Sagana schools us on Filipino produce through French cuisine

Ever heard of kadios and Mindanao wagyu?

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When chef Marc Aubry uprooted himself from France almost three decades ago, he brought with him the concept of terroir; “We strongly believe that the origin of the crop will affect its quality and flavor,” he says. After his previous venture Champetre (located in the same venue as Sagana), terroir becomes the apparent driving force of his new restaurant Sagana Epicerie and Bistro.

Sagana, which means bountiful in Filipino, celebrates the rich agriculture of the Philippines. True to its name, Sagana intends to uplift local farming communities. As you enter the restaurant, baskets of fresh produce along with other local foodstuffs up for sale are the first few things you’ll find. When you take a seat and scan through the lengthy menu, you’ll realize that Sagana, despite its name, is still truly French. “What we try to do here is not to make French cuisine taste like Filipino food. We’re trying to use the best ingredients and to keep our traditions,” says Aubry who grew up in Champagne, France.

Goose foie gras terrine with red grape compote and brioche
Beef tartar made with US black angus and served with fries

French cuisine may be difficult to grasp. Perhaps it’s because of the unfamiliar, grandiose names or its intimidating serving—small portions in huge plates. However, there is comfort when you see traces of Filipino ingredients all over the menu and their hearty servings. Their grilled wagyu beef flank steak, for instance, features beef from Mindanao and garlic from Batanes. For Aubry, the garlic from Batanes is much more pungent, spicy, and fragrant than the garlic from other regions. Coming from their Sunday brunch menu, the steak is served with fried rice and sunny side up egg like our tapsilog.

Grilled Mindanao wagyu beef flank

“What we try to do here is not to make French cuisine taste like Filipino food. We’re trying to use the best ingredients and to keep our tradition.”

This grilled pampano with kadios from Negros is featured in their weekly market menu, which changes every week.

A weekly market menu further highlights our agricultural abundance. On the day of our visit, grilled pampano with kadios from Negros is one of the featured dishes. Kadios is a type of legume that has a similar flavor to the more popular lentil.

Every meal at Sagana always leads to a sweet ending. Their rhubarb sorbet still uses locally grown rhubarb from the Cordillera region. It’s a combination of creamy sorbet with the surprisingly sweet and tangy flavors from the rhubarb. A more familiar route, however, is the butter chiffon cake with guava preserve. The cake has an immaculate appearance, but it feels denser than light. And once it meets the palate, you would recognize the taste of guava. It’s a combination that doesn’t scrimp nor overpower in flavor.

Rhubarb sorbet. The rhubarb used here is from Cordillera.
Butter chiffon with guava preserve
Sagana also serves wine. You can also purchase local milk among other products.
Sagana has a fresh produce corner where you can find vegetables and fruits from their partner farms. You can also find local cinammon here.
Chef Marc Aubry finds Batanes garlic to be more pungent, flavorful, and aromatic than those grown in other regions.

Although Sagana already has a weekly market menu, Aubry also wants to introduce a monthly menu specific to one region. He has already fallen in love with marang from Cotabato, roselle from Negros, mangosteen, and the myriad varieties of fish easily available.

The possibilities between Filipino ingredients and French cuisine are limitless. While Aubry says that he has no intention to make French cuisine taste Filipino, the use of locally sourced ingredients makes Sagana familiar to the palate.

TAGS: Champetre Chef Marc Aubry filipino French fresh nolisoli.ph Sagana terroir