Upon booking my trip to Manila, after a little research, I identified three restaurants where I wanted to eat… Hey Handsome (here), Gallery Vask (here) & Toyo Eatery (Plus a shed load of street food, obvs). For me, Toyo turned out to be the pick of the bunch.
Opened in 2016, Toyo Eatery is owned by Chef Jordy Navarra – a local lad who has spent time abroad, honing his craft in the kitchens of The Fat Duck and Bo Innovation in Hong Kong. At Toyo, Navarra applies the modern approaches and techniques traditional Filipino dishes and ingredients.
One such homage, to the local flavours of roadside barbeques and the Filipino love of food on sticks, is the dish Three-cut Pork BBQ. Taking some twelve hours to make, this, of course, is elevated from the simple version that can be found on every street corner – the accompanying bone broth resonated with deep porky flavours and bastings of coconut cider vinegar add the essentially authentic smack of acidity.
When talking about pinoy cuisine, you can’t bandy around words like ‘authentic’ without mentioning the breakfast dish of bangús (milkfish) – here, the Belly and Loin of Bangús come grilled over charcoal and served with the obligatory accompanying silog – made with sticky garlic fried rice, raw egg yolk and crispy fish skin.
What I particularly loved about Toyo is that every dish told a story (as well as being expertly executed and banging with flavour). One such highlight was the Garden Vegetables dish, which incorporated the eighteen vegetables cited in the well-known children’s song Bahay Kubo (Nipa Hut). When I jokingly asked the waiter if he’d sing the song for us, he instead asked one of the bar staff, who duly performed an angelic interpretation tableside, in Tagalog! Respect to him for that!
Bahay kubo, kahit munti (Nipa hut, even though it's small,)
Ang halaman doon ay sari-sari. (The plants that grow around it are varied:)
Singkamas at talong, sigarilyas at mani (Turnip & eggplant, winged bean & peanut,)
Sitaw, bataw, patani. (String bean, hyacinth bean, lima bean.)
Kundol, patola, upo’t kalabasa (Wax gourd, sponge gourd, white squash & pumpkin,)
At saka mayroon pang labanos, mustasa, (And there's also radish, mustard,)
sibuyas, kamatis, bawang at luya (Onion, tomato, garlic & ginger)
sa paligid-ligid ay puro linga. (And all around are sesame seeds.)
Breads – Pork Bread and Sourdough with Fermented Black Rice
Tomato Meringue with Ginataang Langka
Oysters with Pickled Cucumbers, Lime & Basil
Kilaw – Wild Talakitok, Lime & Sesame
Tamban – Malunggay Leaf, Young Corn & Sichuan Buttons
Squid – “Relyenong” Pusit with Mustard Flower
Lugaw – Crab Roe & Burnt Kalabaza with Coconut Vinegar
Burnt Kalabaza with Sea Urchin & Orange Kamote
Salad – Garden Vegetables
Lightly Grilled Mackerel in Grass-fed Butter with semi-ripe Guava & Kamias
Three-cut Pork BBQ
Grilled Loin & Belly of Bangus with Silog
Lemongrass, Pineapple & Salted Pineapple
Chocolate Cake with Preserved Calamansi