Tasting menu at midday? Why not?

Published December 1, 2022, 11:30 PM

by Jules Vivas

Hapag now serves lunch featuring degustacion-like dishes

PANSIT 911 Pansit binondo the way Nav and Thirdy likes it, fun and dangerously good (Cover design by the author)

In a degustation, food transcends its basic function as sustenance, turning into meaningful works of art born of a chef’s inventiveness and passion. Eating becomes a holistic, multi-sensory experience, which I call “finer dining” since everything requires genius levels of creativity and culinary expertise.

But have you ever noticed how tasting menus are only served in the evening? Among the practical reasons behind this is that the dining concept requires ample time to be prepped in the kitchen and savored by diners.

Among the foremost tasting menu restaurants in the country, Hapag breaks conventions by serving lunch à la degustacion.

HAPAG FAMILY Staff of Hapag with (center row from left) head chefs Thirdy Dolatre, Kevin Navoa, and sommelier Erin Ganuelas

Having made it to the prominent list of 50 Best Discovery, a database of the top places to eat and drink across the globe, the progressive Filipino restaurant celebrates the milestone by coming up with a unique lunch set.

To be clear, what is served is not a tasting menu per se, but the quality and style of the dishes, as well as the service, are the same. Like a regular tasting, it comes as a collection of plates, only with bigger portions.

Patrons will be welcomed with a warm bread basket of Pan de Kalinga, sourdough bread made of fermented black rice sourced from the Cordillera province it was named after, as well as a Gamet Pandesal. For those who may not know, gamet is Filipino nori or dried edible seaweed that originates from Burgos, Ilocos Norte.

COMPLIMENTS TO THESE CONDIMENTS Clockwise from left: Miso brown butter with dark Davao honey, Blackbird farms Pouligny St. Pierre’s goat’s cheese, local mixed herb pesto, and two-month-aged Calumpit longganisa

The flavors of the already delectable loaves are enhanced by condiments miso brown butter topped with Davao dark honey, pasit-pansitan local herb pesto with parmesan and olive oil, kesong puti (carabao’s milk) mousse, and Calumpit longganisa aged for two months. The smokiness of the longganisang bawang makes the mouth water.

The five-course menu consists of dishes that head chefs Thirdy Dolatre and Kevin Navoa, or Nav to his friends, personally enjoy.

“We missed doing this format of food. It [salo-salo] is straightforward and good for sharing,” explains Thirdy on why they decided to serve lunch.

OCTOPUS WAREK WAREK An interesting spin on the Ilocano dish, which instead uses squid

“The pandemic takeouts we had was our training,” interjects Nav. “So far, the reception is good, especially among the ‘titas’ (aunts) who come here for brunch.”

Served for starters is the Octopus Warek Warek, a play on the Ilocano pork offal dish. It is grilled octopus marinated in sukang Iloco (vinaigrette) with mango and grilled corn salad, local herbs gotu kola and pansit-pansitan, finished with a creamy-sweet aioli, all buried under an annatto rice cracker. Quite similar to the warek warek the brilliant young chefs served three years ago.

Inspired by the pancit Binondo, Pansit 911 comes next. While the comfort food should be a symbol of longevity, this take on the pancit is a killer. Handmade egg noodles are mixed in a savory sauce of dark soy, brown sugar, and sukang Iloco, with sautéed carrots, string beans, and toge (bean sprouts). Its name is derived from its sinful toppings, cheat-day treats chicharon bulaklak (deep-fried ruffled fat) and crispy bagnet (fried pork belly). Salty-umami goodness in every bite.

‘We missed doing this format of food. It [salo-salo] is straightforward and good for sharing.’

As a transition to the entrées, the Seasonal Sorbetes is a granita (Italian-flavored ice) of fresh pineapple, in-house yogurt, rambutan, and lychee, garnished with dots of kaffir oil and edible flower petals.

BISTEK SHORT RIBS Tender beef resting on a delightful potato mash

The main meals are served in a salo-salo manner, all at the same time. There are Bistek Short Ribs brisket cuts topped with fried shallots, and chimichurri of local herbs, in a bed of creamy potato miso mash. For seafood, there is Sugpo sa Aligue at Kalabasa Miso, grilled prawn with an aromatic crab paste sofrito, naturally-sour squash miso, sprinkled with hibe (small dried shrimps). Rounding up the mains is the Mushroom Sisig Silog, sautéed mushrooms turned into sisig paired with rice and sous vide egg. Also included as a side dish is a refreshing salad of tossed pomelo and pineapple with tangy sampaloc dressing, mulberries, and puffed rice.

HALO-HALO Milky as can be cold dessert

A tribute to the pride of Arayat, Kabigting’s dessert, halo-halo ends the menu. It is a medley of fermented bananas, macapuno, lato-infused milk, and crushed ice, dressed with miso pastillas (milk pills) and custard.

Tanghalian is available every weekend, from Friday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nav and Thirdy will soon announce a huge change with the restaurant next year. Look forward to it.

Hapag is at Katipunan Ext, 201 Katipunan Ave, Project 4, Quezon City, 1800 Metro Manila