A Margarita Fóres lunch for people too busy to eat
She seemed almost apologetic, but there was no need. "I know we're a bit out of the way," Margarita Fóres—Asia's Best Female Chef 2016—graciously says in her always modulated, raspy whisper. "It's really easier to just grab a bite at the mall." We are sitting at Grace Park, Fóres' homage to all things sustainable, organic, and local, named after the sprawling family compound in Caloocan where she grew up exposed to a more genteel way of living. So, yes, the fact is: Grace Park the restaurant was never really meant to cater to the average mall dweller—the mom running a quick errand; pre-teeners teetering on hovercrafts as they make their way to Pinkberry; or the driver maximizing his aircon time as he waits for the brats' dismissal at the private school nearby.
Grace Park has always been about careful attention to detail, from the upcycled tabletops to the locally sourced ingredients conscientiously handpicked for their quality, flavor, and most importantly, for their sustainability. These days, it's not only important to enjoy a meal but to also know that you are helping a local farmer make an honest buck or perhaps putting an heirloom grain to good use so it doesn't disappear into oblivion.
The premise behind the Farmhouse Meals is about feeding you quickly, but doing it well. These are duos of dishes that are relatively well-priced but stay true to what Grace Park believes in—slow food prepared for the busy man or woman who refuses to compromise. For instance, a soup and salad duo is composed of a cioppino (an Italian seafood soup) and three-page salad with grilled carta di musica. A slightly heartier option is a somewhat dense cauliflower clam chowder paired with the pot roast and greens.
Truffle cream fettuccine with fried organic egg
Cioppino and Three-Page Salad
Broccoli Soup and Grilled Cheese
The soup and sandwich duo is what most would label as comfort food—the broccoli soup with a poached organic egg is a welcome reprieve from the usual tomato soup that comes in tandem with grilled cheese. This being Grace Park, that's a triple grilled cheese oozing out of hardy sourdough bread.
The three-page seafood salad is a light affair of greens, squid rings, and shrimp, in a simple lemon vinaigrette—a perfect match to the richness of the truffle cream fettuccine with fried organic egg. For those looking for more homey and familiar flavors—the squash soup and chicken parmigiana duo is more than adequate.
Not that the usual dishes at Grace Park will keep you waiting—their pastas, pan-roasted meats, and seafoods are satisfying, flavorful, yet simple to prepare. It only takes a few flicks of the wrist to shave white truffle (currently in season available until supplies last) over buttered fettuccine for an easy yet indulgent meal, while the Dumagete buttered chicken is rich one-pan wonder that is aromatic and packed with flavor. Although the lamb adobo takes hours to cook, it only needs reheating in a claypot and then served alongside steamed rice.
Grace Park might not be conveniently located in the mall, but just like the girl with the four B's you're sure mom will love, she makes sure that she is worth the trouble.
Grace Park is at G/F One Rockwell, Hidalgo Drive, Makati City; tel. no. (02) 843-7275.