A secret steakhouse in BGC surprises with more than just great steak
Don't get us wrong. There is nothing casual about Foundry by Smith Butcher 1912, the few-months-old addition to British chef Tom Hines' group of brooding, sexy establishments (that list includes Lulu, Hooch, and Smith Butcher Steakhouse). It is, from every angle, one of those "special-occasion" places (for now, at least, but let's not get ahead of ourselves) with low, warm lighting, slinky velvet seats, and high ceilings adorned with modern exposed light fixtures. The second floor houses more tables and a cheeky, little bar peculiarly (we mean, for a steakhouse) dubbed Bar Candy.
Foundry. While it has the bones of a proper, manly man's temple of premium meats, it is quite the rogue-ish frondeur. Setting it apart from its Salcedo Village older cousin, Chef Ranuka Hettiarachchi (or Ran, as we now call him) admits to adhering to traditional steak preparation but brazenly adds that they will be dabbling in fusion cuisine. This might be appalling to most, but the special circumstances of Foundry make it the perfect candidate for such lascivious experimentations. For one, it puts the chef's youth, experience (Chef Ran worked in the Middle East before Makati Mediterranean resto Fig, where Chef Hines snatched him up for Hooch and Foundry), and ethnicity (he's Sri Lankan) to maximized use.
All of those adjustments, however, are in the not-so-distant future—the lofty plans of an eager and ambitious youngling. For now, Chef Ran is happy to showcase his elegant grasp on cooking techniques and balanced flavors. The amuse bouche of roasted eggplant puree, spiced caramelized green apples, blue cheese, and crispy bacon is an apt introduction not only to the meal but also to the chef's bold cooking style. He demonstrates a lighter touch with the ahi tuna poké, but only to ensure that the Turkish flat bread delivers maximum impact. It's startling almost how a vegetarian dish of stewed tomatoes, wild mushroom, caramelized onions, feta, micro rocket, and parsley over a hardy crust can steal the show.
Ahi Tuna Poke
It would be impressive, but Chef Ran made sure his platter of nose-to-tail assorted beef will be the definitive showstopper. Ox tongue, cheeks, Irish sirloin, Matsusaka, and glazed ox tail prepared in various ways to conjure optimal tenderness and flavor from each cut—pretty hard to top. Seasoned simply and accompanied by a trio of sauces (reduced jus, truffle gravy, and peppercorn), Chef Ran delivers uncluttered and straightforward dishes when the moment calls for it. And, in an establishment that glorifies meat above all things, it is the right thing to do.
In his spacious and poignantly silent kitchen, where everybody seems to work seamlessly together with minimal verbal instruction, we watch in awe as the showcase of pillow-soft tongue, tender cheeks, expertly grilled steaks, and gelatinous oxtail—all matched with the right sauces—come together on a dark slate. While we feasted, the mood was undeniably celebratory, and it's hard for it not to be with this kind of almost primeval style of dining. There's something about a heaping platter of meats, playing around with sauces, and an accompaniment of solid starches (the steak rice is a reliable crowd pleaser, but the mashed potatoes are perfection) that illicit pure, unadulterated bliss.
Tea-infused lemon sponge cake
You can take your dessert at Bar Candy above, which we highly recommend. The tea-infused lemon sponge with raspberry and vanilla cream may be delicate, but it's no wallflower. The layers of flavors from the citrus to the vanilla to the floral notes of the black tea are sophisticated and an admiringly balanced end to the meal. But, being the lushes that we are, cocktails by the statuesque Milena Matjosaityte make this rather dandy-looking establishment a must-visit for serious drinking. Start with the light effervescence of the vodka-based Bison, then work your way up to the spiced, tropical Aye Aye with its aromas of cinnamon. If you're up for something stiff, perhaps the Smoking Jacket with its stirred potion of Bulleit Burbon, Lagavulin 16, among other things, delivers a proper buzz. For the reckless, opt for the exotic charms of the Te-qui-la Dragon. We expect many great things from the baby-faced 23-year-old Lithuanian.
At the bar
In an ever-expanding ocean of steakhouses, Foundry stands out as the quiet outsider that's full of surprises. It draws you in with the promise of premium, perfectly done steaks, yet it beguiles you with its exciting, unexpected features which will keep you guessing and, most importantly, wanting.
Foundry is at The Plaza, Arya Residences, McKinley Parkway, 8th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.