“Curing is caring,” “Age matters” read two short bond papers posted on one of two fermenting refrigerators at Metiz, the newest restaurant at the Karrivin Plaza on Chino Roces.
No, it’s not even on the hippy side of the compound at The Alley where Toyo stands. Instead, it sits rather comfortably at the corner of the front building, where a review center once was. With the illusion of a wall broken into, with rugged edges and soft warm lighting, stepping inside Metiz is almost like discovering a hidden cave.
The floor plan is just one long stretch of space without dividers, except maybe for a dining area built for large groups towards the end, which is only partitioned by a cabinet of curiosities-like shelves brimming with jars upon jars of ferments—from fermented rice, fruits, and vinegar to kombucha starters.
The kitchen is open plan, too, so you get the illusion of eating in the comforts of home—unhindered by space, no boundaries between the cook and the diner. On the counters—strictly stainless and concrete, and maybe some wood—lie various apparatuses like a dehydrator and a sous vide machine, almost looking like peering into the secret life of a chef that is almost as curious as his bottles of ferments: chef Stephan Duhesme.
After almost a decade of working in various kitchens around the world and eventually settling down in Bogota to open his own restaurant, the half-Filipino chef has found his way back to Manila with Metiz, his newest which prides itself on making almost everything they use from scratch and with utmost patience (after all, fermenting takes time).
“When I was in Bogota, there was always a part of me that knew that within five years’ time I would want to come back home to the Philippines and open a restaurant,” says Duhesme. “It was part of my long-term plan—okay, maybe a medium-term plan.”
Three years in at his Colombian restaurant, he realized it was going nowhere especially because he and his partners didn’t get along well. So instead of waiting to fulfill his “medium-term plan” and wait five years, his homecoming came sooner.
Fast forward to his latest at the Karrivin. When we came one afternoon, Duhesme was busy preparing everything for dinner that day. In front of him, was a big green langka, which he says he got from Paco Public Market. He meticulously takes apart the spiked fruit like a surgeon with a scalpel. He says it was currently very expensive—at least the ripe ones, so he got the green one instead, which he is using in one of their new dishes that was to be launched that night.
Currently working on a menu of five courses, Duhesme plates his dishes in unexpected ways but still with familiar Filipino flavors. The langka, for example, mostly utilized by the locals by cooking its meat in coconut oil, is treated very differently.
“We are in the process of changing four dishes over the next five days,” the restaurant announced on its Instagram page this week. The post was accompanied by a photo of a translucent-looking stack of ingredients with varying textures: green langka seeds, soured carabao yogurt, balimbing, cucumber, guyabano vinegar, buko meat and reduced juice, and seaweed. “[It’s] like a kinilaw where the flavors of the ocean are hinted at by the seaweed. It’s subtle and clean.”
“We try to look at many different ways, processes, at many different native ingredients but also while keeping a very core thing that is Filipino flavor,” Duhesme says. And it’s true even at its plated offering, you are reminded of classic Filipino dishes.
The appetizer of gelatinous minced pork trotter glazed with mangosteen and served on wild pepper leaves with green chili and calamansi is reminiscent of the Kapampangan favorite sisig.
In some cases, it reminds the palate of not just a single familiar taste but two. Like with the grilled eggplant, ubod, pomelo, peanuts, and pickles doused in coconut vinegar dressing. It’s as if ensaladang talong and the fresh lumpiang ubod had a baby together, a very clean-tasting, fresh, and crisp one at that.
Between the two mains, we chose the ferments-centric hito with liver sauce, guava jam and a side of mustasa, atsara, and buro over the crowd favorite beef tendon with egg, Kalinga rice, palapa, and guava vinegar.
But that is not to say, the beef tendon does not come with any criticism.
The goto-like dish has gone through three iterations before settling into its simplest and arguably best form, says Duhesme. Thanks to the feedback of Metiz’s first few customers. This is also something Duhesme takes very openly.
One Instagram user, presumably one of the few diners who have tried the beef tendon, lamented the “tendon was really tasty for me but needed more acid to cut the richness.” To which Duhesme replied, using his personal account saying, “We agree! As our vinegars are maturing we are playing around with them more!”
Unlike Yellow Pages and Google troll reviewers, though, the same user followed up with praises for the variety of the sawsawan and even suggesting Metiz make takeout boxes.
Duhesme takes these all in strides, including the raving reviews by some big Filipino names that include Margarita Fores and restaurateur Elbert Cuenca.
This he simply shrugs as the laid-back person he is. “At least now I know that they are receptive to my timpla,” he said nonchalantly.
“This allows me to relax a little bit and create and basically be crazier with the stuff that I want to put out. It gives you a little boost of energy to be able to say ‘Okay, this is a good basis, now let’s proceed and see what’s the limit.’”
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Writer: CHRISTIAN SAN JOSE
PHOTOGRAPHY JONAS TIMBREZA