To say that Makati’s hottest new restaurant, Metronome, arrived quietly on Manila’s dining scene would be a completely accurate but entirely false statement. For long before it began to receive guests in early July, the Elbert Cuenca-directed dining concept, Miko Calo-led kitchen, and Alain Borgers-refined undertaking, was already the talk of the town, and then some. Surely the local food cognoscenti had the “in” on the soon-to-open fine fare establishment. Then, when CNN International writer Chris Dwyer, popularly known around Asia as the Fine Food Dude, included the then-unopened Metronome on his list of Great Plates: 15 New Restaurants to Try in 2019 earlier this year, the anticipation (and expectation) soared faster than any rising BGC skyscraper.
The situation didn’t surprise me. Through the years, I have witnessed a number of similar strategic openings from Elbert, one of the most seasoned restaurateurs in the business. His not-so formulaic game plan involves creating buzz and rousing curiosity then pulling back just enough so his new concept may no longer be top of mind but has certainly not been forgotten. And, when he is ready to open the doors, he does so on his own terms and in his own time—no flashy grand openings or media splashes but instead more thoughtful and deliberate invitations.
In Miko and Alain, Elbert has found his fellow spirit animals when it comes to reserve and restraint, not to mention good taste. Their partnership brings together decades of experience from all sides of the hospitality industry. As the former general manager at the Shangri-La Makati, the genteel Alain brings polish and proficiency in service and has developed a consummate wine offering to pair with Miko’s food. Noel Bernardo, another hospitality industry veteran, has designed the contemporary dining room. The double-height space is bright and stylish with the welcoming tactile attributes of velvet, cane, and brass.
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And what type of food does Metronome serve? The team calls it modern French and others simply refer to it as continental, but I find labels these days are often inconsequential. While the technique and discipline are undeniably French, the ingredients and taste profile are truly global just like the cook in the kitchen. Miko, the Mindanao-born, Manila-educated, and French-trained chef started her culinary career with a diploma in the Intensive Professional Program in French cuisine in Ferrandi Paris. A one-time stagiere at the La table du Joel Robuchon in Paris, she has worked her way through the kitchens of the global Robuchon empire with professional stints in London and Singapore as well. In a previous interview, Miko said, “My type of food could be defined as modern cuisine, but personally I always strive for a balance of excitement, innovation, and restraint. I aim to achieve a skillful yet restrained control of flavors that are distinctive trademarks of classic French cooking and to incorporate local produce and flavors creatively and instinctively. I always want to keep the food I serve simple and to utilize ingredients properly.”
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Chef Miko Calo
Photo by PAT MARTIRES.
Fourteen small plates can be enjoyed as a starter or ordered in multiple over the course of the meal. These truly are my favorite part of the menu because it is within this selection of vegetables, seafood, and meat, that Miko reveals her culinary curiosity and artistry. Expressions of seasonal vegetables include a picture-perfect fresh tomato salad served in the company of morsels of tomato jelly and tomato confit, while a slow-cooked beetroot is classically paired with the tangy Saint Agur blue cheese and chopped walnuts. The haricot vert salad is now a go-to among the vegetable starters and a dish that I may not have ordered if left to my own devices. Who knew that a simple entrée of blanched French beans lightly tossed in a vinaigrette then topped with shaved cured egg yolks would be the dish that would stay with me for days.