Actor-restaurateur Marvin Agustin re-opens Poblacion bar Kondwi on Thursday, while also launching new stars in his yummy universe.
Like the rest of the Población bar scene, it’s been a tough two years for Kondwi. There was an attempt to reopen last August but because of the lockdown, they had to close down again. But now, with everything opening up and people going out again, Agustin seems to have renewed energy with Kondwi, as well as a multiverse of other pursuits.
The name Kondwi comes from a Filipinized version of the word “conduit.” With this in mind, the bar seems to connect the quirky aesthetics of an art gallery with the comfort of a bar.
“We want people to have a different experience when they come here. Kondwi has a different vibe that when someone comes here for the first time, the expression on their face when they part the curtains and see what’s inside is as if they’re being transported somewhere else,” said Agustin.
On the outside, Kondwi looks like a plain cube with large wooden doors. But inside, visual art is spread around the space with couches and armchairs to sink into while sipping a cocktail. All the sculptures and paintings by local artists are for sale.
Pre-pandemic, Kondwi was known for its event venue on the second floor where everyone from tech to liquor companies were able to stage custom parties and functions. Perhaps, they’ll be able to do that again soon.
The bar has a respectable collection of bottles and libations and one can always ask the bartender to make the classic cocktails such as a negroni, a daiquiri, or a gin fizz.
But beyond the cocktails, Agustin has plans of making Kondwi known for its food and coffee.
Parallel to the re-opening of Kondwi, Agustin has been busy with Yummyverse, a company that he started during the pandemic.
“It was my outlet to address my fear and my boredom. I started baking, roasting pigs, and coming out with Pinoy comfort food and family recipes. Now it’s open and people go out, I realized that I we can’t keep our concepts in our house,” he said.
Part of the work was assembling a new team to provide the culinary power behind his current concepts, as well as those that are coming soon. Kondwi’s re-opening menu benefits from this renewed confidence. The food is inventive, fun, and has some clever tweaks to popular favorites.
For example, the sinuglaw -- commonly a ceviche (kinilaw) with grilled pork (inihaw) -- is levelled up with coconut cream, mizukan rice vinegar, togarashi and cilantro oil making this a mellower, creamier version of the Visayan dish.
Kondwi’s Binagoongan Spring Rolls with Kare-Kare Sauce reminds one of a deconstructed kare-kare made famous by one of Agustin’s new partners. Incorporating the bagoong with the crunch of a deep-fried lumpia with pork was a creative spin on this Filipino favorite. The Noodles with Minced Pork is a spicier version of Taiwanese dish lou rou fan topped with an egg and fried wonton.
Another aspect of Kondwi Agustin is working on is the coffee.
Unknown to many, Agustin is a certified coffee fanatic having finished a techno-barista course with the Institute of Coffee Excellence. He has partnered with coffee roaster Henry & Sons to develop Kondwi’s coffee program.
One of the first promising outputs of this collaboration is the addition of signature coffee drinks to the menu. The first three are the Kondwi Special 3 in 1 (a variation on an iced latte which is espresso with ice shaken milk and sugar syrup); the Long Island Iced Coffee (lemonade with espresso); and the Coco Coffee Shake Shake (espresso with coconut milk). Guests have the option of adding liquor to these concoctions.
Agustin hints of expanding the Yummyverse to include more cloud kitchen, and brick-and-mortar concepts. His popular cochinillo has already expanded beyond a home business with Secret Kitchen, a stall at the Uptown Mall food court, with more locations coming up in the near future. A new dessert concept will part of the Yummyverse soon.
Kondwi is located at 6109 Albert St. in Poblacion, Makati. Operating hours are from Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday to Saturday, 11 a.m.to 12 midnight; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.