Brasserie Girolle, Fort Bonifacio Review: France FerdinandDecember 20, 2018
- Pamela CortezWords
Whenever I eat at a French restaurant, all I can ever hear is the voice of my mom ringing in my ear, telling me to put on an itchy velvet dress, and wear my awesome, special-occasion-only frilly white socks. At our house, French food was always deemed too fancy, and only reserved for special occasions. When I was younger, the only place to get escargot or foie gras was at some stuffy hotel restaurant with white linen napkins and impeccably dressed waiters.
I was determined to hate French food. I’m the kind of girl who likes to eat with my elbows on the table, and use my fingers to pick up my food when no one’s looking. But who am I kidding? I learned to love the stuff, to forget the setting, and endure the velvet, just so I could get my hands on a few buttery snails or some crispy duck. I still remember my first duck confit. At first, I was disgusted when I saw fruits served side by side with the savory meat. But then, one taste of those cherries (the perfect syrupy sauce, warm and sweet, to balance the saltiness of a duck that’s been cured for hours) quickly changed my mind. And that skin? It made me a firm believer that everything is better with crispy skin.
Brasserie Girolle, the 11 year-old me thanks you. I’m glad that there’s a place where I can stuff myself with French without being stared at for tearing up the bread with my hands. I don’t even bother with the tiny knife that comes with the little pot of slightly salted butter. I smear it directly on my bread like an animal instead. The best thing about this relatively new spot along the Fort Strip is the place itself. It is dark and intimate, but lends itself well to a boozy, raucous dinner with friends, ones where you share starters and pass plates around family-style without an uptight garçon judging you.
There are a lot of French classics at Brasserie Girolle, but it was the crispy pork trotters that wooed me into submission. Don’t believe the menu when they tell you it’s a starter, it’s a pretty heavy dish. This was the best thing I’ve had so far on my trips here—texturally interesting, and wholly satisfying. It’s simple food at its best—the least-enticing part of a pig is turned into gelatinous, unctuous pulled pork meat, and fried like a crab cake. Add a runny egg, and this croustillant is the brunch food of Fergus Henderson’s fantasies. I still dream about it half the time I go to bed. If you’re worried about being knocked out by the fatty richness, the gribiche (mayonnaise-style cold egg sauce) will save you. It has just the right amount of tart.
The rest of the menu was pretty good, too. The steak tartare was deceptively simple, served in such a classic, unabashedly French way, with frites. The foie gras terrine was probably what defined Brasserie Girolle the most, technically precise but with flavors that were comforting (a jam made of sweet red onions was a perfect foil to the creamy terrine), and not overly pretentious, which is sometimes the problem with dining French.
The thing about Girolle is that, although their offerings tempt you to indulge, ordering several courses at once makes me worry about the risk of a premature heart attack. Individually, they make luxurious treats, but as part of a menu, it comes off just a little one-note and a lot deadly. Most of their mains are accompanied by something that requires a lot of butter or loads of cream, and though I will never say no to something rich, it’s a little bit daunting. The scallops are cooked just the way I liked them, and the pork belly is perfectly fine (if you remove the last, slightly stringy layer), but eaten together, with their creamy sauces and creamy potatoes, they were slightly too heavy.
This the second venture of Ian Padilla. It is a perfect follow-up to his fine dining spot La Girolle. I went there once, and felt intimidated by the menu and the setting, and had a largely uncomfortable dining experience. Brasserie Girolle seems like a better fit for anyone unfamiliar with French food. This hospitable approach is a welcome one. The place is updated and current, fitting in well with all the new great spots cropping up around Metro Manila, but the food is simple, straightforward, and traditional. It’s a style that stands out compared to some places that nowadays are too concerned with trying to innovate what’s better off untouched. I was glad to find no foams or fusions or gelees in sight. I just wish that they had one great dessert to quell my sweet tooth.
Order: Pied de Cochon Croustillant (Pig Trotters)
Skip: I’ll be honest here—Girolle’s desserts need definite improvement. Sweeten your tooth with URBN’s custard-like cheesecake or Draft’s infamous bread pudding instead.
The Damage: Pretty hefty- expect to spend around PHP 800-1,000 per head