Perhaps nothing can be more hip in food circles than craft coffee, a double shot of which is the reason I am typing very fast right now. What about craft beer? And what happens if you mix the two together?
You have an explosion of hipness that makes you grow a walrus mustache on the spot. You also get a rather pleasant beverage called Dear Fred, which I took a sip of; but I’m sure it would have taken the edge off the palpitation-in-a-cup that I foolishly drank at nine in the evening. Throw in a rack of artsy magazines that all look like rip-offs of Monocle and you have Yardstick coffee.
I don’t feel I’m qualified to arbitrate the finer distinctions between the craft coffee places; in my unschooled opinion I think the coffee is better than Toby’s Estate but not as good as Refinery. But I’m more interested in the place that appears like the land of Narnia behind a set of revolving wooden doors, which is as dark and intimate as Yardstick is bright and streamlined.
A great deal of reverential praise has been heaped on Your Local, a place which took me a while to find because its name does not lend itself well to Google searches. And the fact that it’s called Your Local makes it seem counterintuitive to deliberately take a trip there to try it.
Neither does the name give a great deal of intimation as to what sort of cuisine it serves to their locals, or to foreigners like myself who have to travel across Makati City to check out what the people living in Legaspi Village can pop down to. Friends who have been there describe it as “fusion, but in a good way,” which was intriguing enough for me to make the trip.
It does have exposed light bulbs and mismatched china, and even subway tiles, so you feel you might be eating in a war bunker, or in the London Underground during The Blitz.
The concise but interesting menu was somewhat mitigated by a large number of items not being available. As anyone who runs or has run a restaurant in Manila knows, the supply chains are notoriously lackadaisical, but this is one of the dangers of keeping a short menu. And this is the sort of thing that specials and chalkboard menus are there to abrogate.
We were four in the group and sampled almost all of the (available) menu; some items were better than others, but on the whole what was good was very good.
If I were pressed to give a description of the food, I would say it isn’t fusion so much as standards with a Chinese twist. The most resounding false note was a pasta with hibe, Chinese dried shrimp, that could have been interesting but was mostly uninspired fishiness, like a linguine that aspired to be Pad Thai but didn’t quite make it.
The mantou (northern Chinese bread like denser siopao dough) stuffed with savory, banh mi-like fillings was not bad, and generously portioned.
The true winners of the night were the salmon on black rice and the rendang. The salmon was perfectly cooked, almost like custard, just at the point when it ceases to be sashimi but hasn’t hardened into an uninteresting lump. The rendang was an unphotogenic brown glop with black siding, but I’m a fan of glop and always supportive of chefs who cook for the palate and not for the camera.
An arugula-based salad with coconut ice cream was also creative, clever and very good.
Both of the two desserts were available, though technically there was only one because the banana bread seemed to have simply migrated over from Yardstick and laid supine with a dollop of cream atop.
Coffee was, likewise, not available, and had to be purchased from Yardstick, requiring a trip through the magical wooden doors. I’m not sure what the financial membrane that divides Yardstick and Your Local is, but I’m a terribly lazy person and part of the fun in a cozy restaurant is to be able to sit at a table and not have to stand up in order to linger over desserts—more of which is needed here, and coffee as well.
Your Local feels like a young restaurant: Its crowd is twenty- and thirtysomething sophisticates rather than the over-40 fuddy-duddies like myself, who have trouble fitting in the narrow seats. It’s a fledgling place that is finding its way, looking to grow, and (without being patronizing) with a young chef whose best work is yet to come.
If I were in the Legaspi Village area, I would happily stop by for a bowl of salmon at lunchtime, or pop in for a real meal before meandering down the road to Murphy’s for quiz night. What a pity that Your Local isn’t my local, and I envy the good people of the area for this quirky corner to which they can repair.
Your Local is at 106 Esteban St. cor. VA Rufino St., Makati City. Call tel. 8236206.
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