Bruce Lim’s Rustique Kitchen: An Anticipated Return From the Celebrity ChefSeptember 9, 2019
- Pamela CortezWords
Bruce Lim is a polarizing figure. He’s known more as a TV chef, with several shows on the Lifestyle Network, which make him seem like a badass cook, you know…The Boss. However, in spite of the reputation he’s built with his TV background, it hasn’t translated to his restaurants. After a string of failed stints, it was a while before we heard from Chef Lim, who lay low after his last venture closed down.
Last month, there was quite a media buzz about the return of the chef, who had now found a partner in businessman Tonyboy Cojuangco. Located along Pasay Road, taking over the space once occupied by La Regalade, is the eponymous Bruce Lim’s Rustique Kitchen, which promises to bring back the cooking the Chef is known for.
I visited during lunch, and was surprised to see how little the interior had changed. It had the exact same layout as its predecessor, with only a few minor changes. The dimly lit interiors suited the French bistro that La Regalade was, but upon reading the menu, it seemed as if the semi-fine dining, uptight feel didn’t suit its new inhabitants. Yes, Chef Lim’s take on Filipino is more refined than most, but it does not match the ambiance at all. The place is dark and in spite of its size, feels stuffy, like the dining room of a long-forgotten country club.
That aside, the menu, which crosses between Filipino and French, might feature some of Chef Lim’s better cooking yet. I wasn’t really a fan of his before, thinking that some of his combinations weren’t my cup of tea, and there are some items at Rustique Kitchen which I still don’t get. There’s a dud for example, in the boring beef steak pasta which was devoid of good ideas and good flavor.
Elsewhere however, they work, and quite well I might add. The star of the show was a sizzling oxtail kare-kare, which has become the place’s flagship dish. The peanut sauce, when on a sizzling plate, becomes reduced, thick and sticky, making the undertones slightly bitter and sweet at the same time. The paste coats the oxtail, which is as tender as these cuts can be, all gooey gelatin and tender meat. Instead of just bagoong, it is served with a side of tripe smothered in the salty stuff. It’s not new or innovative, but it does the job. The Cornish hen sat in salt becomes an incredibly tender bird, infused with lemongrass and ginger, decent food at the price.
The service itself is near excellent; our waitress in particular was warm without being intrusive, and incredibly efficient but always with a smile. With all these positives however, why does it still feel as if there’s something that’s just not right? The place seems soulless and sad, and says nothing about what the kitchen is up to. Chef Lim may have a renewed spirit for cooking, but it will go unnoticed and might not grow in a space like this. With so many excellent places nowadays that marry both concept and taste, I just can’t seem to reconcile the smiling Chef with a place that makes me frown.
This review was conducted solely by the author, who did not accept any form of cash advertising, invitation, sponsorship or payment. It was paid for by the author or Pepper.ph, and the views represented are purely the writer’s own. It is based on one anonymous visit to the restaurant.
Rustiqe Kitchen by Chef Bruce Lim
Leelin Building II,
820 Arnaiz Ave (formerly Pasay Road), Makati City