MANILA -- Kanto Freestyle is that restaurant you want to go to after a night of partying. Long known for its silogs and Filipino comfort food, its offerings are the perfect pound of cure or ounce of prevention for a hangover.
Kanto had its humble beginnings in 2011. Brothers Vince and Archie Juanta thought of a restaurant that would bring chef’s techniques to Filipino comfort food.
“Hindi lang luto-luto or stir-fry,” noted New Zealand-based Archie Juanta, who opened Chef Arch’s Lime 88 a year earlier which would become famous for off-beat twists to Filipino favorites like his Balut in Red Wine.
Vince Juanta conceptualized Kanto Freestyle and handled the business side, while Archie engineered the menu. Together with college friends Ian Ocampo and Eugene Claravall, the first branch opened on the periphery of Maysilo Circle in Mandaluyong.
New addition Donnell Alon-Alon joined the team after the opening of the De La Salle University-Manila branch.
A core part of menu is devoted to the “freestyle” aspect of Kanto. "Freestyle" refers to how the customers want their eggs -- scrambled, hard-boiled, sunny-side up, poached, omelette, etc. The egg in the silogs can be cooked any way the customer wants.
The recently opened Kanto Freestyle 65° in Annapolis Street in Greenhills is an evolution of the concept. It has definitely grown beyond its humble tapsilogan roots. The 65° refers to the sous-vide poached eggs that are served in each silog by default. Naturally, guests can still request for the eggs in any style they want.
For Kanto regulars, the airconditioned interiors of Kanto 65° are a welcome change. For those looking for the good old open-air vibe, the second floor has that, as well as an enclosed dining area that can be rented out for meetings and private gatherings.
The new branch also features a full-fledged coffee shop with its own machine for specialty espresso drinks. Lattes, flat whites, and mochas for less than P100 are a definite draw.
Besides that, it has its own bakery with its own pastry chef. Freshly baked bread, cakes, and pastries are made every day. Various desserts are also made fresh daily and are on display at the chillers.
The group has major plans for expansion. Inspired by the success of its La Salle branch, they are currently looking for locations near colleges and universities. Setting their sights higher, they are also scouting for spaces in higher-end locations like Bonifacio Global City, perhaps to set up more of the coffee and all-day breakfast 65° concept, which would blend in perfectly with the office crowd.
Perhaps they’d call this higher end Kanto, “Corner,” as this humble breakfast joint is going places it has never been to, possibly to a street corner near you.
Here's what you can expect at Kanto Freestyle 65° in Greenhills.
Pan de sal and brioche baked on premises and served with pesto, liver Emperador pate, and roasted garlic make for a great starter. Take a bit of roasted garlic to spread on the bread to make real garlic bread.
For vegetarians, Kanto takes the familiar fastfood hash-brown and upscales it with a 65-degree egg, sautéed sitaw, and pesto tomatoes.
Instead of dilis, Kanto’s rich thick champorado has a large piece of espada.
Long before the need for Instagrammable food, people flocked to the Kapitolyo branch of Kanto Freestyle when they introduced the Tapa Benedict. The Juantas claim that this was an experiment from tapa scraps that became a crowd favorite. There’s just something about breaking open a poached egg and letting the runny yolk drizzle over tapa.
The Seafood Platter was borne out of constant customer requests for danggit, dried squid, espada, and dilis. Instead of having one silog per requested item, Kanto conveniently put them all on one heaping plate with a syringe of their specially formulated vinegar.
This is a longsilog as you’ve never seen it before. Chef Archie was inspired by scotch eggs which were popular in New Zealand. This scotch egg’s shell is made out of Pampanga longganisa that’s on the sweet side so a couple of shots of Kanto’s own ginger and garlic vinegar is recommended for those who want their sausage on the savory side.
Instead of a stew, this version of the humble pares is a five-hour oven baked roast beef slab slathered with the sweet anise sauce. The result is a more substantial, meatier yet more tender version of this Pinoy favorite.
Gen Xers might remember the iskrambol as the milk powder -topped, strawberry syrup and crushed ice concoction from sidewalk vendors outside school. This Lime 88 bestseller makes its way to Kanto’s menu upclassed with marshmallows and candy sprinkles. It tastes just like the ones titos and titas used to buy outside school premises.
The pancakes are thicker and fluffier than what you’d normally get at other breakfast joints. This one has a generous amount of cream and berries.
The berries are also used in the Berry Bread Pudding. The bakery makes scones and the bread pudding is made from the leftovers from the previous day.
For ube lovers, Kanto puts the ingredient du jour in its crème brulee. It’s worth getting some ube, some flan, and some of the hardened sugar shell into one bite.
Kanto Freestyle’s Frozen Banana Pudding rivals more expensive versions at a fraction of the price.
Kanto Freestyle branches are located in P. Burgos in Makati, Mandaluyong, Kapasigan, Kapitolyo, Leon Guinto near La Salle Taft, Tomas Morato in Quezon City, and Marikina. Kanto Freestyle 65° is located on Annapolis Street in Greenhills. All branches are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.