How This Fine Dining Restaurant Is Outwitting the Pandemic

Rafael's Tapas is using a creative innovation to survive the pandemic.
IMAGE Rafael's Tapas Bar and Restaurant

There is something charming about Rafael’s Tapas, and it’s the kind of palpable feeling you get the moment you set foot inside its bedecked interiors. But it’s not because of its plush velvet chairs, its low-hanging chandeliers decorated with plants, or the pieces of contemporary art hanging on its walls. It’s not even about the food (which tastes great). Dining at Rafael’s is an immersive trip to your old memories, and that’s exactly what founder Henjie Carmona wants you to feel. 

Rafael's Tapas Interior

Photo by Rafael's Tapas Bar and Restaurant.

Photo by Rafael's Tapas Bar and Restaurant.

Photo by Rafael's Tapas Bar and Restaurant.

Rafael’s Tapas Bar and Restaurant takes inspiration from Carmona’s childhood memories of home. Carmona grew up in the province, where he was raised in a household steeped in tradition and Filipino hospitality. 

Among the most important memories he had of home was how every meal was an important family affair. Carmona shares how his father and the restaurant’s namesake, Rafael, would have the whole household busy with food preparation and setting the table, especially when there were guests. 

“More than the food, it’s really that kind of feeling you we got when we had those gatherings. It’s really about the bonding, adding to your conversations, and making meals more meaningful,” Carmona tells Esquire Philippines. 

Photo by Rafael's Tapas Bar and Restaurant.
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“Every time I taste his food or remember those times when we were growing up in the province, I feel inspired to share that with people. It’s not just about the food, it’s the whole experience surrounding every meal.”


Also Read: The Real Reason I Miss Restaurants Has Nothing to Do With Food


How Rafael’s is Outsmarting the Pandemic

Among the hardest hit restaurants during the pandemic are fine dining restaurants. Unlike fast food restaurants, they prepare food from scratch when orders are made, and most of the items on their menu are difficult to transport, making deliveries impractical. 

Carmona and his team of food researchers developed a way to bring homecooked meals and Rafael’s dining experience to your home. 

“People will not go to the restaurant for now, so we are bringing the experience of the restaurant to their homes,” said Carmona. 

To do this, Carmona came up with the Tapas Night Package, which includes cocktails and drinks delivered to your home. But it comes with a twist: it teaches you how to recreate the nostalgic ambiance at the restaurant. 

Photo by Rafael's Tapas Bar and Restaurant.

“When you say Tapas Night, it means music and drinks and a good dining experience. Other than the tapas are drinks and instructions on how to plate your tapa, how you set your tables, and which music to play while eating so you can get the same nostalgic feeling you have when you dine at Rafael’s,” said Carmona. 

Photo by Rafael's Tapas Bar and Restaurant.

“People still want to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and graduation among other occasions. This is why we created Home Deliveries by Rafael’s to bring the celebration to their homes if they choose to.”

For the Tapas Night Package, you will receive tapas in vacuum-sealed food packs, which are still warm to the touch—you know it was cooked minutes earlier. Included is a nice little card with suggestions on the right music to play on Spotify, and directions on what kinds of plates and implements to use. Even the cocktails we ordered arrived in vacuum-sealed food bags. 

Vacuum-sealing conserves the freshness of the food by eliminating oxygen, which accelerates spoilage, and preventing the spread of germs. This is also the reason why Rafael’s is one of the few fine dining restaurants able to deliver freshly cooked meals such as caldereta, wagyu salpicao, and chipirones. No spills or messes during transit.

From Vaccum-Sealed Packs to Our Home's Snacks Table

Photo by Mario Alvaro Limos.

Rafael's Tapas: Caldereta

Photo by Mario Alvaro Limos.

Rafael's Tapas: Wagyu Salpicao

Photo by Mario Alvaro Limos.

“Safety is our top priority.”

Carmona takes safety very seriously, that is why his staff at Rafael’s get tested for COVID-19 once a week. 

“We also ensure they don’t use public transportation because that increases their risk of getting exposed to the virus. We provide them with our own transportation service,” said Carmona. 

For the food, all the food and packaging are exposed to UV light for several minutes before being delivered to Rafael’s patrons. 

To order, visit Rafael's Tapas Bar and Restaurant on Facebook and follow the instructions below. 

Photo by Rafael's Tapas Bar and Restaurant.

Rafael’s Tapas is located at Resorts World Manila. It offers Filipino-Spanish cuisine inspired by memories of homecooked meals in a humble home in the province.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor-at-Large
Mario Alvaro Limos is features editor-at-large at Esquire Philippines, and heads the Lifestyle and Esports content of as its section editor. Email him at [email protected] and [email protected]
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