Return to good old-fashioned food at Providore
There used to a small eatery next to the Unimart in Greenhills where kids would wait while their parents finished shopping for groceries "You could get things like spaghetti or if you want, pancit palabok. Kahit ano. Meron para sa lahat," recalls Chef Kalel Chan. Providore is his throwback to this simplicity, this period when restaurants aimed more to please than to impress.
Nostalgia is the obvious driving force, even when it's not so obvious. In light of today's wild beverages, milkshakes like Peppermint Patty and Banana Cream Pie seem like safer frothy arrangements to new customers, but they stir up other emotions to those who've followed the Raintree Group's history. Like the mint-blue booths on the side of the restaurant, they're revivals from the sorely missed, upscale diner, Mr. Jones, which shut down in 2014.
Shelves near the entrance are stacked with goods from local purveyors: Sikat Salted Egg Potato Chips, Kala Milk bath products, woven totes from Green Rabbit, mats by Adore, bottles from Trador Hot Sauce and Chili Asylum, jars from Native Gourmet. It's that "grocery store" effect taken to today's more exacting standards.
Now we relish discoveries like puto ice cream, lap up quirky recreations like Butter Ball cakes, and marvel at taho remade with granita and honey—all innovations rooted in the past. Chef Kalel is careful to separate himself from this class of invention, using memories as they are and not to jump on a trend. Raintree endures because of an uncanny ability to strike a cool bargain between familiarity and reasonable playfulness, adding bits like a bone marrow dip served still in the bone to make things just a touch more indulgent but not necessarily to take over the show.
"This is the kind of food that people will always come back to," says Chef Kalel. "It's where you go when you want to eat with your family."
He adds, "It's our take on those cafes, those old-school coffee shops." Good-time places that weren't too concerned with imagery and technique, but more about, well, good times. "We even put a lot of parsley on top of the dishes. We're bringing that back," he jokes, before enumerating his Googled list of this old-school garnish's many health benefits.
The menu is much more grand than the cafes of old, however, a fact that we pointed out to the prolific chef. There's a page for nibbles (perfect with craft beer, perhaps the most trendy option they have), a column on eggs, a space for bread. Providore is a people pleaser in the most positive way. The Filipino section rounds up their goals to become that be-all place.
Chef Kalel Chan asked his five-year-old to help stamp those napkins with the logo.
Cast Iron Steak and Chili Cheese Fries with crema, chili, cheddar cheese, jalapeños, and red onions
Bacon Clam Chowder in a homemade bread bowl
The Big Boy Breakfast comes complete with crispy bacon, breakfast taters with a gooey poached egg and hollandaise, breakfast sausage, french toast, and freshly made maple bacon syrup
The burger is enjoyable on its own or with a bone cup of marrow.
Classic fried chicken with sausage gravy and creamy mashed potatoes
This unique take on a tres leches may look intense, but it's light and very subtly sweet. You'll be wanting thirds.
Raintree's signature desserts, including the well-loved Impossible bundt cake.
Raintree Group has always been A-plus with the drinks. Apart from the milkshakes, Raintree's Martin Wisniewski whips ups a bevy of must-try coolers, like this Providore Punch and Ginger Lemon Homemade Soda.
A burger with a thick beef patty that’s pink at the core and crusty in all the right places, and wonderfully docile as a whole; arugula not iceberg because this place doesn’t readily ignore flavor in favor of other aspects; and house-baked buns because there are extra steps worth doing. Bacon as stripes of ruddy meat and crispy fat, enjoyable either as crunchy ribbons or chopped up into pieces in the maple bacon syrup; homemade sausage that completes the big breakfast plate while doubling as an extra chunky addition to the gravy. Good food is the most appropriate shorthand for Providore. Nothing on the menu will shock you, but everything will make you hungry. Whether it’s for the fried chicken or for memories, you can’t really tell. You can have both.
Providore is at L1 SM Aura Premier, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. It opens tonight, September 21.