Toyo Eatery has been around for a couple of months now but somehow I never made it a point to try it out. In hindsight, it was a bit strange since I was a fan of Chef Jordy Navarra’s food when he was still with the old Black Sheep in BGC. I finally found my way to Toyo last Saturday and in order to get the full range of the chef’s vision, Jocel and I went for the tasting menu.
We were seated at a communal Chef’s Table, close to the kitchen so we could see all the action going on.
Service was very fast and the servers extremely attentive to your needs. The barest glance at one of them sends them quickly to your side. The kitchen was no slouch either so you could do the degustation in less than 2 hours, even at a leisurely pace.
First up was an ethereal tomato meringue with guinataang langka with flavors that are homey and familiar.
The next two courses, oysters and kilaw were served together. The oyster was bland and lacked the flavor of the sea that I look for in this shellfish, but this was more than made up for by the sweet and wonderfully fresh suahe kilaw. Both these dishes were accompanied by a glass of tapuey or rice wine.
This was then followed by Tamban (herring).
A very flavorful relyenong pusit (stuffed squid) came next.
And then an excellent soup of burnt kalabasa (squash), uni, and orange kamote or sweet potato chips.
The next dish looked deceptively simple, but in fact, it had 18 ingredients, all cooked in a variety of ways. This was the salad based on the song “Bahay Kubo” which lists 18 vegetables (I never actually counted, so I’ll take the server’s word for it).
The fish course of lightly grilled mackerel was next. I wasn’t too taken by the texture of the dish. Maybe better if it were cooked more and the skin crisped, but the flavor with with the semi-ripe guava and kamias was quite good.
We finally came to the main course were Jocel opted for the steak and I went with the Pork BBQ. The steak was very tender, perfectly cooked, and distinctly smoky. The BBQ was an ultra-refined version of the usual street BBQ you can find almost anywhere in the city. As good as the steak and BBQ were, the fried rice (or Toyo Eatery Silog) was the scene stealer. It’s hard to beat a good fried rice!
A surprise greeted us after the main course in the form of a pre-dessert of pineapple in 3 forms – granita, fresh salted, and pana cotta. Compliments of the Chef. Very refreshing and a good palate cleanser.
Dessert was a bit of chocolate cake with preserved calamansi. I think the chef’s zeal in promoting Filipino products did not translate well in this dish. The chocolate cake itself was excellent, the chocolate coming from Malagos Farms in Davao which has produced award-winning chocolate. The problem was the calamansi, the acidity of which was simply too assertive and jarring for the chocolate. I get the combination of chocolate and acidity (raspberry, for example) but a more gentle flavor would probably have worked better.
Fortunately, the meal didn’t have to end on this literal sour note, as the dish titled End Sweets came through brilliantly. This three part dish was composed of what is possibly one of the best cassava cakes I have ever had. Then a bit of ube, and lastly chocolate stuffed with what I think was dulce de leche (I could be wrong) on a bed of cacao nibs.
As they have a small selection of various native wines, I had a glass of bugnay (or bignay) wine with dessert. This was lightly sweet and decent enough. I’ve had bignay wines before and this was probably th best example I’ve had as it avoids the oxidation I find in so many of our native fruit wines. The wines (bugnay, tapuey, and basi) are a project of Proudly Promdi which helps out mountain communities in Ilocos Norte by marketing their products.
The dinner wasn’t without some hiccups (the curiously flavorless oyster and the calamansi with chocolate cake) but overall, we quite enjoyed ourselves. It can be a bit pricey, especially if you are having the steak, but maybe that’s just a matter of perception. It costs perhaps a bit less than a similar Western degustation. Definitely worth another visit.
Toyo Eatery is located at 2316 Chino Roces Ave. (Pasong Tamo Ext.), Makati City. Tel 0917 720 8630. Closed Mondays. Reservations recommended.