The latest addition to the Manila dining scene is not your usual Filipino restaurant.
The latest in a slew of off-the-beaten-path dining destinations in Makati, Toyo Eatery elevates everyday Filipino flavors to gastronomic heights. Chef Jordy Navarra’s sizzling comeback (from the former Black Sheep) seeks to defy expectations, taking the name of a common Filipino ingredient yet pushing the limits of local cuisine.
Thanks to Waze, I knew that Toyo was right by Whitespace but was not facing Chino Roces Avenue. So a good guess (verified by the stationed guard) led me through a security gate beside a BDO branch and into a large compound. One structure clearly sticks out among the old concrete buildings in this area: a row of upcoming concepts in a cool urban space, aptly named The Alley.
I love that so many hidden gems have been sprouting up in Manila, and the anti-mall rat in me was silently rejoicing as I walked down this new retail development (making a mental note to come back when the others open). The exterior of Toyo has all the elements of the hottest new table in town: a clever logo, muted lighting, and an intriguingly unassuming entrance. Because the coolest places these days all look like they’re trying hard not to be found.
Toyo’s interiors don’t disappoint, either. Everything is sleek, sexy, polished. It’s modern but inviting, hip but not obnoxious. Plus points for the concrete-and-wood combo, which I’ve always been a fan of. And I like how its open kitchen and high ceilings stay true to the spirit of Filipino warmth and hospitality.
I checked the bar menu and was impressed to see a decent cocktail list. I looked up and wasn’t surprised—it was David Ong of The Curator helming the bar.
Toyo calls itself an “eatery” instead of a “restaurant,” focusing on being just “a place to eat” as opposed to the full-service, sit-down environment that being a restaurant connotes. While the ambiance and prices make it a far cry from your favorite cheap neighborhood joint, the crucial components are there: local ingredients, simple dishes, and a carefully thought-out menu (with only eight a la carte options!). This was a refreshing change from the usual traditional Filipino menu that can sometimes be overwhelming.
We started with an appetizer called Garden Vegetables, an ironically generic way to call a dish that masterfully includes all 18 vegetables mentioned in the famous children’s song Bahay Kubo (Nipa Hut). Those of you who have been fans of this dish from the old Black Sheep in BGC will be happy to know that it’s back and better than ever.
Next up was the Belly and Loin of Bangus grilled over charcoal, with the requisite side of Silog topped with crispy fish skin and tuna roe. Few things make me happier in the morning than a proper Filipino breakfast, so Toyo’s modern take on this popular breakfast dish was interesting to see and taste. We also got the Three-Cut Pork BBQ, with each piece taken from different parts of the pig, which was perfectly cooked and paired well with coconut cider vinegar.
Given that there are only three main courses on the a la carte menu, we went for it and ordered the last: the Blackmore Karubi Plate. These highly marbled cuts of beef were tender and flavorful, garnished with talinum grown from within the compound (I mentioned local ingredients, didn’t I?).
Make sure you save room for the Cassava Cake, which is perfectly grilled on both sides with an almost marshmallow-like texture in between. And because one dessert is never enough, the Dulce de Leche BonBons may just be worth that one last bite.
Chef Jordy’s new brainchild is definitely rebellious. The name implies a cheap hole-in-the-wall, but the place looks like a trendy restaurant serving modern Japanese. And though the menu is Filipino, there are no classic home-style dishes like chicken adobo or beef bulalo. They have a bar serving craft cocktails and even offer a tasting menu, which is almost unheard of in the usual Filipino restaurant setup. But let’s face it, isn’t breaking the rules always more exciting?
Despite the name, the prices here aren’t your typical eatery prices, so be prepared to spend about P1,000-P2,000 per person. But it may just be my new go-to place to give visiting friends a modern taste of Filipino cuisine. Whether the success of this concept is due to skill or serendipity, it remains to be seen. But Chef Jordy may just be rewarded for trusting his gut.
I couldn’t help but notice the logo of Toyo tattooed on his wrist, showing his commitment to his new venture. I, for one, can’t wait to see what other culinary tricks he has up his sleeve.
Toyo Eatery, Karrivin Plaza, 2316 Chino Roces Ave., Makati, Metro Manila, 0917 720 8630