MANILA -- Filipino chef Edwin Sta. Ana specializes in Japanese cuisine and he knows sushi like the back of his hand. But as the new head chef of a steakhouse, working with various cuts of beef is a huge departure from otoro, hamachi, and saba.
“[The most challenging part] I would say, the meats. Obviously coming from fish then to meat, learning the new meats and cuts. It's not like I've never worked with meat before but here, there's a lot of different cuts, dry aging as well. These are new techniques for me that I'm learning,” explained chef Sta. Ana
Sta. Ana previously worked for Nobu London and was part of the opening team of Nobu Hotel Manila four years ago. He grew up in different parts of the world, including Japan and South Africa, because of his father's work as a contract worker.
His mother is a Kampapangan so food is a natural form of expression for his family. He now heads the kitchen of Ruby Jack's Steakhouse and Bar at City of Dreams Manila in Paranaque City.
The steakhouse brand is originally from Tokyo and specializes in Japanese wagyu steak and other Western eats. Sta. Ana, with his background in hand, brings in more Japanese flavors to the Manila branch as the restaurant revamps its menu.
The new items will be available starting June 1.
“When I got hired, because obviously my background is Japanese and I specialize in sushi, going into a steakhouse is a new adventure for me. But then something struck me, which brought my interest here, is that this steakhouse has Japanese influence. That's why I took on the role. Obviously influencing a bit of Japanese flavor into the steakhouse kind of inspired me as well,” he said.
He also said that the kitchen is now using more local ingredients.
“Right now we are trying to use mostly local ingredients like vegetables. Most of the items they used before were imported from France and other European countries. Obviously that's a bit expensive so why not try local, you have good local products over here. So we met a couple of farmers that grow organic like micro herbs,” Sta. Ana shared.
Aside from micro greens and edible flowers, the restaurant also uses locally grown cherry tomatoes, asparagus, baby corn, Romaine lettuce, and many more.
As part of the new menu, the bar also added new cocktails using local fruits. The fresh longan martini puts a new spin on the classic cocktail. It uses fresh longan fruit and lychee liqueur into a martini mix.
There's also the fresh jackfruit mojito, which uses a combination of fresh jackfruit, Don Papa Rum, and other ingredients.
The Umetini, on the other hand, is a Japanese-inspired cocktail. Gin and martini is mixed with the very traditional Umeshu or Japanese plum liqueur.
The new items on the food menu is a collaboration between Sta. Ana and the Ruby Jack's team headed by ECN Hospitality's chef owner Matthew Crabbe. ECN Hospitality is the company that operates and founded Ruby Jack's Steakhouse and Bar and other dining outlets in Tokyo.
“Food is an art and I want people to taste that every time they go to Ruby Jack's,” Crabbe said. “As we welcome our new head chef, I find myself inspired by my surroundings and the great people I work with. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by excellent people who keep pushing Ruby Jack's to be a leader in the industry and expand our ever-growing repertoire.”
The team did not completely overhaul the menu, however, but only added a few items to keep the menu fresh.
For the appetizers, the restaurant went for Asian flavors. The premium beef tenderloin tataki is flavored with wasabi leaf and onion relish, and ponzu jelly. The teppan grilled foie gras is complemented by a braised daikon in a balsamic teriyaki sauce.
The beef tongue croquette is served with mint leaves and a jalapeno tartare sauce. There's also the sakura smoked bacon with shiso chimichurri.
For a lighter starter, the roasted beetroot salad is a unique take on a ricotta salad. Roasted beets rest on a bed of ricotta cheese-like tofu cream then topped with a spiced orange compote, arugula, and dukka (a type of spice blend).
The grilled shrimp salad is an even lighter garden salad with calamansi, parmesan, and a truffle shio kombu dressing.
The steak menu remains unchanged and the restaurant still offers top-of-the-line beef like the premium A5 Saga Wagyu sirloin and the premium A3 Saga Wagyu rib eye. They also serve USDA Prime and Australian beef.
The restaurant added a couple of new sides like the sauteed kale with black garlic butter and parmesan; and the garden fresh green salad with balsamic vinegar.
For dessert, the restaurant's in-house pastry chef adds more Asian flavors as well like the sakura teardrop cake served with a vanilla ice cream; pandan pavlova with Kaya jam and buko ice cream; and the cranberry pomegranate agar with fresh fruits and peach sorbet.
“We have a pastry chef I just added a bit of Japanese touch. I gave him the tools and told him be creative,” Sta. Ana said.
The steakhouse plans to keep the new dishes that work with the diners and regularly change the offerings. The new head chef also plans to create more items on the menu depending on the available seasonal ingredients.