When the owners of BGC watering hole Downtown and Halsted (stylized Dwntown & Halsted) decided on the concept, they quickly zeroed in on the aesthetic. Industrial, artsy, urban: Bare concrete walls to showcase the works of young artists plus surfaces adorned with graffiti. The vibe is cosmopolitan, something that would fit right in at any buzzing capital in the world.
But it's no longer enough for a bar to just look cool these days. Its survival usually depends on the level of talent they have in their kitchen and with Chef Marco Legasto (Purple Feet, Abuela's, Prime 101) as part owner, not fully utilizing his talents would have been a sin. Taking the bar's artsy theme, the freestyling chef went all out with the creativity.
"It's a challenge, but I enjoy it because I get to play with modern techniques," the bashful Legasto imparts. It's something he's never done before. The now-defunct Purple Feet fulfilled European standards; Abuela's is a throwback to his grandmother's Fil-Hispanic recipes; and Prime 101 is a classic steakhouse. Downtown and Halsted is his first attempt at modern cuisine that refuses to be too fancy.
His shrimp ceviche perfectly illustrates this rather successful switch in cooking style. Slivers of shrimp are marinated in leche de tigre, then enclosed in glass with a cloud of smoke. When the dome is lifted for the guest, a pervasive smoky aroma is released. More importantly that the smoke and mirrors is the flavor that's been imparted onto the delicate shrimp which nicely counter-balances the acidity of the marinade. Clever and quite unforgettable.
Fennel Seared Tuna
Legasto is on-trend with most of his small plates—going the route of light-footed modern Japanese samplers. This could be the influence of the former Sushi Kappo Kobikicho chef that Legasto will be teaming up with for another venture and it also explains why the fennel seared tuna with ginger ponzu honey is simple, straightforward, and finely executed. The rather ballsy adobo gyoza offers an exciting alternative—a flavorful and familiar appetizer, or perhaps a satisfying lunch with rice. Simply because no matter how you serve them, adobo and rice make so much sense.
Steaks make an expected appearance in the menu, and we know Legasto does this well. The steak sampler puts together different cuts, including Japanese Wagyu and U.S. Angus rib eye. A side of mashed potatoes seals the deal, acting as a solid, creamy accompaniment.
There is a rather negligible Choc-nut cheesecake for dessert, but we recommend you end a meal here with a cocktail or two, anyway. Singapore-based bartender Jason Grey is responsible for the mostly fruity concoctions using only premium spirits as their base. The Reyka vodka-based Brunswick Collins—with white wine, muddled strawberries, and coriander—is a light, summery drink. Being blended whiskey Monkey Shoulder's brand ambassador, Grey does right by the brand with the Halsted Sour, the kafir lending an earthiness to counter the acidity from the lime. Another good use of contrast can be found in the East Side Elevation, a Hendricks gin-based cocktail with the surprising complexity from reduced balsamic vinegar tempered by herbaceous basil.
East Side Elevation
Icy Coffee Mojito
It seems that good booze needs to be accompanied by equally delicious coffee these days and Downtown and Halsted's bar is fitted with a serious espresso machine. Sobering up can be accomplished with a double shot of espresso or an icy coffee mojito—the virgin version is lovely, but a Grey cocktail spiked with Sailor Jerry spiced rum is simply magnetic.
Downtown and Halsted is a bar that refuses to compromise substance for superficial beauty, employing the talents of a hugely underrated chef and a world-class bartender to provide guests with a unique experience which won't break the bank. Unlike good looks, this is truly the stuff that lasts.
Downtown & Halsted is at G/F Burgos Parklane, Forbestown Road, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.