I’ve been a huge fan of Chef JP Anglo since I caught him on the local version of Masterchef a few years back and by ‘fan’ I mean I thought he was so cute but then I actually met him and tried his food and I really am a lowly fangirl now in the true sense of the word. I feel so lucky to have been there when he did a tasting for Sarsa before it formally opened in BGC, when the front entrance wasn’t even open and the back door leading to the kitchen, our only way in, had this for a signage:
I remember that it rained that night. The food was delicious (Kansi hit the spot!), the company was good, my hair was short.
Chef JP’s Filipino cooking that skews Negrense (Chef JP is from Bacolod) has won over many, many more fans since and the restaurant has grown so much with branches in SM Mall of Asia and Makati. I still really enjoy the food and the restaurant always comes up when I’m deciding where to eat with friends.
In fact, that’s what happened when some girlfriends and I were making lunch plans not too long ago. They wanted to go to Sarsa. Again. Which was fine by me but then I remembered that Chef JP just opened Kafe Batwan and suggested we tried something new. Ish.
I loved stepping into this high ceiling-ed well-lit space, look how quirky and fun!
I ordered the Batwan Bliss, a concoction of cucumber, mint, and gin (and maybe tonic?), while waiting for some of the girls. It was sooo fresh and not too potent, just enough to announce itself a cocktail and mild enough to enjoy with a meal. All the girls ended up getting one!
Along with our drinks, Chef JP sent over the Trio of Pinoy Spreads. The perks of knowing the chef at a restaurant hahaha!
The trio is comprised of monggo labuyo (mung bean and chili), salted egg talong (salted egg and eggplant), and tahong ginamos (mussel and ginamos, a fish/shrimp paste from Bacolod) and it’s all served with pan de sal that’s been toasted to slightly crunchy logs. This was easily one of my favorites. I would’ve been happy to eat just this for lunch.
But that’s not how my girlfriends do lunch. We order a flurry of food and we’re all trying each other’s orders and offering ours, it’s a little chaotic. This time, we decided to let Chef JP do the ordering and share it all. This was even more chaotic because we all love to eat and we didn’t want to miss out on anything. It was a little like survival of the gastronomic fittest.
What follows is an array of dishes Chef JP thought essential to the Kafe Batwan experience with a couple of specific orders thrown in that I risked life and limb to taste. Starting with Crispy Crablets served with bell pepper ginamos and batwan sinamak (Batwan is a fruit used as a souring agent and sinamak is an in-your-face variety of local vinegar).
I’ve always liked a crispy crablet dish. This one is a much more flavorful version with the added dimension of ginamos and a powerful sinamak hit. The Inasal Burrito was something I really wanted to try after seeing a friend’s Instagram post.
It’s served with pumpkin salsa and a fresh green chili sauce. I think that’s the green chili sauce on left but I think the pumpkin salsa is missing. I’m not sure what the white creamy sauce that took its place is made of but it was sour and tasted something like…hummus. I loved them both on the burrito and thought it was really tasty with the smokey chicken inside.
The Madrid Fusion Super Batchoy was one of the highlights of this meal and we immediately had to order another one.
And even then, I wasn’t able to taste this properly with all the components present in my bowl because it was going so fast! The stock was super delicious although just a tad salty for my taste. Must grab a bowl, preferably on a rainy day, and have it all to myself. The Pancit Palabok is an elevated version of the classic with crablets, chicharon, soft-boiled egg, and sautéed squid.
Another item that really intrigued me was the Garlic Coconut Rice because, ugh, you can imagine how aromatic that is, right? It didn’t disappoint. I almost didn’t want to drown the flavors of this rice with the flavors of the mains but I’m not one to say no to more food.
The Sautéed Prawns are flavored with mixed bean sauce, sambal beans, and some tsokolate, a formula for a sauce so good that you must smear it on rice when you’re not eating spoonfuls of it.
I found the Sinigang Fried Chicken to be quite the novelty, a hybrid of two chicken preparations that all Filipinos love.
The star main however was the Batchoy Beef Ribs with soy muscovado sauce.
So soft and tender, smokey from the char, earthy-sweet from the muscovado. This is a good day waiting to happen.
There are only two desserts in the Kafe Batwan menu so we ordered both. The Sizzling Budbod (sticky rice cake made with coconut milk) is served sizzling with ube (purple yam) butter and coco pandan coffee cream. How quintessentially Asian! It’s satisfying and enough to share with a friend or two.
Chocnut always makes me nostalgic and the Chocnut Turon (banana spring roll) was a delicious marriage of two Filipino classics.
I read somewhere that Chef JP is a little challenged by dessert but I think he did a great job here with simple and straightforward flavors that obviously show his love for his hometown and country. I think that applies to his cooking in general.
Congratulations to Chef JP and everyone behind the Sarsa Group for another successful venture! Looks like my girlfriends and I are adding another restaurant to our list of favorites. Note to self: order separately next time!
Kafe Batwan is at 122 Joya Lofts & Tower, Amorsolo Drive, Rockwell, Makati City. For reservations and inquiries, you can call (02) 625 5166 or 0917 529 6351. More info on their Instagram!