Homemade Food Stands Out at This New Ortigas Hot SpotJanuary 30, 2016
Though it’s considerably more laid-back, Ortigas is described by many as “The Next Makati.” The growing number of high-rise residential condominiums, and office buildings are perhaps the biggest testament to this, and the ever-changing skyline is quite a sight to behold. However, there is one other area where this developing city is giving the country’s vaunted business capital a run for its money, and that is the local food scene.
Alley in The Grove is just one of the many emerging eateries in the area. Upon entering the restaurant, one is greeted by a cozy, and well-lit space where you can either nurse a strong cup of morning coffee to prepare for a long day ahead, or down a wicked cocktail to forget the one that you’ve just had. Much of the libations here feature undeniably Filipino ingredients, which support local purveyors: Alley’s take on the Negroni (cheekily called a Nogroni) is spiked with San Juan Lambanog from Destileria Limtuaco, while Laguna-based Tsaa Laya supplies an assortment of teas that include tanglad, pandan, and java banaba. The coffee too, from emerging coffee guys Current Swell, is worth mentioning. “Our Breaking Bad signature blend was made especially for us,” Bernice Tenchavez enthuses, “It’s strong, and addictive. It’s the first thing you look for in the morning.”
While Alley has a well-curated drinks menu, the food is the star of the show. Their Queso de Bola Beignets are crunchy, egg yolk-yellow balls that crack open to reveal a creamy, fluffy center redolent with the gentle tang of the salty cheese. It’s also quite fitting that Patatas Bravas figures on the appetizer menu, as the restaurant gets its name from the restaurants that Bernice’s brother Butz enjoyed amidst Spain’s quaint little alleys. Their version is something of a deconstruction. Chunks of lightly-battered, crispy potatoes are served alongside traditional romesco sauce, and a homemade calamansi sour cream.
The sandwiches served here are arguably the best items on the menu, and Butz’s vision of familiar comfort food classics with a twist is realized by chef Thirdy Dolarte’s take on traditional recipes. It also helps that just about everything on the plate—from the bread to the root vegetable chips served on the side to the sauces that are usually bottled—is homemade. The Reuben’s filling, for instance, contains meltingly-tender corned beef belly slices that were cured in-house. The beef belly’s fatty tenderness is a pleasant change from tougher or drier cuts, and the thick slices of homemade molasses bread sandwiching them have a slightly sweet and chewy crumb. Alley’s Reuben also has an excellent filling-to-bread ratio, making their take on the iconic sandwich a home run.
Fans of grilled cheese sandwiches will be delighted by the Grilled Cheese Pimiento, toasted slices of white bread are stuffed with three kinds of cheese, one of which is a cheese pimiento that gives an additional texture to each bite. The Patty Crunch is a great alternative to your typical fully-loaded burger. It’s basically a robust Angus patty sitting squarely in between fried onions, Russian dressing, cheese, and more of that glorious homemade bread (potato, in this case).
While the Chicken Soy Rice features a completely different carbohydrate, it can still hold its own against the sandwiches. The chunks of chicken were a tad tough, and the crispy chicken skin garnish may have disappeared into the rice once the bowl was mixed up, but the salty-sweet stickiness of the dish makes it the perfect hangover food. Drizzled with generous spoonfuls of piquant homemade chili sauce, the Chicken Soy Rice is the sort of meal you would prefer to shovel into your mouth while binge-watching BBC’s Sherlock. Dessert here feels more like an afterthought, with only two options on the menu, but the financiers were quite decent. Fresh from the oven, their delicately-scalloped edges were wonderfully crunchy, and their steaming insides benefitted from a dunking into the freshly whipped maple cream.
Ortigas may still have quite a way to go before they are at par with Makati when it comes to eateries, and watering holes, but judging from the offerings at The Grove’s Alley, it’s off to a good start.