Grind Bistro: New Classics Done With PrecisionJuly 15, 2016
Grind Bistro, for whatever reason, has seemed to fly under the radar. The barely-open restaurant in increasingly-hip Net Park now has two more casual outlets springing up in the city, but fewer than usual outlets have picked up their scent. Is it because it lacks any telltale signs of the food trends that are saturating the city, or is perhaps eclipsed by the riotous opening of yet another foreign casual fast food chain? Whatever the reason may be, it is criminal. What husband and wife team Steven and Cristina Carl have created is the antithesis to concepts that merely follow the tide, without creating pleasurable results.
For years, the Carls lived across the United States, building years of experience in the industry (Steven for example, has been the food and beverage director of several Hyatt hotels from Maui to Miami) before taking a huge leap last year from their frenetic lives to another one which offered both risk, and a chance to raise their children in Cristina’s native country. “It’s kind of like going back to my roots,” says Steven, who began his career by working in smaller private restaurants, working in the kitchen everyday. Now, he uses those years of knowledge to maintain Grind Bistro’s stellar quality, overseeing every single thing that gets put on a plate.
While the space was originally meant to be just a burger joint, the menu has slightly expanded to include dishes that show off the Carls’ affinity for details. A commissary upstairs is responsible for baking the bread on their menu, and ingredients of salads are flexible with the season. “We knew from the very beginning that if we were going to do this, everything was going to be scratch-made because this is just what we do. Even when we have dinner parties at home, this is how the food is made. If Steven says- ‘Oh, this component would be great with this!’, the only way you can make sure it will go well together is if you make it yourself.” Case in point—a house-made rye for their grilled cheese uses a recipe that comes from Steven’s Eastern-European ancestors.
Updated American bistro classics are sure to be done with careful precision; popcorn shrimp are light pockets of air, dressed in mirin and wasabi aioli, and Steven’s in-house unagi sauce made with a five-spice marinade and the cooking liquid for their pork, reduced until sticky and thick. Nachos recall their time in Maui, with a fine poke of ahi tuna underneath local cheese, and dollops of orange and wasabi tobiko providing little bright pops of saltiness. A standout nutty black chicken is definitely anti-social media, but embraces Asian, American, and Italian elements, fusing them in a way which should never work but does. The graphic black tempura insulates the chicken and creates an incredibly moist and tender bird whose juices run when sliced into. It is pretty deft cooking.
The latter part of the menu also serves some great surprises—of course, their burgers and meat are executed well, with their mince ground daily, creating a patty that has integrity, a little more chew, so that it is ‘steak-y’ and cooked with a crust, but is all tender and slightly pink inside. Even desserts maintain quality, with their dedicated pastry chef making their ice cream and sorbets in-house too, with a quenelle of their tart yogurt flavor enhancing a calamansi pie that comes with a slick of grassy basil puree.
There was once an old belief, at least in Manila years ago, that only great food could be found in hotels. What the Carls have done is given us the standard and finesse we have come to expect from both hotel food and service, but in a setting that is infinitely less intimidating, and much more approachable. Grind Bistro has all the potential to become a go-to for uncomplicated, delicious grub—it should be time to make some noise for it.