Metronome: Learn About This Makati Restaurant’s Take On French Cuisine
“We like to call it refined casual,” says a relaxed Elbert Cuenca as he leans on the handsome marble bar lined with taupe faux leather. Gesturing about the well-lit, high-ceilinged space, which seats 40 in the main dining room and 14 in the private, he has plenty more to say about the Metronome experience.
By and large, the Metronome approach, while certainly stylish and pristine with its perfectly pressed white table cloths, comes over as Cuenca puts it, “easy and light.” “It’s a place that gives you a nice, airy feeling.” Case in point: “More often than not, when someone hears the word ‘French,’ they expect it to be serious, formal, fine, heavy…We’re breaking these expectations and giving you something more special,” he says.
Blue leather-bound menus give off a luxe vibe and, according to the Joël Robuchon-trained Chef de Cuisine, Miko Calo, the tightly curated bills of fare within rarely see change but are reprinted as often as product availability dictates. “We hate saying ‘We don’t have it,’” she says, countering, “We are, however, changing a dessert on the tasting menu, but other than that, the partners are married to their favourites.”
The partners Calo is referring to is her Metronome dream team of restaurateur heavyweight Cuenca, the recently retired GM of Makati Shangri-La, Alain Borgers (whose four decades of GM-ship includes opening the Shangri-La Paris whose French restaurant earnt two Michelin stars within six months of operation), and her branding whiz cousin, RJ Galang, who completes the picture.
The fantastic four coming together—and all other elements—according to Calo, fell serendipitously into place. “I clearly remember us signing the incorporation papers at Elbert’s Steakroom the day Robuchon passed,” she recalls with a tinge of sentimental gratitude colouring her tone.
Having earnt her Robuchon stripes, Calo now imparts her seasoned classic French know-how at Metronome. “He taught me discipline in the kitchen, respecting ingredients and letting them shine; Robuchon’s style is calibrated—there’s one star in a dish, everything else supports that. I also learnt to not take shortcuts; my menu is not very cerebral, but more of a feeling. It’s ingredient-driven rather than concept-driven,” she shares.
A quick skim through her menu will reveal each dish is named for but one noun (i.e. “Egg” or “Entrecôte”), Calo’s method of highlighting that one star ingredient. The salads flow to appetisers, which then flow to proteins. “The way the ‘small plates’ menu is designed, explains Calo, “is to allow diners to create a degustation for themselves. The portions are smaller so you get to taste more things…more flavours.”
With sublime, well-portioned dishes like the uni risotto and Iberico secreto, the tasting menu comes highly recommended. Says Cuenca, “We always recommend that our clientele go for the tasting menu. It’s representative of who we are. It’s not formal-course eating. It’s more of a gastronomic journey where the chef has designed a progression of food. When you finish, you won’t feel too heavy or still hungry. It’s still right in between. You come away from here with a light and happy feeling.”
Aesthetically, Metronome qualifies as fancier dining rather than a French bistro-style establishment. Interior designer, Noel Bernardo, saw to Calo’s vision, a dreamy vignette of whites, turquoise, and pops of teal. Plush, almost-bottle green velvet booth seating adds French flair and the drama of the floor’s black and white tiling juxtaposed with grey marble keep the eye moving.
“The whole feel when you eat is this,” relates Calo, as she motions around to her formulated palette. “It’s light and feminine; creative yet classic. It’s the same way I put together the flavours. It’s not heavy-handed. It comes with the discipline of having worked for Robuchon for a while.”
As per the aforementioned partners’ “favourites,” these are the lapu-lapu (lapu-lapu steamed à la plancha, garlic confit, and coco-coriander cream), the foie gras tart (foie gras parfait, pâté brisée tartlet, tamarind, and roasted hazelnut), and the spaghettini (spaghettini, prawn beurre monté, and salmon roe), the latter, utterly memorable with a chilled white burgundy such as the Paul Pernot 2015, Puligny Montrachet.
Calo, however, loves the hamachi (Pacific yellowtail, pink radish, tomato coulis, and kabayawa). “I always eat the kinilaw when I go home. Kinilaw is a representation of my Mindanao roots. The kabayawa (Mindanao’s citrusy answer to lime) makes the dish, and her parents ship over the flavour-giving fruit weekly.
The frisée (frisée salad, pan-seared hamachi loin, tomato, quail egg, taggiasca olive, and lemon vinaigrette) is a clean and bright starter. The bitterness of the mixed micro greens is foiled by the fattiness of the pan-seared hamachi and egg. Finessed with the citrusy dressing and pretty orange and yellow marigold petals, the dish is a spectacular match with a flute of Bollinger Grand Anée 2004. The same pairing would do stupendously well with the shrimp (shrimp croustillant, lemon mayonnaise, smoked joselito jamón ibérico, and capsicum soubise).
The seared duck magret with orange and rosemary reduction (Calo points out that this will change to Szechuan and yuzu), carrot and ginger purée, bitter wilted mustard greens, and a divine potato purée—which all mains are served with—is a fragrant and well-executed classic French masterpiece. Even the potato purée, a divine ratio that reads like half potato; half butter and some milk deserves its own tribute. Amazing with a red burgundy, particularly the Morey Saint Denis Méo Camuzet 2014, the duck is Metronome’s must-try.
Added to the menu just last month, the pan-seared akaroa salmon with a sweet garlic maple glaze, cauliflower purée and potato purée is a marvellous light main that is deceptively simple. Joining its rich spectrum of flavours, green and yellow frisée, red-veined cress, dill, and cauliflower florets simultaneously prettify as they add punch.
Wine-wise, the choice has been simplified. “If you want something light and fruity, we say go ahead and get a Burgundy; if you want something a little heavier or softer, then go with a Bordeaux; if you want something bolder and more punchy, then go with any of the Italians. That’s how we designed the wine lists,” explains Cuenca.
Which then brings us to the all-important sweets. The rich and multilayered L’ultimate (that’s “The Ultimate” to the non-French speaker), a glistening, mirrored dark chocolate glazed dome and within, folds of luscious Valrhona dark chocolate ganache, Valrhona dark chocolate mousse, hazelnut dacquoise, and salted caramel cream.
Tart-loving palates will instead want to try the pomelo cassis tart (my personal pick) filled with black currant diplomat cream punctuated with bright bursts of fresh pomelo pulp sacs, pâté brisée, and Szechuan pepper opaline. For those so inclined, there is a sugar-free tonka bean-infused panna cotta with toasted walnut. Should a tad more sweetness be requested, organic maple syrup is on standby.
Rounding out the glorious Metronome experience that Calo envisioned is the specifically-designed service. Cuenca jumps in again to clarify that “We’ve worked hard at creating a style of service matched with the kind of cuisine and approach of the restaurant. Our wines, if you notice, are not pricey. The food, it’s not pricey. The lighting is a bit bright…Don’t expect ‘Hi! My name is John and I’m here to serve you!’ We’re not going to do the whole spiel—we’re more natural. We don’t want it to feel stiff, rehearsed, and contrived.”
As Cuenca sees it, “It’s her restaurant, her dream. We’re just here to help her fulfil it.”
Metronome is located at G/F The Grand Midori Makati, Bolanos St., Legazpi Village, Makati. For more inquiries or reservations, contact +63.917.147.3776 / +632.618.4337 or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit www.restaurantmetronome.com for more details.
- Photography Angela Arcega