipino dessert -- Banana ala mode.
A simple standard dessert for those looking for just a safe dessert.
This dessert brought the house down and everyone from our table raved about it. The buko pie is very smooth and velvety and Chef Bruce shared with us that he learned a technique that made it so from an old artisan in Laguna. If you have to order just one dessert, order this one! By the way, this is not your usual dessert because it is served hot!
Banana Mousse and Homemade Wafers (P110 +10% service charge). An Ilo-ilo inspired dessert dressed with coconut jam and pili nut spears.
This dessert is good and very Filipino. I love how Chef Bruce was able to modernize these Filipino dishes.
After the meal, we played a game with Aidan called Guess the Animal. He would draw a combination of animals and he would give the first letters as clue. For example for this animal he drew a combination of a Bird (the wings), Cheetah (the spots), Bat, and Parrot then we would all guess.
It was a good game to exercise your child's imagination :)
Overall, you won't go wrong with ordering Chilled Carrot and Ginger Soup, Banana Heart Carbonara, Chill-a-fino, the vegetables and Buko Pie Martini for dessert. The ambiance is definitely a winner and something to be proud of when you are trying to impress special or foreign guests.
Although I find it a bit expensive. I don't mind paying if Chef Bruce was the one cooking it personally. However it's apparent that his new team of chefs still needs to be trained to make the dishes work. Budget P1,000 per head.
Chef's Table Restaurant by Chef Bruce Lim
Address: Unit 106 The Infinity Tower 26th Street The Fort Global City, Taguig, Philippines
(Beside South of Market, at the back of Infinity Tower)
Contact: Michelle Lim (Wife of Chef Bruce)
Mobile: +63918-887-1277, +63922-871-2777
Telephone: +632 399-1888
Disclosure: Nothing to disclose. We paid for our meals. We know Chef Bruce and wife Michelle after we ate in the original Chef Bruce Private Dining @ their home.
Eneri first met Chef Bruce Lim at his kitchen studio. He had heard several great reviews about his cooking. He was also curious to meet other people like him: individuals who had spent a lot of time abroad but continued to carry love and pride for the Filipino heritage. Later on that night, the conversation with Bruce turned to his plans for opening a new restaurant.
Bruce talked about his desire to teach others about the magic behind Filipino food. His passion to bring attention to our cuisine goes beyond his celebrity status. As he explained, it became apparent that all Bruce wanted was to share with others how a high-end meal can be put together with local products.
Bruce's desire to stay local and teach became the theme for the branding exercise that Eneri and Atalyer would start together.
Branding must be about the client, not about the talents of the designer. Brands must be created on the basis of a solid brand story and the history of, in this case, Bruce. Eneri emphasized to his colleagues in Atalyer that brands need to be created on a level of truth.
Upon discovering that Bruce's Father was in the business of making public school furniture, it became apparent that the design team would have the possibility and means to bring this brand exercise from the drawing board to the soldering machines and the tube-benders at Mr. Lim Sr.'s factory. It was clear that products coming from the public school furniture factory would speak more about the brand direction from the point-of-view of the Chef's personal story. This would achieve an important level of truth and history in the brand.
For Eneri and the Atalyer team, the process was becoming more exciting by the day.
Worldwide design trends called for a return to a high level of craftsmanship. Ever since the 2008 recession, locally-made products took the spotlight versus imported and mass-produced items. It was clear to the team that by having the Chef's Table furniture designed in the public school furniture factory would align the brand story with worldwide trends.
The Atalyer team, lead by Industrial Designer Paolo Chavez made sure to identify the factory's current assets and technical capabilities. A line of furniture that would be suitable for manufacture in the Lim factory and which would hark back to the design language of the original Filipino public school furniture yet bring forth a unique perspective and interpretation was designed and prototyped.
This same exercise was repeated whenever the team had to address the key deliverables: the menu is made to resemble a report card, down to the stock paper chosen. There is no color finish or veneer edges on the tables, because there was never any on furniture in public schools. Pencil-stays were grooved into the tables, for wooden pencils - the give-away items.
By creating a public school-inspired brand for Chefs Table, Eneri Abillar and the Atalyer design team seek to bring back a level of innocence to the diners. A level of innocence, represented graphically in the collateral and physically through the furniture, that returns the users to a stage in their lives when it was all about learning new things. About seeing the world and everything around it with new eyes and fresh senses. About looking forward to a new lesson or a new experiment. About having open curiosity for the brave dishes that Chef Bruce Lim puts forth for all of us to discover the beauty of Filipino food.
What did Atalyer, thru the collaboration with Eneri Abillar, do for Chefs Table?
- Logo design;
- outer signage;
- menu design, layout & print;
- tabletop design (placemat, coasters, table napkins) & sourcing;
- basic marketing collaterals (take-away paper bags, calling cards, business envelopes and office forms);
- email invitations;
- furniture design: tables, chairs & benches;
- pencils as give-aways;
- and even the valet-parking stubs!