Salcedo Village is one of the busiest areas in Manila—dense like a forest, but instead of trees lie dense concrete structures. Countless people live and work here, and on any given day (except maybe Sundays), the symphony of city life plays out loudly for all to hear.
This urban jungle, though, hides a lot of interesting spaces—arteries off the main drag that house funky little bars and restaurants and what have you. One of these is San Agustin St., and it is on this street—on the second floor of a nondescript building—that you will find a brand-new restaurant called Q&A Kitchen + Bar.
Trust me on this—finding it is part of the fun, because when you finally zero in on it and enter the door, you will find an oasis of calm that’s built for maximum chill.
The first thing that will catch your eye is how it’s dressed up. Experienced interior designer Eric Paras of Artelano11 played with soothing palettes—a lot of greens and exotic blues. If I could do my apartment all over again, I’d take some cues from this guy. The unfussy, comfortable furniture was designed and made by him, too, and certainly added some panache to the vibe Q&A creates.
And it’s that vibe that certainly will attract people like a coin to a magnet. The big glass windows you can peer into from the street side will make sure that curious passersby will be lured in, or at least tempted to take a peek. Just try sitting at the beautiful bar and try not to feel transported. Not that this place feels intimidating—not at all, actually. But it does feel classy.
Of course, the magic of this place still happens in the kitchen. At the helm is Michelin star Chef Alain Raye (formerly of La Regalade). The man with the plan flits about his glass enclosed kitchen, clearly in control of his lean and mean team. His cooking here is dubbed as modern European, creative but not too fancy, with dishes that speak mostly about flavor and freshness—the exact opposite of how most of us in our shores see European food. With a deft touch and tricks learned through the years, the chef churns out thoughtful food that’s pretty on point with contemporary appetites.
Take, for instance, our starter—a platter of curated French charcuterie accompanied with a strong house made mustard, some siling labuyo butter, a ginger mango chutney, and an extraordinary pickled okra that I can eat the whole day. This was merely a simple display of the chef’s mindset.
A trip inside the immaculate kitchen revealed one of his secret weapons—their pasta dishes. Made daily to ensure it’s at its best, the pastas are made in unconventional shapes to prove a point: ain’t no boxed pastas around here. When paired with a well-made sauce, homemade pasta can be downright ethereal. My money is on their gnocchi. We tried two kinds: one for the heartier eaters—a beet gnocchi with goat cheese and bacon; and one for those who liked it a little “lighter”—ricotta gnocchi with clams and lemon zest. Both have wonderful flavors going for them, and are surely keepers. But the dish that really got us to take notice was this beautiful flat pasta embedded with herbs and flowers, like prints on a pocket square. Blanketing fresh asparagus and prawns, and simple but intense sauce, it is satisfying yet light enough to smother your guilt for eating carbs.
For those who like their food leaning on the heavier side, fear not: they’re also going to serve long braised ragus, and more conventional stick-to-your-ribs fare like steaks. Their dessert game is looking strong too. A sandwich of frozen lemon curd, some stewed fruit and roasted fennel played very well together. If you don’t want to stretch that far out, check out their caramel crème dessert too—it hits you exactly where you expect it.
As of this writing, Q&A is on soft opening, and the people behind the scenes are still putting their finishing touches up as far as they are concerned. But one can tell that they’re already looking good from the get-go. In the works are special menus, Sunday brunch, and even evenings featuring local music enthusiasts spinning their vinyl collections, which should please those looking for alternatives for their nights out.
It’s getting harder and harder to stand out in today’s very crowded local restaurant scene. Q&A Kitchen + Bar seems to have the right ingredients and fresh ideas to be everyone’s favorite “our place.” Here’s to them and all the good things that lie in store.
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Homemade pickled okra, carrots and pipinito
Q&A Kitchen + Bar is located at Unit 2D, ACCM Building, 102 San Agustin Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City. For reservations, text 0917859 5678 or email [email protected] QandA Kitchen + Bar is open from 6-10 PM, daily except Sundays.
Photographs courtesy of Q&A Kitchen + Bar