Have You Tried Backyard Kitchen + Brew in Quezon City?January 20, 2015
There’s never been a better time to eat out in Manila. From the bustling food strips near subdivisions, international brands expanding to our city, to a wide variety of concepts being introduced into the local dining scene, Manileños aren’t just spoilt for choice; now they’ve learned to exercise discernment in their dining-out decisions. But no matter how abundant the cuisine options and how groundbreaking the trends are in malls or suburban streets, the choice always comes down to food that’s good and worth returning to.
Backyard Kitchen + Brew, the latest restaurant of Chef Ed Bugia to open at the UP Town Center, delivers the no-frills tastes and experience one gets from eating food at an intimate potluck party in their backyard. The restaurant is designed with wooden tables that you’d find at an outdoor setting, but the interiors provide all the comforts of eating in. The place is spacious, with enough booths for smaller groups to enjoy a little more privacy and several long tables for larger groups. A similar gathering of Chef Ed and his friends inspired the concept itself. “What really inspired the concept was a small gathering I had with my chef friends and foodie friends. We cooked whatever we wanted to cook and just had a lot of fun.” That event led to the idea of Backyard, a place where any kind of group can gather to enjoy good food and each other’s company.
Backyard’s concept made sense in its location at the UP Town Center. “They offered this spot to us a year ago,” Ed shares. “So we have to make sure that we hit all the target markets here. Quezon City is weird in a way that you have to cater not just to the students, but also to the families who live in the many villages. And the students aren’t just your regular students—you have Ateneo, Miriam, UP, and most of the culinary schools along Katipunan, such as ISCAM, CCA, and with Gourmet Academy and Global Academy just nearby. We really had to hit everyone, so we decided to make it rustic food: food that people are familiar with and enjoy eating.”
Having just opened last December 15th, Backyard’s menu is still expanding, yet offers a wide range of items that experiment with traditional concepts. Ed shares that the Sinigang na Batchoy has become an instant favorite; he reintroduces a familiar soup to the Filipino palate by serving egg noodles, egg, and pork offal in kamias broth, along with a little bagoong. For those who want the tenderness of chicken meat and the sweetness of waffle, Backyard serves the Waffle Breaded Fried Chicken (PHP 295). To make this dish different from the usual chicken and waffle combination, he got the waffle batter and removed the wet ingredients. He used whatever was left to bread the chicken. The result it a chicken thigh piece so crisp you hear each crunch. The meat is soft upon each bite and its saltiness is balanced by the waffle breading’s sweetness. These dishes embody Ed’s vision when it comes to cooking: “It’s a new take on it. You can’t be all traditional. You have to stand out not for the sake of standing out, but through good food you’ve probably never had before.”
The Nose to Tail Fettucini (PHP 275) also serves meat parts that are dear to many Filipinos: pork cheek, beef brisket, ox tripe, and chicken liver are served with fettucini in tomato sauce. Each soft bite from the pork cheek and ox tripe adds variety to the pasta’s texture, while the chicken liver and beef brisket give the pasta a fuller flavor. The Ciabatta w/ Whipped Bone Marrow & Pulled Pork (PHP 255) may fall under the menu’s small plates category, but one piece is an unadulterated assault of every dangerous taste and part: melted whipped bone marrow is spread on ciabatta toast, and is topped with a pile of BBQ pulled pork drizzled with sour cream. The pulled pork is tender and the bread isn’t difficult to bite off; you’ll be more than satisfied halfway through the piece.
Other dishes keep things simple yet generous. The Tinapa & Quinoa Salad w/ Honey Balsamic Vinegar (PHP 255) is a bowl bursting with quinoa, mixed greens that include alfalfa sprouts, along with salted egg, tomatoes, and pickled onions. Each vegetable provides all kinds of textures and easily fills you up, while the tinapa’s smoked taste complements the honey balsamic vinegar.
Pizza is a dish that’s served in both commercial and smaller establishments, but Backyard makes sure to present this favorite differently in the restaurant’s own ingredient combinations. As its name indicates, the Salted Egg Chicken Skin Flat Bread (PHP 255) salted egg tops the flat bread along with the cheese. The egg does not overpower the mozzarella and ricotta, but adds more edge to the usual pizza experience. The chicken skin is scattered across to add the occasional crunch.
Although the dessert menu only offers two choices, the Pizzookie (PHP 385) is more than generous in the sweet ingredients it has to offer. A baked to order chewy chocolate chip cookie is served in a skillet and made even more decadent with mascarpone ice cream on top.
Each dish doesn’t just deliver incredibly good food; before the potluck at the backyard concept, Ed also wanted the restaurant to practice the farm to table process. “It used to be a novelty,” he explains, “ but now I think it’s the best and most proper way to go about having a restaurant. Everything is local: our meats, our vegetables, and our fruits. I like it because you get to buy straight from the farmers; you don’t have to go through the middlemen and all that.” With so many Filipinos growing more ingredients and starting small businesses, Ed believes it’s important to help them out as well.
Backyard may be just around a month old, but the restaurant is more than grateful for the reception. “I couldn’t ask for more, honestly,” Ed says. “We opened last December 15, right smack into the Christmas season. We hit the ground running and immediately saw the feedback on Instagram. But these opportunities let me ask the customers how we can improve our dishes.” In the next few weeks, Backyard will continue to expand their menu to three items a week and introduce the watering hole aspect of the restaurant. Ed hopes to bring back the drinking culture Katipunan used to have, but with a cozier place for everyone to enjoy a drink or two. The restaurant may be in its beginning stages, but it is promising to be a place for everyone to gather in the coming years.