The Charmed Life
Mad Scientist Chef Mark Tan Explores Modern Japanese at Hibana
At his newly-opened restaurant Hibana, in Legaspi Village, chef Mark Tan reinvents himself once again.

I have been following chef Mark Tan’s career for some time now, having first met him in 2012 at his restaurant, the now defunct Studio Kitchen in Alabang.  Although his cooking back then showed much promise, the location of the restaurant proved to be challenging and he soon closed its doors. A few years later, and much to my delight, he opened a fine-dining establishment, Allium, in Makati’s central business district.  It was there that I enjoyed many of my favorite ‘Mark Tan' signature creations. Like most chefs, Mark puts his best food forward when he is both challenged and having fun, and like the mad scientist  that he is (Mark’s own laboratory being one of the most coveted working kitchens in Manila), it was at Allium where he produced inventive and flavorful dishes that highlighted his intimate knowledge of ingredients and understanding of their provenance. That paired with his classically trained techniques made him one of the city’s most interesting chefs to watch.

This year, Mark has given us reason to turn our attention and eyes on him once again. At his newly-opened Hibana, a modern Japanese restaurant concept located in Allium’s former space, he has taken his culinary exploration in a decidedly more personal direction. “I love Japanese cuisine. This is a fact that would be obvious to many Allium regulars," says Tan. “So I thought, why not create a menu that shows off the techniques and ingredients of the food I enjoy?” At Hibana, which in English means "spark," the restaurant’s dishes revolve around fresh ingredients  that are cooked over the Japanese charcoal grill or robata, bringing the simple flavors of the grill and smoke front and center. The interior space has been reoriented and given a fresh new look by architect Lara Barrios, while canvas scrolls of graphic art by Kevin Roque line the room, adding a touch of both wit and whimsy.

The cocktail offerings have been concocted by The Curator to highlight Hibana’s menu and includes tasty tipples ranging from the Japanese high ball to a black sesame sour with lemon, sugar and egg white.

Chef Mark Tan at work and the interiors of Hibana

Although Tan has kept the food at Hibana familiar and approachable, he has not let go of his penchant for doing things right, no matter how long and tedious the process may be. Take for example his house-made prawn crackers with uni sabayon dip or his rendition of the ubiquitous chicken teriyaki. While these items may sound simple and straightforward, each dish is painstakingly constructed by loving hands in the kitchen. To illustrate, each order of chicken teriyaki is basted and roasted, then basted and roasted again for a minimum of 10 intervals before it is served. It's a great example of the thought and care that Tan puts into each of his dishes.


Prawn crackers with uni sabayon dip and chilled miso butter prawns

Early favorites on the opening menu include the chilled miso butter poached prawns with cherry tomato and yuzu kosho, Mayura wagyu beef tataki salad,  sesame beef noodle soup, Hokkaido scallop and snow crab mousse tempura,  wagyu beef saikoro with black garlic, hamachi kama with chili ponzu, and the Iberico baby back ribs.  Desserts are also noteworthy with a dedicated pastry chef joining Tan in the kitchen. Notable sweet endings include the mango passion fruit mousse cake, Kyoto miso soufflé, and the coffee layered cake.

Mayura wagyu beef tataki salad; and hotate and hamachi sushi

Chicken karaage with black garlic sauce and yaki onigiri

Iberico baby back ribs and roasted corn on the cob; and Mayura wagyu tonkatsu

Hokkaido scallop and crab mousse tempura; and hamachi kama with chili ponzu

The cocktail offerings have also been given some serious thought and have been concocted to highlight Hibana’s menu by The Curator’s very own Jericson Co. The menu offers both classics and twists and includes tasty tipples ranging from the Japanese high ball to a black sesame sour with lemon, sugar and egg white.

Kyoto miso souffle and mango passion fruit mousse cake

Later this year, a smaller dining space to accommodate 12 guests will be opened within the restaurant’s premises and will be called Sutajio. Here, three times a week, Tan will create the fascinating tasting menus that he has become known for.

Hibana will only be open for lunch only until January 31, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Beginning February 2017, Hibana will be open for both lunch and dinner. From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

Bolanos, Legazpi Village, Makati, 519.1088. 

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Alicia Colby Sy
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