Fine to Fun Dining at Chef William Mahi's New 210° Kitchen + Drinkery
I first met William Mahi in October last year in the home he shares with his wife, Heather. It was somewhere between a meeting and a dinner, where the Mahi couple prepared a luscious-looking spread of crusty baguettes, cheeses, dips, and, on one end—farthest from me and nearest to William—a plate of gummy candy. While I won't decline a sugary worm any time of the day, it seemed like an odd choice for a seasoned chef whose credentials include working in several award-winning restaurants around the world. I called him out on this wildcard course, which prompted him to take a piece in his mouth and say, “I love gummy. They’re the best!" The candy was, I learned later, was from France.
At this point, he had just finished a stint at City of Dreams' The Tasting Room, which he roused to a smashing success. The French-Basque chef, who, when he first arrived to the Philippines, declared that Manila had the potential to be the next dining destination, was busy planning a restaurant in Bonifacio Global City: something French but unintimidating, refined but reassuring. He refused to show me the menu, explaining that everything was still on the drawing board. "I can tell you that there will be good drinks, like cocktails," he says. Heather adds, "He likes girly drinks!"
Chef William Mahi started his kitchen career at 14. He has worked at Robuchon, Plaza Athenee, Papillon, and the two-Michelin-starred Spondi.
The Mahis shuttled from Shanghai to Luxembourg then Turkey to Athens before they found themselves in the Philippines two and a half years ago. Back then, Heather assumed that they'd be in Manila for only a few months, but it's 2017 and the Mahis are far from leaving.
We are at 210° Kitchen + Drinkery, his newest project and the first restaurant that he actually owns. It's a dream come true for the Mahis, who would occasionally look around the place in slight disbelief. The three-day-old 210° replaces Adaam & Yves, transforming the breakfast eatery's stark industrial-Scandinavian furnishings into something a tad cozier—couches, dim lighting. Little details give away the couple's personality: a wall chronicles all the cities they've lived in and another features a blown-up photograph of William's favorite singer (whose name, once again, escapes my millennial mind). Signs that say "Count the memories, not the calories" and "Remember to leave a little sparkle everywhere you go" make it feel extra welcoming ("We're a kitschy couple," laughs Heather). And while the restaurant seems polished despite those homey traits, the pickling jars all over evoke sweet rusticity.
210 degrees is, for Chef William, the perfect roasting temperature. It also denotes his shift from what he describes as "fine-dining to fun dining." Currently, the restaurant serves set menus of the customer's choice to act as an introduction of what they offer, but Heather tells us that they'll be introducing a la carte for the first two weeks of February. After, the kitchen will be rolling out only the a la carte options. It's in line with Chef William's intention of creating a family-style experience. "We want people to order the a la carte, order different things, then they can share what they have," says Heather. It's an ideal concept, but it seems as though they're undermining the impact of 210°'s Pork Belly and overestimating people's generosity. The foie gras alone is hard to share.
Bigger plans are in store. Chef William may have left fine-dining, but there are certain culinary ambitions that a person of his caliber can dream up. A chef's table—over the marble counterpart by the kitchen—is in the works and so is a bar on the second floor.
The four-course menu is priced at P1,290.
Salmon marinated for 36 hours then brightened with capers and pickles. Earthy notes seep in thanks to the mushroom and sauce.
A vegetarian tart to convert those who are averse to their greens: the crust is perfectly crispy and not at all oily, crowned with zucchini, eggplant, tomato, and a drizzle of olive sauce.
A light Pumpkin Veloute, cooked in sous-vide, completed with sweet white wine and cumin foam. The fennel seeds give each sip an edge.
Leaning more towards Asian profiles, this sesame seed-speckled seared tuna bathes in sweetish-saltish tataki sauce.
Simply called The Egg on the menu, the yolk is served separately then plunked over the creamy potato mousse with caramelized onions and bacon. Breakfast for dinner.
No one gives justice to carrots better than the French. This vegetarian number features an organic carrot with carrot juice and mashed puree.
This Pan-Fried Duck Liver only comes in half portion for the set menu. Chef William shows his cheeky side with the Soulard foie gras. The ducks are fed only with corn, hence the corn foam and popcorn elements.
The Pork Belly is marinated with Columbus spices the roasted. The skin is expertly crispy.
Reminiscent of another one of Chef William's earlier squid dishes, this Calamari has more deep-fried elements. The squid is cooked to melting perfection that it's almost an adjustment for those who are used to the tougher, overcooked variety we so often experience. It's a must to lather each piece with the pesto and garlic foam.
You can ask for the Octopus to be cooked either soft or hard. The former is recommended so you can focus on the flavors of the homemade Ras El Hanout, cumin sauce, and piminetos del piquillos mayonnaise. Grilling gives the edges a crispy, torched texture. Everything is homemade, a mark of Chef William's background.
The Entrecote (plus P700) is a 250-gram hulk of beef served with roasted garlic and port wine sauce.
A crowdpleaser: luxurious Real Moelleux Au Chocolat perfected with berries on the side.
A traditional Tarte Tatin. The lightness of the apples is perfect after the heavier meat or foie gras options.
210° Kitchen + Drinkery is at 1D G/F Icon Plaza, 25th Street corner 6th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. For reservations, contact 0995-015-2192, (02) 958-5305; [email protected]; Instagram @210degrees.ph. Current operating hours are from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Saturday.