Monday, February 3, 2014

A Tasting & More at Olive Tree Kitchen & Bar

Chef Rob Pengson has done it again. After his very successful venture with The Goose Station and his wife's Shine Bakery in SM Aura Premier, Rob opened Olive Tree Kitchen & Bar late last year, and I have been itching to try it ever since I accidentally salivated all over their Christmas menu.

So when Richie invited the rest of the foodie fambam and I to check out their degustation menu and more, I was counting the days 'til I would step foot into the new restaurant! We ended up having such a marvelous time (it was a really long dinner!), and after that awesome night of experiencing OTKB's tasting menu and then some, I've been left to guessing what ingredients went into what, so pardon me when I start a sentence with "I think this is..."

With flavor combinations that are almost an art form with the way everything comes together in harmony, no wonder this place has turned into another of chef Rob's overnight successes.

OTKB claims to be the first antipasti bar in Manila with currently 14 antipasti dishes in its menu from beef sliders to crab fritters to various kinds of bruschetta. I had no idea what that meant at first until I saw all the plates come out. In a nutshell, this is where you go in groups and share Italian-inspired appetizers that is primarily not made out of pasta.

We started our degustation with a few drinks, a choice between Iced Tea, Amaretto Sour, Ginger-Lychee Mojito, Manila Mule, and Red or White Sangria. This place is also a bar, after all. A lot of my friends went for the very pretty-looking Manila Mule, while I ordered a Ginger-Lychee Mojito, and Jericho the Amaretto Sour.

Starting off with the Foie Gras Popsicle - Caponata Macaron - Eel and Apple Galette, all three tasty morsels were presented on a black slate, which was very Goose Kitchen-ish if you ask me. This was like a mini-meal all on it's own.

I started with the Foie Gras Popsicle, which was just amazing! The foie gras was rolled into a small ball and covered with peanuts. I could taste a bit of acidity from slices of orange and what I think is a balsamic vinegar syrup at the bottom just tied in all the flavors beautifully and cut the cloying feeling you get when you've had too much goose liver. Jericho isn't a fan of foie gras, and yet although I am against animal cruelty, I thought it would be even more cruel to let good foie gras go to waste. So yes, I took it off the plate for him.

Moving to the other side of the plate, the Eel and Apple Galette was delicate, the flavors of the eel and the pickled relish being very light, with the apple crust underneath, and the cream that I think is made out of Camembert, dominating most of the dish.

The Caponata Macaron was interesting, and tasted a lot like something you'd have for dessert than an aubergine salad-like appetizer. The macaron was chewy and delightful as expected, with a black olive crumble underneath, and I can only guess the dark filling was the caponata? All I could distinguish was the sweetness and I wasn't altogether sure if it was from the macaron shells or the caponata filling. It also had a sweet berry center, which was a nice surprise.

Ordering off the actual menu, we also had OTKB Burger Sliders to start us off. These little things were really good! Seared rare, the meaty goodness of the beef came out perfectly, with the Bleu cheese giving the little burger a lot of flavor. I'm also a sucker for steak fries, so it wasn't surprising that I polished most of them off.

Up next is probably the best version of the humble Caesar Salad that I've ever had in Manila. The dressing was light with some heat from what I think is wasabi, tossed with lettuce, shavings of prosciutto, and topped with generous shavings of Parmesan cheese, the obligatory croutons, and what I can distinguish to be some sort of pork floss.

Next on the tasting menu was Braised Pork Jowl and Oyster Calzone - Bonito and Aged Parmigiano Shavings - Pulpo a la Plancha. I thought it would come out as three mini dishes like the first one, but this had the baby calzone underneath, topped with baby grilled octopus and bonito flakes, with a spicy sauce made of some kind of pepper that I kept wiping the plate with. Talk about international inspiration! The calzone was a tad confusing (in a good way!), with the pork jowl on one side and the oyster on the other. I felt like I was taking a bite out of two different dishes.

OTKB is quickly becoming known for their pizzas and after tasting the Bacon and Maple Pizza, I now know why. The pizza is a bit thick, made from what I can only presume is Italian flour, giving the dough it's chewiness. The bacon here is strips of prosciutto, sprinkled on a cheesy bed painted with sweet maple syrup. I'm getting all tingling just thinking about this - definitely something I'll be going back for.

If you're looking for simpler fare, the Pizza Margharita will not leave you disappointed. With a pomodoro base, this is topped with fresh cherry tomatoes, Mozzarella Burata, torn basil, and olive oil.

The only pasta dish we had that night was the very rich Potato and Ricotta Gnocchi. The potato balls had a creamy ricotta filling, swimming in cream, topped with prosciutto, nuts, black olive crumble, spring onions, and what I think is pork floss, with a perfectly poached egg in the center. Each ball was delicate and very filling, with the creaminess of the egg and thick cream making it all the more luscious.

My favorite dish that night was the Pan Seared Pink Salmon. The carrot-cumin purée tasted more Mediterranean than anything else, and complimented the fresh fish nicely. The granola was an innovative addition and I liked the crunchy texture against the flaky salmon and velvety smooth purée.

Jericho's favorite that night was the Crispy Pork Belly. This wall of pure porcine was perfectly cooked, crispy on the outside yet soft and juicy on the inside, perched on a bed of organic red rice. I don't even know what half the sauces on the pork and the plate were - all I know is it made the whole thing tasted amazeballs.

Going back to the tasting menu, there was Hanging Tender - Morcilla Pâté - Scorched Nori Risotto for the main dish. Since we were all picking off each other's plates anyway, the chef put everything into one big plate, "family style", instead of plating it individually. This made for a way prettier and generous-looking plate! The auburn morcilla pâté serves as the base of the dish and the sauce for the hanging tender, with a spiced burnt leek risotto in between and caramelized mushrooms to help bring everything together. Even without the risotto and pâté, the hanging tender was very rich and flavorful. But then, having any kind of good meat sous vide for over 8 hours with bone marrow would probably do that.

The highlight of my night was dessert! I was over the moon when I saw the Chocolate Terrain come out! A deconstructed version of Death by Chocolate, the mini masterpieces were composed of chocolate shards, dark chocolate brownie chunks, 60% Venetian chocolate, chocolate mousse, a chocolate soil base and white chocolate shavings for contrast. Yen wasn't big on chocolate and gave me her dessert that I happily finished off along with my own! I also took home two other platefuls of this, as Abet and his wife Joan didn't touch theirs. Yey! There's no denying who the chocolate fiend in the group is.

When mucking around BGC and feeling adventurous, check out the Olive Tree Kitchen & Bar next to T.G.I.Fridays! Schedule a 7-course Tasting Menu (P1,900) with friends, celebrate birthdays at their private function room (starts at P2,500), or enjoy OTKB's cocktails, whiskeys, and antipasti with coworkers on a chill night. This is definitely a restaurant I will keep coming back to, as the menu is exciting and aggressive and the chefs at the back of the house are all young and hungry.

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Olive Tree Kitchen & Bar
+63 2  823 0366
G/F B4, Bonifacio High Street, 9th Avenue,
Bonifacio :Global City, Taguig
Open Daily: 11am - 12mn