This Alabang Kitchen is Heading SouthAugust 27, 2015
Neil’s Kitchen is everywhere on social media. If you love following blogs or foodstagrams, a lot of their dishes seem to be loved by so many. They’ve gotten tons of coverage in the few months that they’ve been open, and it all looks warranted. The owners are heavyweights in the catering business in Manila, and the dishes coming out of their kitchen look pretty damn delicious. Coming here, you’ve got certain expectations, even for a tiny neighborhood place. There’s also been talk that it’s one of the best seats in Alabang. I’m not so sure what I’ve done wrong then, to like it considerably a lot less than everyone else. I’m always rooting for the small, family-owned space compared to the big corporate chain, but I can’t seem to want to go back to Neil’s Kitchen. On the surface, it has all the makings of a restaurant that should be good. Maybe it’s because of those high expectations that it falls a little bit farther.
Before you even get into the restaurant, everything looks like it’s in order. The painted walls outside look hip and the stairway leading up to the restaurant is ridiculously photogenic. But a longer, closer look tells you the place is a bit over-decorated, as if the owners decided to open their Pinterest account and throw their favorite quirky pieces together. Individually, spaces of the room look decent, cute, or quaint even, but altogether it’s odd. Everything is black and white with harsh splashes of bright yellow, there are a million and one pun-filled sayings about food all over the walls and seat covers (from “Proceed upstairs for your gastronomical trEAT,” to, “I enjoy long romantic walks to the fridge”), and the chairs are matched to mismatch on purpose.
The place however, is exactly the perfect setting for the food at Neil’s Kitchen. It is evidently born from the same brain—it is on point and trendy, which results in a delicious sounding menu, but there’s just something off about the plates when they get to your table. Reinventing Pinoy cuisine has always been the obvious choice in attempting to elevate local fare, but even more so recently, when championing local to folks abroad has become the collective chant. Here, you have sinigang but in paella or ramen form. Dinuguan comes deconstructed, with the pork crunchy, accompanied by a dark, bloody, dipping sauce. The torta has crab and the tocino uses bacon. The people behind this place know what flavor combinations are good and have affixed twists to them, because they know what people enjoy these days, and know exactly what they will be Instgramming halfway through the meal. But the twists seem forced and don’t enhance the original flavors like they should. Dipping your dinuguan may be fun, but it doesn’t necessarily make it taste better. The combinations are always too heavy on the palate, sometimes even too harsh. The crab torta for example, was faultless, with a slightly crisp exterior, and generous amounts of crab meat in the middle. But when paired with the aligue pasta, both fought each other with their much too pungent saltiness, and became an all too dismissible pairing.
One thing Neil’s Kitchen does impeccably is dessert, where the twists make sense and do matter. Suman is fried to be crunchy and sticky at the same time, and mango is turned into a tart and sweet pudding. Generous amounts of coconut cream add a much needed savory note, and Choc Nut makes this much more than just mangga’t suman. I’d come again for their dessert, but I remain unsure on whether Neil’s Kitchen’s first half can stand alone.
What’s your verdict on Neil’s Kitchen? Do you disagree with us? Tell us why below!
Address: Westgate Filinvest, Lot C 701-704, Muntinlupa