Food, like many other things, can be a passion with a calling so strong you could just drop everything to pursue it. That is exactly what former action star Victor Neri did to rediscover himself when he left the glitz and the glamor of show business seven years ago.
Sauté by Chef Victor Neri is a culmination of hard work and effort of the former action star after being in hiatus for some years. Located along Tomas Morato nearby Timog Avenue, Sauté by Chef Victor Neri is located where food lovers often visit to dine and have fun.
The cozy restaurant is open from 6:00 P.M. to 2:00 A.M. from Sunday to Thursday, and 6:00 P.M. to 5:00 A.M. during Fridays and Saturdays—an excellent schedule for late night party goers who are hungry for a hot and delicious meal.
Chef Victor proudly told his story about his transition from being a celebrity to becoming a restaurateur and, eventually, head chef of his own restaurant. As far as I know many celebrities go down the culinary path, but most just venture as a partner or owner. Chef Victor, on the other hand, really walked the hard path to the kitchen; from taking out the trash to finally owning his own restaurant.
Chef Victor mentioned that starting out with his new career was hard since he started at the bottom and was not used to the small salary. He started out in the kitchen after leaving the TV industry, and opted to embark on his adventure out of the country to avoid being treated differently. He got his first taste working at a friend’s kitchen in Hong Kong armed only with passion, since he was not formally trained in cooking. Working through numerous kitchens across Southeast Asia, making his way through China, Thailand, and Vietnam while studying French culinary techniques, Sauté by Chef Victor Neri offers a taste like no other.
Tinapa Fish Cake served with pickled vegetables and bagoong mayonnaise (PHP 150.00) is the chef’s take on Thai Fish Cakes. Despite the strong tinapa flavor balanced by the bagoong mayonnaise, the Tinapa Fish Cake was not at all greasy nor fishy. I’d say this one is a very playful dish that whets the appetite.
Lemon Grass Squid (PHP 350.00) is a dish of fresh and tender squid sauteed with lemon grass. The dish actually tasted like a rustic Filipino-Spanish dish more than the traditional Southeast Asian dish, which I adored.
Sauté Fried Rice (PHP 170.00)—a take on the beloved fried rice.
Prawns with Coconut and Lime Sauce (PHP 265.00). I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d think that this dish is a take on the traditional Bicol Express. It isn’t, but it is very close. You could even say that it could be a take on the Bicol Express by a Thai chef. Even if the flavor will perhaps confuse your taste buds at first, I can assure you that it is very, very good.
I asked the chef what the house’s signature dish is, and though he told me there was none as he just really loved cooking and serving food that he loves to eat, personally, I would say this is it. The Crispy Pork Leg with Sauerkraut and Homemade Liver Sauce (PHP 485.00). This, of course, we lovingly know as Crispy Pata. I had a ton of crispy patas during my lifetime, but Sauté’s could possibly be the best. The preparation and cooking was said to take up to four hours, that the final result was something so juicy and tender. The meat falls off the bone, the fat melts in your mouth (remember, fat is flavor folks), and the crispy delicious skin, miraculously, is not oily at all. The sauerkraut and the tasty liver sauce just rounds everything off. For the traditionalist, vinegar is served at the side, but that liver sauce just takes this Crispy Pork Leg dish to a whole new level.
I had a very surprising experience during the visit. The cozy and casual atmosphere, the items on the menu, a celebrity and chef serving you great food, Sauté by Chef Victor Neri just ticks off all the right boxes for foodies along Tomas Morato.
When In Manila, do pass by Sauté by Chef Victor Neri to see what “Utol” Victor Neri has got cooking up his sleeve. Who knows? You might even get to taste his upcoming “Pagkaing Pang Lasing.”
Still have room for dessert? Check out afters Espresso and Desserts: Your Dessert and Gelatto Place in Tomas Morato.
Sauté by Chef Victor Neri
CKB Center, T. Morato corner Scout Rallos, Quezon City