MANILA -- Mati’s Meat and Breads has outlasted many of its neighbors in River Park at Festival Mall, and its owners credit this to a very accessible menu, and strong commitment to quality.
Looking unassuming from the outside, Mati's has the usual glass windows with the restaurant's name, high ceilings, brick walls, wood accents, and a huge blackboard screaming the specials. It’s a casual, yet very homey affair, as the owners in the beginning visualized the restaurant as a cross between a San Francisco diner and a Vancouver steakhouse.
It’s the same concept that drove the menu -- comfort food with touches of international flavor. It’s best not to think straight American comfort food, or Italian, or even Filipino. It’s a mish-mash of dishes, which fortunately for them (and us), works.
Take for example, the Camille’s Spinach & Arugula Bean Salad. It’s a balanced-tasting large serving for P240 -- there's sweet from mangoes, crunch from not only from the greens but from the beans that turn creamy as well, cherry tomatoes for some acid, and bound all together by a moderately spicy sweet chili vinaigrette.
Want to start with something more robust? There’s Mama’s Buffalo Wings. Dredged in batter, fried to a crisp, tossed in a hot butter sauce, and dipped in a blue cheese dressing, it’s good for sharing or perhaps drinking, if you are so inclined.
Bread is one of the restaurant’s focal points, and this loosely translates into sandwiches and its Extremely Thin Pizza.
Indeed, the pizzas have an extremely thin and crispy crust (I presume that it’s a biscuit crust dough), which holds up nicely to all the melted cheese and toppings. We were served the Tali’s Gamberetti which reminded me a lot of a popular pizza chain’s Friday variant (shrimp, anchovies, mushrooms, basil, and roasted garlic) but this one, of course, was much better, thanks to the crust and the quality of ingredients (the shrimp alone were so juicy and plump, and that basil was fresh).
Now to the meat part of the equation. Many may not be aware that Mati’s Meat and Breads is part of the Melo’s group, which has long been known for serving quality steaks to Filipino diners.
Mati’s is definitely a more casual affair than Melo’s. Here, a 150-gram USDA Choice grade rib-eye starts at P470 with potatoes and vegetables.
But if you’re feeling extra fancy, go for the Wagyu!
Wagyu rib-eye or tenderloin? We were served versions of both that were tender and flavorful, had the right amount of sear and cook, and the fix-ins with the meal were plate-licking good. That Wagyu rice is a meal onto itself.
Dessert in Mati’s Meat and Breads isn’t too complicated. You ask for the dessert of the day. For that day, we were served the Chocolate Éclair Cake. Perhaps named after the flavors on the dessert, it’s an ice-cream cake for those looking for a definitely sugary ending to their meal.
The south of Manila is a fickle market. But with its competitive pricing (pizzas are good for sharing starting at P360), and the tasty dishes that we tasted, for sure, we’ll be seeing more of Mati’s Meat and Breads in the future.