Charles Paw, founder and CEO of the Tasteless Group, knew the kind of food hall he wanted from the very beginning—he wanted something different from the others. He thought up a concept where, instead of promoting existing brands, a particular cuisine or dish will be highlighted. The design will prominently feature soft, bright lights, instead of dark, moody industrial spaces. And a deli will allow guests to continue to enjoy good food from the hall to their own homes. And so the idea for The Grid was born.
The food hall opened at the Power Plant Mall on Monday this week, designed by Hydra, the group headed by renowned artist Dan Matutina that frequently worked on Paw's restaurants. The name "Grid" is a nod to the mall and its history, referring to the network of intersecting lines that create righ angles—much like how great food and experience come together in a single space.
There are a total of 12 stalls, each having a standard look and devoid of any branding. At The Grid, the focus is food not fame. Though chef-driven, the chefs weren't intended to lure people in (though they won't complain if that works, too). Charles wants the food to catch on—and judging by the initial lineup, customers could easily be hooked.
Most of the dishes are familiar fare. There’s pad thai, tsukumen, ramen, steaks, teppanyaki, tapas, pintxos, tacos, tostadas and baked rice. Crowd favorite Bun Appetit joins the lineup with their bestselling Maine-style seafood subs and grilled cheeses. It’s the brand’s first time to operate in a mall, and though initially reluctant, the owners eventually saw the potential of opening particularly in Rockwell. “To be honest, the dream was to open a small space so it won’t be hard to operate. We were thinking of the ground floor of an office building in Salcedo or Legaspi,” says Iya Jimenez-Cua. “But it’s not that easy to find. Whenever we scouted, it’s always a big cut. Or the small space has already been taken. The mall wasn’t part of the plan but the offer was hard to resist. We decided that if ever we were to open in a mall, Rockwell would be the best one. And so everything worked out.” Bun Apppetit expanded their menu for The Grid by adding more seafood classics like the clam chowder and lobster mac and cheese.
Commanding more attention and appetite than the standard fare are stalls that have been peppered with ingenuity. Like Josh Boutwood’s take on burgers and fried chicken, which he says he will turn into “a little more millennial” and Bucky’s duo Justin Golangco and Miguel Vargas who will churn out trendy chia bowls and soft serve.
Lè Chon by Happy Ongpauco-Tiu is an early frontrunner as people will find the sight of crisp, golden crackling and juicy rotisserie chicken just hard to ignore, more so resist. She calls it her “gourmet lechon stall” showcasing French slow-cooking techniques using Filipino flavours and ingredients. There’s porchetta, lechon manok , Angus beef belly lechon and spicy tuna, each coming with the customer’s choice of rub (tanglad butter, sugar cane gata, or truffle and garlic), sides (kamote frites, banana cue chips, or grilled along with baba ganoush), rice (butter or brown rice), and sauce (muscovado liver sauce, labuyo lime, or adobo white). Ongpauco-Tiu has also added restaurant staples such as Barrio Fiesta’s kasuy kare-kareng gulay and Pamana’s sizzling pancit con lechon, as well as desserts like guinumis with cotton candy (first introduced in Madrid Fusion Manila) and bibingka souffle in her menu.
The Tasteless Group’s Le Petit Souffle also joins The Grid, introducing desserts that are more creative in taste and form. “In Rockwell, we have more opportunity to be creative because of the market here that’s why our flavours will be more experimental,” says Miko Aspiras. “We have the Persian Love, which is a hybrid of baklava and croissant with rose buttercream. And we will also have healthy items like the mixed grain-and-nuts yogurt cheesecake. Eventually, we will roll out small entremets as well.”
As for the beverages, classic cocktails like the old fashioned, negroni and sours are available. But Zuriel Domingo, team leader and coffee barista, promises that they also have drinks that will tease your curiosity, such as their natural sodas, which come in lychee-grapefruit, and lime-rose among others, as well as ginger beers like turmeric orange and turon. Operated by the guys of The Curator and EDSA Beverage Design Group, the refreshments section will also introduce a new line of libations, starting with their Irish Whiskey, which combines their dark matter theory (mix of Panama and Columbia) coffee, Jameson whiskey and cream.
The Grid has a good mix of players. But like a degustation which inevitably will have hits and misses, the food hall will also eventually have top and bottom sellers once the dust and hype settle. Let’s see what the Rockwell crowd places their bets on.