Single. Not yet 30. Filipino. Michelin-starred chef in the making?

“The pumpkin soup alone is enough reason for you to keep coming back again and again and again…”

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There’s been so much buzz about Chef Miguel Pacheco that I succumbed to celebrating my daughter’s birthday there last night.

Chef Miguel, honed in French-inspired cuisine in both Bermuda and Vancouver, runs his own place in the burgeoning Barrio Kapitolyo restaurant row. More precisely, in the northern section of Pasig’s East Capitol Drive… around two blocks from the corner where kitschy yet iconic Café Juanita originally started.

The place billed as “Open Kitchen” is minimalist – exuding an “after-the-show-classy/casual-New York-resto”, imagineered from the ground up.

Another reason to drive on down to Barrio Kapitolyo
Another reason to drive on down to Barrio Kapitolyo

Floor-to-ceiling glass windows entertain you with the fascinating street life outside while you wait for your order.

First sign that the place holds promise: the piped in music.

Not Air Supply. Not Kenny G. Not Pharell Williams.

We were made to feel at home with a little musical help from the vinyl albums of Esperanza Spalding and Miles Davis, playing on a tube-amped turntable.

Chef Miguel at work - fueled by jazzy music
Chef Miguel at work – fueled by jazzy music

The dinner was a complex-but-made-uncomplicated event.

For starters…

Rabbit Fish with Chili Chocolate, Strawberries and Torched Mallows
Rabbit Fish with Chili Chocolate, Strawberries and Torched Mallows

My taste buds panicked at the explosion of delightful taste sensations – sweet, burnt, salty, confused…

Next at bat, the most unforgettable pumpkin soup I have ever tasted: savory and slightly sweetened by a small scoop of vanilla ice cream… with surprising bits of almonds swimming underneath… topped off by the bite of onion leeks.

This offering singlehandedly convinced me that I need to keep coming back to this temple of flavors. (Kept asking myself: can this be the end of my long time relationship with Cibo’s pumpkin soup? Can soup bigamy be an option?)

Pumpkin Vanilla SOup (The end to my 6-year addiction to Cibo's pumplin soup?
Pumpkin Vanilla Soup

Then, my taste buds were waylaid by a slew of memorable appetizers…

Tuna Tartare
Tuna Tartare
Wahoo Fish Cake
Wahoo Fish Cake
Sausage Sautée
Sausage Sautée
Steamed Bamboo Shells
Steamed Bamboo Shells

Next, the main course(s), shared by the whole family.

Braised Aussie Lamb Shank
Braised Aussie Lamb Shank

 

belly
Anise Pork Belly

(This sinful dish reminded me of  its equally unforgettable next-of-kin served at Jakarta’s legendary Blue Grass Resto)

Seared Blue Marlin w/ Pistou Couscous
Seared Blue Marlin w/ Pistou Couscous

 

Seared Blue Marlin w/ Pistou Couscous!
Pan Roasted Mahi

There were one or two more dishes… but I suffered a memory collapse when the dessert surprise was wheeled in. A dazzling potpourri of sweets that ranged from pastries oozing with dark and white chocolate… and a delectable cheese cake, among others.

A potpourri of sweets on a wooden board
A potpourri of sweets on a wooden board

To say that the birthday celebrant was overwhelmed is… an understatement.

Sweet & thougthful Anj
Sweet & thoughtful Anj

 

Overall, Open Kitchen was a pleasant experience for us – almost matching the surprise dinner that my family arranged for me on my birthday at Mozaic in Ubud, Bali last August (the only Indonesian restaurant to be selected as one of the 100 World’s Best in the San Pellegrino Guide).

With the predictable onslaught of word-of-mouth hallelujas, I have a feeling that it will soon be hard to book a table at Chef Miguel’s kingdom.

A nice problem for this young driven guy… don’t you think so?

Chef Miguel with the author
Chef Miguel with the author
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