Metronome Is the Restaurant Manila Deserves
When people talk—quite excitedly, if I may add—about soon-to-open French “bistronomy” restaurant Metronome, the chatter understandably revolves around the food. The talent of its young and determined chef, Miko Calo, has created a steady buzz from the dining elite, friends, and family who have participated in its pop-ups and impromptu dinners designed to train its staff.
Since the beginning of the year, Calo has been testing her dishes, which she describes as “straightforward, simple but precise” on industry friends. I sat in on one of those casual, impromptu dinners where Calo cooked and her guests tasted and gave valuable, honest, and occasionally scathing input. Months after, word is Calo and her team—along with an elegant Noel Bernardo-designed dining room—are finally ready.
“Is it open?” I ask RJ Galang, an old college buddy who, coincidentally, is also the man behind the branding and marketing of Manila’s most anticipated restaurant opening of the year. “It’s on pre-soft opening,” he replies on Facebook Messenger, which has become our default means of communication. It seems to be the fastest way to contact him these days, considering that, for the past couple of years, the advertising executive-turned-restaurateur has been permanently attached to his laptop. From conception to the actual execution of what is now known as Restaurant Metronome, Galang plays a vital role in bringing this concept to fruition.
For one, Galang’s involvement is one of chef Calo’s non-negotiables. Calo, wisened by her French culinary training and toughened by the cutthroat demands of Robuchon kitchens, is not the type to expose a chink in her armor. But, when asked what (or who) was the catalyst that got the ball rolling on Metronome, she admits that it was when “RJ assured me that he had my back.”
They are cousins from their Calo side of the family, and their bond has been strengthened not only by filiation but also by the work they have done together with their pioneering pop-up restaurant, Underground Supper Club. When Galang opened his well-received albeit short-lived cafe Bakere in Kapitolyo, Calo was his quiet ally in the kitchen putting together well-executed comfort food such as a memorable carbonara and a Butuan-style lechon sandwich. While Galang explains that his contribution consists mostly of “the visual design in the restaurant as well as social media,” his support and loyalty to Metronome’s star player prove invaluable to its success.
When asked why he likes working with her, Galang replies, “Because she’s family! (Laughs) But, seriously, I really believe in what she’s trying to do and I really believe in her food.”
While the cousins clearly have a strong support system intact, it took more than that for their concept to truly take flight. Galang admits to their shortcomings. “I had no experience with anything of this scale. Miko, as wonderful a chef she is, also didn’t know the business side. Miko and I agreed that it was crucial for us to partner with people who know the F&B business,” he says.
The two met seasoned restaurateur Elbert Cuenca through Galang’s brother, Ricky. With decades of experience in the business and having earned the respect of the city’s most discerning clients and hardiest industry insiders, Cuenca is somebody you want in your corner. To Calo and Galang, he was the missing bolt in their machinery; his participation as an investor and business partner is truly invaluable. “I also helped find the location,” Cuenca shares. “I brought in designer Noel Bernardo (who designs all of Cuenca’s restaurants) as well as the contractors and suppliers.” After Calo cooked dinner for Cuenca and the French ambassador at his eponymous steak room, Cuenca decided to get on board.
It was Cuenca, too, who tapped Alain Borgers to come in as one of the active partners. He explains why Borgers is a vital component in what they are trying to accomplish in Metronome:
“Alain Borger is the ex-general manager of Makati Shangri-La for two decades. His last stint before coming back to the Philippines was at Shangri-La Paris. He was in charge of the renovation of the former Bonaparte home into a luxury hotel. Within two years, their fine dining restaurant received two Michelin stars, and their Shang Palace is the only Chinese restaurant to ever receive a Michelin star in Paris. Alain brings that standard to a restaurant.”
With this dream team committed to the project, a certain level of quality is expected. Is Manila ready for a restaurant like Metronome? “I think a lot of people in Manila are looking for a place like Metronome. Manila diners are more well-traveled and educated with food and they look forward to better dining options,” says Calo.
Cuenca agrees: “‘We need something like this’ is something I hear a lot from the guests who have partaken in our soft opening period.” Galang adds, “Ready or not, I think Manila deserves Miko’s food and a restaurant like Metronome.”
As August 15 approaches, Calo admits to being both “nervous and excited.” With each dish tweaked to perfection, every bottle of wine carefully selected, and linens all perfectly pressed and starched, ready to be dabbed on Manila’s most discerning lips, Metronome is poised for judgment come opening night. While the food will surely speak for itself, it is the supporting cast of the food industry’s finest that will ensure its prolonged success. It will be the indefatigable loyalty of family that will provide comfort, strength, and confidence during times of self-doubt. Metronome is a force to be reckoned with because Calo’s partners believe so much in her, and they have her back.
Grand Midori, Bolanos Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City