Melo’s Steakhouse is an institution. It was one of the first steakhouses in the Philippines to serve exclusively prime Angus beef back in 1987, and it quickly jumped on the Wagyu bandwagon when they saw trends shifting. It’s known for providing excellent service, and is sometimes associated with the early fine dining scene here, and since then, is one of those old restaurateur names that always bring to mind both good food and nostalgia.
Mati’s Meat and Bread, owned by one of the eponymous Melo’s daughters, is an entirely different creature, but with all the trademarks of its well-regarded ancestor. “We wanted to make something a little more casual, but still with the trademark quality of our brand,” says Caron Macasaet, who runs the place with her husband and resident chef, Paul. “We are still keeping it in the family, but more accessible.”
Located in the new River Park of Filinvest Mall, Mati’s Meat and Bread is a lovely, bright space, with floor-to-ceiling windows that peer into the manmade river and park. The mall is known for being a bargain place for the lower market, but recent renovations, especially in this area, have turned it into a new dining destination down south. Mati’s takes advantage of the sunny location, with a menu that is perfect for both families, friends, and groups of co-workers from the nearby call centers. Caron and Paul were inspired by their travels, so they wanted to create a cross between a San Francisco diner and the burger joints and steakhouses of Vancouver. What’s important about Mati’s is that it is affordable, with dishes that will please almost anyone. Mostly American, there are still a few Filipino touches, and ones that are veritable crowd-pleasers.
Mati’s Meat and Bread does down-home grub best, with Mama’s Buffalo Wings some of the juiciest, crispiest things around. While not as spicy as one expects from buffalo, they have an adequate kick that is both a little sweet and a little hot, and goes well with the cooling, smooth blue cheese dip. There are tons of sandwiches as well, and their thin crust pizzas might be the thinnest of them all, virtually on a toasted pita chip.
Tali’s Gamberetti makes good use of its crisp base, with salty cheese, garlic, and tiny shrimps dotting it purposefully. Even burgers are simple and done well, a meaty blend of Angus chuck, with some chewy bits of fat and muscle still discernible throughout each bite. The star of the starters however has got to be the crazily inventive Balut Aligue, which comes with 3 plump versions of the infamous fermented duck eggs, in a skillet of rich, orange-red aligue. This is heart attack central in a good, hedonistic way. The crab fat embraces the creamy yolks of the eggs, and just begs for more rice to soak up all of that delicious fat. It is genius.
Of course, what Mati’s is proud of are the way they handle their meats. Caron explains that they wanted to keep the price point competitive for the area, but never wanted to compromise on quality. “People know our family, our brand for meat. We need to keep the same quality of food, but not as expensive.” With that in mind, the large servings, and tender steaks are all a steal, and Paul and Caron have come up with an enticing concept for the market they want to reach. Melo’s salpicao recipe has always been a favorite of mine, an unadulterated mix of simple garlic-infused olive oil, and tons of chopped cloves of the stuff.
The salpicao is tender and silky, each bite cooked at the right temperature, none more cooked or under cooked than the rest, a delicate feat. The wagyu rice is a little dry and maybe too decadent, especially when you’re eating all the oily, garlic bits on its own. Even the usually tough top blade cut has somehow been cooked till tender here, with the middle that shade of rose you look for, and a burnished exterior. For their pricier steaks (at PHP 1,450 for a rib-eye, still a steal for a premium grade Angus), they let you cook it tableside so you can judge the temperature and doneness by yourself. All that’s needed is salt, because it’s cooked in a cast-iron skillet to get that grilled flavor that goes so well with beef.
Mati’s Meat and Bread shows people exactly how tradition should be brought into the modern age. It still has marks of Melo’s all over—names of children and grandchildren all over the menu, the signature service, and the high standard of meats—but with an updated, more current feel. There’s a lot groups can order on the menu without breaking the bank, and with its family charm, it’s a place that’s good enough to share.
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Mati’s Meat and Bread
Address: Unit B2, River Park, Festival Mall, Alabang
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