In recent years, Manila’s restaurant scene has proven to be one of the most rapidly evolving ones across Southeast Asia. Rooted in creative desire, and blooming with promise, many restaurants are reimagining what it is to be a Filipino establishment. At Soil Modern Dining, there is a need to pay tribute to the source of its food, from the vegetables that sprout from the soil, to the urchins that spike the bottom of the sea.
At the helm of the kitchen is Lorenzo Pimentel, who has served his time in Nobu, Singapore’s Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, as well as Andrew Walsh’s Esquina. He calls his concept “down-to-earth dining,” and stresses that while there is a need to apply modern cooking techniques on local ingredients, there must still be familiarity in flavor. “People still need to be able to recognize what they’re eating, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative,” Pimentel explains.
The interiors of Soil Modern Dining
For starters, there are poached oysters served with orange gel and a lick of tempura foam, which is more like a meringue soaked in sweet soy. The option to poach the oysters is definitely unique, though they lose much—if not most—of the brininess one looks for when slinking back a fresh, plump piece. Pimentel also puts forth his own take on pork buns as a starter option, stuffing mantou bread with chunks of chicharon bulaklak and strands of sea purslane.
Texture of chocolate and coffee; poached oysters in orange gel and tempura foam; and mudcrab with aligue risotto, corn, basil, and grapefruit
Mains are divided into Sea, Farm, and Field. The first in the triad has items like a prawn bisque, with cereal, coconut cream, and a tiger prawn cloud floating above it. There is also a mud crab and aligue risotto with corn, basil, and grapefruit. The ode to those that graze in open pastures runs a list that has an unusual duck dish, pairing pan-seared duck with lasagna sheets, foie gras, and bits of mango and pineapple. A dish of beef carpaccio is Pimentel’s rendition of steak and eggs, as thin layers of raw tenderloin are served with a mound of caviar, ebiko, and a runny soft boiled egg.
Tomato salad with pork belly, tuna, and coconut; pork mesentery with mantou and sea purslane; and tiger prawn clouds with prawn bisque, cereal, and coconut cream.
Overall, some plates still feel as though they’re in their experimental stages; some tastes clashing, some a little too sweet. Clearly, Pimentel’s inaugural menu is still a work in progress, but put a creative mind in his own space for the first time, and a mishmash of all his inspirations is bound to flow like a raging river. With a headstrong stand of bringing quality ingredients to the forefront, it is a place that has potential. It may be aiming to bloom right away, but it’s a place where it should be right now—toes rooting themselves in the soil.
Molito Complex, Madrigal Avenue corner Zapote Road, Alabang; 802.2792.