Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Chef Bruce Lim's Rustique Kitchen

I first heard of Rustique Kitchen with Chef Bruce Lim's name embedded to it when someone posted a job position in the kitchen that's open for hiring, at the Hotelier's page group where I'm part of.   My initial reaction was "Wow," yet another badge on Chef Bruce' sleeve, with slightly mystified look on my face, however.  

Days after, Chef Bruce himself posted the restaurant's opening at his FB timeline, I guess it's all there in FB, nowadays, that's how super-sonic internet information work.  He replied to my comment that the opening of the resto would be on the 22nd of July.  Fast track to the last week of July, a couple friend of mine told me that they have been invited to this new restaurant along Arnaiz Rd.  As my friend was telling me more about it, she mentioned it was owned by a celebrity chef who co-hosted a TV show - Tablescapes.  Now guess what my reaction was.  

I knew it, I'm destined to meet my favored chef again, so in a fleeting moment, I said "I will come with you!"  Then said to myself "I won't take no for an answer!"  What happened next is history.

When I came to the resto, I realized I was a bit ill-mannered, for I didn't make any reservations (though my friends did, of course for themselves), even unsure whether Chef Bruce or his wife Michelle would be there.   Either, I'm pressing my luck or I just felt blessed.

I didn't even mind the brisk weather and the chores I left at home.  

I came earlier than my friends and just finally knew that Arnaiz Rd, is just Pasay Rd. and according to Merna, Rustique Kitchen is just beside Cable Car.  Before even getting inside, the beautiful porch area on my right caught my sight.  The blue-gray painted posts were so provençale, together with the wooden chairs and tables, and those hanging planters up-cycled from old window frames, the sight made my eyes glinted cheerily.

Inside fairly describes what rustique may seem to be defined.  It's rustic yet contemporary, but evidently sophisticated.  Acquiring from the defunct La Regalade French Bistro, the restaurant still managed to keep the warm, earthy tones the latter had, even the gorgeous lighting fixtures, some of the tables and chairs are still intact, with a few re-decorations perhaps.

That one corner filled with sunlight may be the most romantic nook.

The spot I love the most - the center table, geometrically surrounded by four love seats with a set table and antique-looking wooden chairs and on the middle were huge vases filled with ornamental grasses and other elegant adornments.

I really don't know what to expect when I went in, but the staff made me more welcome and  as I was looking for my friends, Chef Bruce immediately approached me and I was star-struck all over again, but tried my best to compose my self.  I was happy to see him still looking his best even without his chef 's garb on, he look way fitter compared from the last time I saw him, which also makes him look more pleasing, though he still is "The Boss," but without the "badass" character. 

It was nice to see his sidekick (sous chef), Monkey, still at his side and his staff's identity still intact.  I think it matters to Chef that his kitchen workers are bald or have shaved heads, for what purpose, still I'm not sure of.

The table elegantly set up with simple accessories add to the coziness of the whole place.  While those green water glasses really got Merna's attention.  Heck all this time, I didn't realize my friend's favorite color is green.

The bar where the beverages are prepared.

Let us now proceed to what Chef Bruce have come up with, to give the place a new light. 

According to him, his business partner Tony Boy Cojuangco gave him the freedom to play.  Knowing Chef Bruce' caliber in the fusion kitchen arena, his passion for Filipino food and a shiny background -being trained in Le Cordon Bleu in London, AFC celebrated chef, and having own a number of acclaimed restaurants in the past; no doubt he could deliver what Mr. Cojuangco have envisioned.  I'm expecting nonetheless but perfection from him.

Having tried all his restaurants, I have discerned he have created an array of beverages and booze to marry with his food creations.  We weren't in the mood for wines and cocktails but one of the marketing staff was there to assist us and have recommended their mocktails.  I then decided to have Minty Guava (P 145), a concoction of pink guava, pineapple, ginger syrup and mint leaves.

The Bruschetta with Foie Gras and Jam (P 450), is a perfection for an apéritif (appetizer) one bite and I feel my spine slump and we all chorused with "Ahh."  A crunch into the rustic bread sliced enough, summons a wave of sweet and tangy taste from the mango jam it is so covered with.

Chef Didier, one of my lunch companion checking out how his salad is being prepared in front of him.  All of us stared in awe as our friendly wait-staff poured over the dressing at the salad greens with finesse.  A faux glass square jar hold the greens and was then served over at a wooden plate with silver tongs.

The Tuna Salad Nicoise (pronounced as "ni-shwa") is just one of the four salad creations offered for lunch. They do have separate menus, btw - lunch menu and dinner menu.  The French salad is an apt choice for a Frenchman and a good way to keep the ball rolling with more of his restaurant stories.

The seared tuna is lovely to look at and I have regretted not being able to taste it.  What's exciting about Chef Bruce take on this classic French salad was the coconut herb dressing used to liven up the taste of the fresh greens.

My order came next after a series of exotic food tell-tales form all three of us.  Surprisingly it didn't ruin my appetite for I came prepared for this session.  It took about 25 minutes though, but I didn't mind at all, for I know I'm in for a comfort-food treat.

And it was!  Such a treat that the sight of the heavy cutting board carrying half of a beautifully baked spring chicken in all its adornments had conjured up memories of my dad cooking up a storm in a meager kitchen with his "Pinaupong Manok" as the star of the meal, during their sibling reunions in our old house which was then made up of  woods.

The serving was so huge that I had eaten only half of it and no, I was not willing to let go of it though my tummy is almost full and with the thought of having dessert, so I had it packed to be taken home.

The whitest of all meat that I have tried, is so tender that it easily falls of without my fork and knife nudging too much into it.  The simplicity of this dish however can not camouflage the savoriness of the meat, even the sauce is different in a class of its own.

A whimsical take on this dish will also get your appetite stimulated.  The baked cornish hen is served with a "suman-like" arancini or rice ball.  The sticky rice is steamed perfectly, formed into a ball and rolled in crunchy garlic mince.

Merna on the other hand, decided to have pasta.   In all honesty, I found it funny to find LDB abbreviations in the menu which I thought meant as long black dress (LBD), that was silly I know.  LDB and duxelle is a plate consisting of slowly braised ox tongue, served en croute with mushroom duxelle.  The pasta is served with a thin caramelized onion cream sauce.  Duxelle, again another French culinary term means as explained by Wikipedia is a finely chopped (minced) mixture of mushrooms or mushroom stems, onions, shallots and herbs sautéed in butter, and reduced to a paste .

We were then asked if we wanted a cup of tea of the calorific meal.

Going home without ending the lunch sweetly is not an option.  Deciding which one to get is not hard for they only have three on their list.  Or is it?  Well, unless you are undecided, you might be compelled to get all three or just play Eentsy-Weentsy-Miney-Moo.

The couple got Warm Chocolate Tart served with sliced strawberries and mangoes while I got to have Chef Bruce' Signature Buko Pie.  This dessert used to be at Chef Table's menu and it has been one of the crowd favorite.

You'll swoon over this after having your first bite.  The pie is elegantly served on a goblet is brought on your table still warm.  

Make sure to dig in and get a sampling of both the crust and the buko custard topping.  What you'll get are flavors from the grated buko meat, caramel, custardy goodness and the nut crumble weaving into one, getting you hooked bite after bite.

The million dollar question is the worth of the meal?  Cost-wise it's average for a foodie looking for that one-of-a-kind experience with fine dining.  Would I come back to eat again?  Perhaps, but I need to really save up for a decent meal, or maybe tag along friends to be able to share with the dish and the cost.  One dish is priced a bit much from P 225 to up to P 500.

Address:  820 Arnaiz Ave ( Pasay Rd ), Makati
Contact Details:  (02) 750 2104


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