A Decade Later, M Dining Persists as Manila's Top Power Table
When M. Dining first opened ten years ago—originally as Masseto in Salcedo Village—it was not vying for the reputation of Manila’s top power table, although it already had all the necessary elements to propel it to the short list.
At its unassuming street side location, there was no imposing signage that gave any indication of the softly lit, contemporary dining room that sat behind the tinted glass along Valero Street, nor was there a well-known celebrated chef inside the kitchen. At the helm, in fact, was the young, New York-trained Tippi Tambunting. She offered the restaurant’s stylish clientele exactly what it was desperate for at the time: modern riffs on enjoyable classic fare paired with an impressive wine list, refined service, and an atmosphere of sophistication set by the establishment’s low-key yet highly influential ownership.
While not an overnight sensation, the restaurant began collecting patrons of provenance slowly and steadily. Three years later, the partners opened the not-so-secret Bar M in an adjacent space. Equally discreet and comfortable, the cocktails and selection of whiskies rivaled the best bars in the metro, further cementing the entire enterprise as the ultimate destination for the best food and drink in Makati. More than the fine fare and ample libations, however, what drove the country’s power players and ladies who lunch through the door, week after week, was M Dining’s personable service and private club-like feel. Under Tambunting’s direction, diner’s names were remembered and their preferences unforgotten. While privacy was considered sacrosanct by some, there were others that were not in hiding and enjoyed fraternizing with the next table, for M Dining was, and still is without a doubt, the place to see and be seen in the circles that matter.
In 2016, however, M. Dining’s landlord had made other plans for the building where the restaurant and bar resided. A temporary hiccup in operations, but one that in retrospect was probably best for the brand given the city’s bourgeoning dining landscape, M Dining + Bar made the move to a new space across town along Don Chino Roces Extension Avenue. It’s an area that was rapidly developing into a serious gastronomic and cultural corridor. The new space, while still private, mature, and reminiscent of its former self, gave M Dining a new refreshing personality. The open dining area was sleek but not stuffy, and the no longer hidden bar shifted from being a whisky bar to a purveyor of the world’s finest gins (although whisky is still available).
Along with its brand-new dining room came a new chef—another New York–trained professional, Tom Bascon. Together, Tambunting, who has since assumed a managerial role, and Bascon have upped M. Dining’s ante with a menu that continuously invents and reinvents itself while the beverage program remains unparalleled in its offerings. It became one of the first high-end restaurants in Manila to employ a dedicated sommelier, Gigi Varua. Because of this, M. Dining not only has the best wine list in the city, but it also has the best wine service in the country.