When in Manila, you should indulge yourself with the joy of trying something out for the first time by spending a night at Chef’s Lab at Burgos Circle, The Fort. On a quiet Sunday evening, my friends and I were treated to emotions and sensations that stayed with us even after leaving the restaurant. The experience left me with pleasant memories associated with the place, thus resulting in subsequent visits even before the following week ended. The price range for every dish was surprisingly affordable, given the amount of detail put into the presentation of the food.
Bruce, the head chef, was gracious enough to gamely accomodate any question I had prepared, even intriguing ones such as the risk that came with a name referencing scientific experiments. According to him, “It’s a major risk, but I found that it gave you a bit of a leeway with the menu. I wasn’t confined to a set menu, I was able to play with it.”
“It’s about taking chances, playing with food. A lot of diners are very stuck in their ways, they don’t really want to try anything. This way you kind of influence them because you’ve piqued their curiosity. The concept came first, then the name after.”
We were then treated to four “potions” of vodka cocktails featuring distinct mixes named after earthly desires: Friendship, Love, Money and the controversial favorite—Sex.
The variants of chasers are made up of discrete juice extracts and flavors placed in beakers, resulting in ingredients that complement each other to create unique spectacles in your mouth—the same way you conjure up chemical reactions in a research facility.
We were then eager and ready to sample the dishes, starting with Tuna Sashimi, the sauce of which was made of soy mixed with garlic oil, cayenne pepper and szechuan. And as you may have noticed, Bruce is very generous with imparting his preferred process of cooking the dishes, a rarity in the industry nowadays.
In a nutshell, Bruce summarizes his menu as basic dishes prepared with an added Pinoy touch. The typical Pinoy household usually enjoys meals prepared by the nanay or lola, and it was remarkable to witness how it was applied to come up with a customised cuisine in itself.
Bruce narrated the time when his lola would cook munggo in her house. “My grandmother would pair it with talbos na kamote with Sukang Ilocos and Bagoong Balayan, with okra and sometimes talong na grilled and ampalaya. This dish is pan-seared lapu-lapu with munggo sauce. Topped with talbos na kamote and kangkong rolled in bagoong vinaigrette, grilled tomato and mango puree. It’s actually a very delicate, beautiful flavor.”
How about some Calamansi Tuyo Pasta with bread which is actually made in-house? Yes, Chef’s Lab bakes their own bread.
Clam Chowder with a generous serving of bacon
Salad with (love it/hate it) Blue Cheese, plus Sauteed Prawns Mango Salad with vinaigrette dressing. We sure loved it.
Tortang Talong with ground pork and salted eggs for another layer of flavor.
Sinigang na Lechon cooked in lemongrass and miso
Crispy Pata which took three days to prepare. Details will always net plus points for me.
When you eat here, make sure you take time to sample the desserts. The Buko Pie Martini was a certified hit!
One thing I noticed with these dishes is we didn’t feel cheated. There was honesty incorporated in each dish served. In the end, the summary of my stay at Chef’s Lab is an experience I’m sure to recall when it comes to unique dining destinations. I actually came in with a doubtful disposition, but left with a subtle reminder to bring my loved ones here to share the glorious experience I had.
You see the sign, you see the name, you get confused or probably intrigued. You go inside and try it out, then you will eventually understand why it’s aptly named CHEF’S LAB.
by Chef Bruce Lim
Open 11am – 2pm and 6pm-12am / 7 days a week
Burgos Circle, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Call: (02) 846-7073 or (02) 399-1888
What Made Me Go Back to Chef’s Lab Two Days After?