Updated 19:13 PM PHT Fri, March 31, 2017
Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — The newly-opened Toast Asian Kitchen may not be your traditional Asian restaurant, but it loses no time in charming you with its straightforward, unpretentious fusion food. Managing director and co-owner Timo Roxas-Chua, who also owns Relik at Bonifacio Global City, stresses the playful Asian combinations — among them the curious gyozig (gyoza and sisig) and blaksa (laksa with black squid ink) — that distinguish Toast from its competition, but is quick to say: “We’re not being authentic per se.”
The admission is not at all a bad thing. After all, Toast revels in its playfulness with food. It’s a place where everything comes together in the most unexpected ways to make favorite Asian flavors accessible here at home. “If you noticed recently … we used to go to Hong Kong or Singapore to go shopping, but nowadays people go to Hong Kong or Vietnam to eat. So it’s now time for Asian flavors come up,” says Roxas-Chua.
The Asian influence is not apparent when one enters Toast, whose interiors give off a warm, rustic vibe. The walls are adorned with wood and brick, while chandeliers mimic the subtle grandeur of eras gone past. But the food dates itself to the present, and is inspired by typical Asian fare, cooked with Toast’s own “twists.”
For yakitori, there’s the wagyu cubes (a potential favorite), marinated with Toast’s own blend of special sauces. Their pork belly is bacon-cut and pre-cubed, moist and tender and glistening in sauce, which comes in these choices: soy-baste or teriyaki sauce. Diners can order additional garlic dipping sauce or sweet and spicy sauce.
Yet the real playfulness with cuisines comes out in the starters and main dishes. Two popular favorites, says Roxas-Chua, are the gyozig and the blaksa.
The gyozig are essentially Japanese dumplings stuffed with sisig — a dish recently declared by Angeles, Pampanga as one of “intangible heritage.” Roxas-Chua, who likes laksa, also swears by the blaksa, a Singaporean laksa dish seasoned with black squid ink, which enhances the richness of the coconut broth. There are at least four to five dishes infused with laksa in the menu, he adds. One of them is the starter quesong puti croquettas, breaded and fried to a golden crisp, and comes with a tomato laksa sauce. Another surprise (this one without laksa) is the tom yum meatballs, which are pork meatballs mixed with tom yum spices and smothered in tom yum sauce.
The dishes are “playful twists” on Asian flavors since most Asian cuisines are intertwined anyway, adds Roxas-Chua, but most at their core are still Filipino. Take the twice-cooked pork with salted egg fried rice, he says: the dish, for all intents and purposes, might as well be the local lechon kawali.
Other Filipino surprises in the menu include the longganisa pasta (fusilli with fried longganisa in a tomato cream sauce) and, if you’re in the mood for it, sous vide crispy pata (cooked sous vide for three hours then deep-fried).
Aside from a menu that gets away with interesting Asian combinations, Toast also serves cocktails mixed by Singaporean mixologist Jason Gray, brand ambassador of Monkey Shoulder, a first-class blended whisky. For Toast, Gray concocted, among others, the icy Tokyo Fog Cutter (a mix of whisky blended with lemon and apple juice), the Pomelo Sour (vodka shaken with lime and infused with red bell pepper), and the Seoul Searcher (gin mixed with lime, basil, with chunks of pomelo, egg white, and white pepper shaken together) — all well-suited for daytime drinking.
Toast Asian Kitchen & Tasting Room is located at Ayala Malls the 30th at 30 Meralco Ave., Pasig City.