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How The Fatted Calf Found its New Home

This beloved Tagaytay restaurant’s story of reopening is nothing short of a miracle

In 2019, husband and wife culinary duo Rhea and Jayjay SyCip opened The Fatted Calf tucked within a residential area in Tagaytay City. It didn’t take long before it became one of the most popular restaurants in the city. 


But after a series of events in 2022, they announced that they’re closing their restaurant by the end of the year. Foodies expressed their sadness over this news, but—just like their opening—it didn’t take long before a nearly miraculous event helped them save their restaurant from closing for good. But more on that later.






After a short hiatus, the restaurant opened their new location in the second half of 2023. 


Loyal patrons would be happy to know that their old favorites are still on the menu, like the Chicken Liver Paté made from free-range chicken livers and served with house-made raisin relish and rustic bread (the only thing missing is the cute and crunchy pickled pipinitos!); Braised Pork Belly made of naturally-farmed pork, a hearty sauce laced with soy and tablea, steamed bok choy, salted egg, roasted garlic purée, and topped with crunchy longganisa bits; and the pandemic hit Osso Bucco made of slow-cooked beef shanks from  locally sourced grass-fed cows, farm fresh tomato & white wine sauce, all served with sweet potato puree and herby gremolata.


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Chefs Jayjay and Rhea Sycip at The Fatted Calf | Ching Dee

The crowd favorite Whole Roasted Leg of Beef is still on the menu but as its new and improved version. Chef Jayjay used to cook it for ten hours, but this new version is slow-cooked for 16 hours (wrapped twice to keep all the juices in) until it’s ridiculously tender. At this point, you don’t even need a knife. Just use a spoon to gently push the meat off the bone. It’s served with roasted vegetables underneath (which soaks up all the glorious flavors) and rum jus on the side. This behemoth is best ordered in advance since it takes a while to prepare, so don’t forget to make arrangements before your visit. 


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The unforgettable Whole Roasted Leg of Lamb | Ching Dee

In her fruitful career as a pastry chef and culinary director, her Mazapan de Pili Cheesecake is, and always will be, my favorite creation by Chef Rhea. While she’d probably say this is the most tiring and time consuming (making the Mazapan de Pili alone already takes at least five hours). Voted as the ultimate winner of the Ultimate Taste Test 2022, this award-worthy dessert has Mazapan de Pili crust, an almost sinfully creamy and dense cheesecake layer, salted caramel drizzle on top and more toasted pili. While it can be on the pricey side, I’d say every peso is well worth it. 


There are also several new items on their menu for the new year. 



Of Heartbreaks and Opportunities


It was the first time award-winning pastry chef and co-owner of The Fatted Calf, Rhea Castro-SyCip, said it out loud. A lump formed in her throat as reality started to sink in while she tried to keep a brave face in front of the VIP guest she was serving at the original location of their restaurant.



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“Magsasara na po kasi kami.” | Ching Dee

The VIP guest, none other than lawmaker and environmentalist Loren Legarda, was baffled. “Why are you closing?” she asked Chef Rhea and her husband Chef Jayjay SyCip.


It was this painful exchange over a year ago that changed the SyCip couple’s lives forever. What started out as curious questions turned out to be an unbelievable opportunity that’s almost like a miracle.


Around the same time Chef Jayjay was recovering from his bout with COVID in 2022, the couple received news that their lease for The Fatted Calf wasn’t going to be renewed. The compounding burden of recovering from illness and losing their home/restaurant was almost too much to bear, but Chef Rhea was too busy running The Fatted Calf and her multi-awarded Flour Pot bakery. She didn’t have time to process what was going on until that fateful first meeting and conversation with Sen. Legarda. 


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The senator visited for lunch with her father. It was their first time at the restaurant and everyone was eager to please the VIPs while also making sure they give them the same amount of care and attention as they do all other guests.


When Sen. Legarda found out the restaurant was closing, she immediately told the couple about an empty property on the other side of Tagaytay. The couple was, at first, unsure and almost didn’t take her offer seriously. After all, they just met. But through multiple meetings, they were convinced that the senator wasn’t joking. When they asked her why she’s being so kind to them despite being complete strangers, Sen. Legarda simply answered, “Hindi ba pwedeng natutuwa lang ako sa inyo?” (Can’t it be that I’m just delighted by the two of you?)


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The Fatted Calf's new home

Sustainability at its core

Central to The Fatted Calf's ethos is a deep-rooted commitment to sustainability and community engagement. From the locally sourced ingredients to the repurposed decor adorning its walls, every aspect of the restaurant tells a story of conscious consumption and environmental stewardship. It’s very important to both Chef Jayjay and Chef Rhea, who also heads the Slow Food Movement of Cavite. Here, dining isn't just about indulging the palate; it's about honoring the land, supporting local farmers, and fostering a sense of interconnectedness with nature. 


As part of their commitment to helping local producers around the country, they only use artisanal salts in all their cooking. For finishing, they also use heritage salts like tultul and tibuok to retain its flavor and support its production. They are also working with some lawmakers and fellow F&B professionals to help and protect these nearly extinct art forms of salt-making in the Philippines.


This dedication to keeping their operations sustainable is also shown in their restaurant’s design.



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Within months, Sen. Legarda turned what used to be a tree-covered ravine into a cozy, rustic restaurant. The staunch environmentalist designed it herself using a lot of repurposed materials from her own farm and she made sure most of the trees were kept. The spacious outdoor patio overlooks a lush backyard filled with fruiting trees and even some coffee plants. Aside from having a new home for The Fatted Calf, the best part for chefs Jayjay and Rhea is having a landlord who understands their passion for sustainability and culinary creativity.


But perhaps what truly sets The Fatted Calf apart is its unparalleled commitment to hospitality. From the moment guests enter, they are treated not as customers, but as cherished guests in the chefs' own home. The attentive yet unpretentious staff are always on hand to guide diners through the menu, offering expert recommendations and ensuring that every aspect of the dining experience is nothing short of perfection.


As The Fatted Calf embarks on this new chapter in its culinary journey, one thing is abundantly clear: its legacy of excellence and innovation will continue to inspire and delight for years to come. So whether you're a longtime patron or a curious newcomer, come, pull up a chair, and experience the magic of The Fatted Calf for yourself. After all, in a world filled with culinary treasures, few shine as brightly as this beloved farmhouse kitchen in Tagaytay City.


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The Fatted Calf is now located at the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, Barangay Neogan, Tagaytay City. Reservations are encouraged. Call +63 977 6437477 or +63 917 7892352 or send a direct message on Instagram @thefattedcalf_ph.