Europe Meets the Philippines at The Black Pig CharcuterieJanuary 19, 2014
If you enter Commercenter Alabang at ten in the morning, be prepared for that initial bit of panic. You’ll wonder whether you’re in the right place, if you’ve unintentionally stepped inside an abandoned mall with a, strangely, functioning escalator. There’s no need to double-check the address, though. Trust me, you got it right, and the escalator does exist for a reason.
The Black Pig is a laid-back charcuterie, bar, and restaurant.
On the second floor stands The Black Pig, a laid-back charcuterie, bar, and restaurant, tastefully furnished with concrete walls and an assortment of halogen lamps. The latter adds ample warmth to soften the modern and industrial feel of the place. There are also, of course, the chalkboards where one would expect the day’s specials.
The Black Pig’s cozy vibe belies their real treasure, the array of international micro-brewed craft beers they have on tap. It’s a first here in the Philippines.
“Would you like to try our beer?” asks Berna Garriz, one of The Black Pig’s owners.
I glance at my watch, it says 10:30 a.m. Some might say it’s perhaps a bit too early, still, with an over-caffeinated system and a stomach empty but for a few bites of bread, I take my chances anyway. I nod my head and answer with a delighted yet slightly hesitant, “Yes, please!” You do not refuse a flight of beer, especially if it’s craft beer.
Anton Garriz wanted international craft beers on tap to identify The Black Pig.
While waiting for the Holgate Beer Flight to be served, I made small talk with another of the owners, Anton Garriz. He was the one who specifically wanted international craft beers on tap as one of the identifiers of The Black Pig. “When I travel, I like drinking a good variety of local microbrews and that’s what I wanted to bring here,” he says.
Aside from the Holgate, The Black Pig also serves local Hefe Weizen as well.
Between sips of my Holgate, my personal favorite was the malty Road Trip IPA, Berna told me that aside from the Holgate selection, they also serve some locally-brewed Hefe Weizen on tap as well. Of course, wine and cocktails are also essential for a place like this. “We also have cocktails and a well-curated wine list that is fairly priced. We have a combination of old world and new world wines and we kept the prices affordable to encourage people to order a drink, which goes very well with our food,” Berna tells me.
Chef Carlos Garcia is in charge of The Black Pig’s kitchen.
At the helm of The Black Pig’s kitchen is Chef Carlos Garcia, whose culinary history includes working the kitchens at Michelin-starred restaurants such as London’s Gauthier Soho (where he was Head Development Chef for many years), Restaurant Rousillon, and Madrid’s Restaurante de Vinis.
Chef Carlos applies European technique to locally-sourced ingredients.
Curious as to how Chef Carlos adjusted his culinary training to the Filipino palate, he says that the key was to stick to his guns and use the European techniques he has acquired over the years, with the freshest ingredients available. This is why he likes to work with locally-sourced ingredients. “I don’t make a menu and buy the ingredients–what I do is see what’s available and make a menu based on that. I’ve been very excited with all the local produce I’ve seen so far,” says Chef Carlos.
So far, the biggest challenge faced by Chef Carlos is finding fresh quality ingredients, that are locally sourced, and can be delivered all the way to Alabang on a consistent basis.
“This 2014, I think people will be more conscious about what they’re eating, where the ingredients in their meals come from, and where they are sourced,” Chef Carlos tells me. “Less fast food and more quality food. Diners are also more educated and discerning, so we need to prepare for that.”
I ask Chef Carlos how he thinks The Black Pig menu should adjust in the face of such a development. “We will have a very dynamic menu, and we want to ‘keep it fresh.’ So while some items will remain, the menu will grow and keep changing, based on what’s available in the market at its best time. Part of our vision is also to have consistency, always using quality ingredients and paying attention to the details,” he answers.
The Tuna Salad is Chef Carlos’s favorite item on the menu.
As for his personal favorite item on the menu, Chef Carlos answers swiftly. “The Tuna Salad. I really like the freshness of the tuna in the Philippines. I also like the desserts—one of my strengths is dessert. As an ingredients, I like pork because there is so much you can do with it, and with every part of it.”
The Black Pig’s name is rooted in both Spain’s black Iberico pig and our local lechon.
Where does the name The Black Pig come from? I asked Berna to find out.“The Black Pig is inspired by our shared appreciation for two noble creatures: Spain’s black Iberico pig, known to be the finest ham in the world, and our own native lechon, widely regarded as the Philippines’ national dish. Each one has interesting origins and distinct benefits; both are delicious beyond compare,” she shares.
She’s quick to clarify her answer, however. “This is not to say, though, that we only serve pork in our restaurant. In fact, we serve an interesting mix of European-inspired recipes using fresh local ingredients. We’re always excited to create and to innovate using these combinations of cultures, flavors, and textures. We wanted to create a place where we would personally want to hang out and would have everything we liked – from the craft beer on tap to the charcuterie to the food, to the small details,” says Berna.
“We personally haven’t tried all the European restaurants (in Metro Manila) so it’s probably premature for us to name what makes us different from everyone else. But based on the feedback we’ve been getting in this first month that we’ve opened, we do have customers saying how much they love the place and how they enjoyed the entire experience. We’re so grateful for that,” says Berna.