It’s 15 minutes before happy hour and I’m in the mood to drink. The metal staircase leading to the restaurant is rusty, puddles dripping into the first and second floors of 16 United Street but I’m not surprised knowing the building I’m in. A favorite of the after-work crowd, yuppies probably in the mid 20s to early 30s range following the ritual of the P250 bucket of San Miguel/Red Horse, usually accompanied by shawarma rice or sisig tacos, judging from other restaurants in the compound.
I am not in the mood for any of these. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to shun a good old bottle of Pale but this afternoon calls for a gin and tonic—the good kind. The owners who also happen to be good friends of mine, Mark Tating and Samantha Beltran, are in their usual table, right in front of the bar overlooking a portion of the village from the third floor. In an area so saturated with restaurants prioritizing their market’s humble budgets, Cow & Chicken Modern Brunch sticks to these prerequisites with a food and beverage selection quite opposite from what you’d expect.
“Everyone loves breakfast food, and it's something we’ve accepted to have not just after waking up in the morning,” say the owners. This is what leads to their all-day brunch menu. The Southern fried chicken and waffles is their bestseller. Being the possibly stereotypical millennials that they are, they’ve decided to go with boneless chicken thighs a.k.a. Jollibee’s most requested, marinated overnight in buttermilk and a seven-spice seasoning mix, fried Yankee-style and served with their crowning glory—waffles that remain fluffy even after getting left out uncovered for half a day. I would know, I’ve taken them out.
Tapa and Toast
Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles
Slab of Corned Beef with Rice and Eggs
Other favorites are their corned beef, house-cured brisket sliced into chunks, seared over high flame, then served with adobo rice and eggs your way , as well as their white champorado, an idea originating from another partner, Junko Flores, who recalls a childhood memory from his province of Bataan. Day-old rice mixed with carabao’s milk and a sprinkling of rock salt executed into a 50:50 ratio of malagkit and dinorado rice, cooked with honey, then topped with a layer of dulce de leche. It comes with kapak or freshwater mullet marinated in salt and vinegar then sun-dried before getting deep-fried to a crisp. Most of the items on the menu integrate some type of breakfast food we’re familiar with then presenting it differently. The tapa cheese steak sandwich, for example, uses Kitayama beef tapa served inside toasted hoagies spread with garlic butter, along with sautéed onions, peppers, and melted Provolone. Feel free to ask for Sriracha to go with this.
Following the tradition of a proper brunch, comes their activism towards the beverages that come with. Not milk or OJ, but a well-made cocktail done in the same nature as their food. “Brunch as a concept here is interpreted strictly as a hybrid of breakfast and lunch mostly practiced by the oldies, but we’re going beyond that. It’s a leisurely experience you do when you have time to spare and usually the food coma and slight tipsiness that come after is the reason for this allotment of time.”, the partners share, and I couldn’t agree more. This is why during free days when school and work aren’t in the way, I come to mix drinks for others and myself. Their liquor selection is continually expanding but quite impressive compared to other restaurants in the Kapitolyo area.
Anton's handcrafted drinks
Their bar list covers your basic liquors: whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum, but aside from the usual suspects you get from most establishments, they go one step further with their labels. Suntory, Glenfiddich, Grey Goose, Kraken, Fireball, Glenmorangie, et cetera are just some of the bottles they have on hand. They’ve also gone the extra mile with house infusions mostly used for their custom-made cocktails. Think tarragon-infused vodka for your Bloody Mary or bacon-washed bourbon on the rocks, but my venom of choice is gin and this where I rejoice. Of course, old friends like Bombay and Tanqueray are present but then it’s always nice to get acquainted with Farmer’s Botanical, with its strong notes of lemongrass and elderflower and Fillier’s, made in small batches and distilled in copper stills. If you’re a regular G&T drinker, you would know that certain gins go best with certain garnishes—preferences include the classic Hendrick’s and cucumber while orange and cinnamon go best with Whitley Neill, both of which are also available in the restaurant. Today, I mix a G&T inspired by a trip four years ago to East Hampton—a seafoam gin and tonic. The Botanist Islay gin mixed with lavender syrup and crème de myrtille then topped off with tonic water, a meringue foam flavored also with lavender, lemon rind, and finally, a grinding of Himalayan pink salt.
If gin and tonics aren’t your thing, then they’ll always be happy to mix a drink tailor-made to your tastes even if that ends up leading to an amaretto sour or rum Coke. The concept to all this is fairly simple: brunch food paired with good cocktails. If that doesn’t excite you, don’t fret, they also stock Pale Pilsen.
Cow & Chicken Modern Brunch Dining is at 3/F 16 United Street, Kapitolyo, Pasig City.