MANILA -- After collaborating on the popular Poblacion haunts, Agimat and Alamat, best bros chef Nino Laus and mixologist Kalel Demetrio are teaming up anew, this time for Hey Brew, which just opened last Monday at Greenhills' Theatre Mall.
Agimat is an unofficial extension of Ninyo Fusion Cuisine in Katipunan, Quezon City, while Alamat is Demetrio’s foraging bar and home to his many experimental concoctions.
There’s a playful synergy between the two dudes, as one’s leftovers are the other’s playthings. For example, Demetrio’s spare ingredients end up as powders used to garnish or to flavor Laus’ eye-catching dishes. Likewise, Demetrio pairs his drinks with Laus’ dishes to heighten the flavors and the overall experience.
Hey Brew is a collaboration between Laus, Demetrio, Manila Indesign Studio and the next generation owners of the iconic Chinese restaurant Choi Garden, represented by Janica Lao, who conceptualized this café-bar combo. Lao is no stranger to the restaurant industry as she also oversees their group's milk tea business, as well as a commissary that supplies cakes and desserts to other popular coffee shops and restaurants.
Lao initially set out to find Demetrio, then everything just fell into place.
“It started as a joke among friends. It’s a wordplay of 'hey bro.' And we specialize in brewing coffee and brewing cocktails,” Lao said.
For Hey Brew, Manila Indesign Studio transformed a corner of the Theatre Mall into a light and airy cabana that makes one feel as if the beach is just a couple of steps away. A bar dominates one side of the space featuring an eclectic collection of bottles, bitters, and spirits as expected from a master mixologist like Demetrio. Shutters line the sides, letting in light and giving the space a homey vibe.
When the sun is up, Hey Brew is a comfortable café that’s a great place to chill out and escape the bustle of Greenhills' tiangge. It uses an exclusive custom Hey Brew mix of arabica from Northern Luzon. With fruity and chocolate notes, it's a bit strong as an espresso though the coffee cuts milk very well and makes for a great latte. The coffee is a great bed for Demetrio’s coffee concoctions like his Crème Brule coffee where he torches the top to get a cold caramel coffee drink.
Hey Brew also has rich creamy milkshakes on the drink menu. Aside from the usual flavors, Demetrio brings more unusual combinations like the Brown Sodium Shake, a muscovado-based drink with a pretzel on top. The pretzel adds a tinge of saltiness to the dessert drink that somehow sharpens the sugary notes.
Demetrio also has an array of mocktails. The refreshing tea-based Hibiscus Passion Sprits has a pleasant sour note, while the Capsicum Melon spritz hides a surprise, as the siling labuyo mixed in with the watermelon juice can hit the unwary.
Laus, whose Japanese cooking sensibilities have been missed since his restaurant Hamaru closed along with the food park, Food Hive. While more known for his Filipino food, Lau puts Japanese touches here and there while making eye-catching plates for Hey Brew.
“It’s comfort café food with something more,” explained Laus.
Here's what to expect at Hey Brew.
Laus started with the appetizers. He ups the umami in the Chawanmushi (egg custard) by topping it with foie gras, uni and ebiko (orange fish roe). Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
The Japanese twist in this gratinated New Zealand mussels is that sweet sour flavor from Laus’ yuzu hollandaise. That squid ink potato chip that’s disguised as a shell is edible too! Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
This light salad of tomatoes, sliced beets and radish, compressed watermelons and burrata comes with a honey balsamic vinaigrette sprinkled with a crushed salty “secret ingredient.” Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
This is a different slurp of Oyster Rockefeller. Laus uses three cheeses with kombu and garnishes the oyster with a paper-thin cucumber, and bonito flakes on a bed of sautéed onions and wakame. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
Oysters are best served cold. Laus cools down his Aklan oysters with a red beet watermelon konbu granita with a bit of lime. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
These aren’t wagyu cubes. They’re actually ox tongue cubes with chimichurri made of shiso. The shiso imparts cool minty notes. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
Laus piles slices of tender sous-vide ox tongue, pickled red cabbage, enoki mushrooms and slathers salted egg sauce sandwiched in thick slices of buttery brioche. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
Pumpkin powder and a tempura pumpkin flower dress the hoisin-braised lamb shank over pumpkin puree. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
Lau jokes that Hey Brew is blessed with an ample supply of grade-A duck meat because of the partnership with Choi Garden. Laus’ version of duck a l'orange is dressed with vegetables and sauced with cranberry duck jus. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
Hey Brew promises to be the first collaboration of Lao, Laus, Demetrio, and Manila Indesign Studio. They are set to bring the Alamat and Agimat combination of food and drink down to the beaches of Siargao where the two restaurants will be the centerpiece of a new 60-room hotel.
But for now, Hey Brew is set to give Greenhills its next great chill-out space with wonderful servings of comfort food and eclectic drinks.
Hey Brew can be found at the ground floor of Theatre Mall Greenhills. Restaurant hours are from 11 a.m. to 12 mn on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends.