MADE NICE

Our Fa­vorite Res­tau­rant of 2017

Let’s Eat - - WHAT'S INSIDE - WORDS BY SPANKY HIZON ENRQUEZ

It should be about good food, pe­riod. First and fore­most, last and cer­tainly not the least. That’s what de­fines a res­tau­rant, that’s what makes it suc­cess­ful. You can imag­ine what my email in­box is like, more so my so­cial me­dia feeds. All are in­un­dated with the so-called lat­est and great­est about all ev­ery­thing to do with food. As a writer, and as pi­o­neer­ing blogger, that’s to be ex­pected. A decade on into my shared ob­ses­sion with culi­nary cul­ture, I’ve be­come some­what blasé, some­times out­right cyn­i­cal about all the press and praise float­ing around out there.

Maybe that’s why it took me so long to fi­nally ven­ture into Made Nice. Ad­mit­tedly, the ini­tial pub­lic­ity the res­tau­rant re­ceived be­came, if I’m be­ing com­pletely hon­est, quite cloy­ing. It was all “Scan­di­na­vian this” and “New York that”, and that was some­what an­noy­ing. I re­ally wanted to go early on, but I also wanted to avoid the herds of “food­ies” oooh-ing and ah­h­hing, miss­ing the forest for the trees. I also be­lieve that the ul­tra-hip and in­sid­er­sound­ing re­views could have turned off some peo­ple, who, like me, sim­ply go for the food, not nec­es­sar­ily for all the ac­cou­ter­ments of am­biance.

I waited for more than a few months to let the young group of chefs set­tle in, and I was greatly re­warded for it. Made Nice, I was pleased to dis­cover, and I’m more than pleased to an­nounce, can now right­fully claim a spot next to Hey Hand­some and Toyo Eatery as among the best new din­ing des­ti­na­tions to open in the past cou­ple of years. This very mod­ern res­tau­rant, lo­cated in one of the old­est build­ings in the Makati CBD, now has a real rhythm about it, a flow of food and ser­vice un­en­cum­bered by the pres­sures of pub­lic­ity. It now has a reg­u­lar clien­tele, pa­trons who keep on com­ing back, for the sim­ple plea­sures of en­joy­ing a meal in a cool and cozy up­scale es­tab­lish­ment.

The ex­cel­lence of the dishes are un­ques­tion­able, and the pre­sen­ta­tion, the plat­ing, as gor­geous as any I’ve seen in Net­flix’s highly-rated “Chef ’s Ta­ble”. A case can be made for Made Nice to be fea­tured in that se­ries; I wouldn’t miss it. The sto­ries are com­pelling. There’s a sweet love story be­tween two of the chefs, Jack and Gabbi; a Clooney-Pitt-Da­mon-es­que bro­mance among Aaron, Wren, and Toby. And that young man mak­ing the pasta?

That’s Raul. His mom is Mamou herself, and his aunt? Asia’s Best Fe­male Chef. So yes, ex­pec­ta­tions are sky high for this Break­fast Club cast of young culi­nar­i­ans.

The good news is, they’re liv­ing up to the hype and ma­tur­ing into their in­di­vid­ual roles. It can be dif­fi­cult, true. But surely, and not-so-slowly, the Made Nice part­ners are grow­ing up. There are tremen­dous chal­lenges – there seems to be a new res­tau­rant du jour open­ing up ev­ery week, com­pet­ing for the core of din­ers who reg­u­larly eat out, not to men­tion the at­ten­dant ir­ri­tants of park­ing along Este­ban St. -- but with a lit­tle de­ter­mi­na­tion, and a lot of pas­sion, those can be solved and sur­passed.

Be­cause here’s the deal with Made Nice: it’s a pretty spe­cial res­tau­rant, that’s worth go­ing back to, again and again. Why? The sim­plest of recipes for suc­cess: they serve re­ally good food. And quite nicely too.

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PHO­TOS BY GABBY CANTERO

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03 Oc­to­pus: squid ink, chili, ton­nato sauce Bolog­nese: fresh tagli­olini, USDA beef, Gruyère and Em­men­thal 3 Lamb: mozarella sphere, kamote puree, frog egg egg­plant 4 Made Nice En­trance 5 Milk Choco­late dense choco­late cake, malt ice cream, dulce...

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