Mulberry Door: A Delicious Refuge In The Urban Jungle
There is nothing Nawwty about Trish Panlilio’s resto Mulberry Door at Forbestown right off Burgos Circle. In fact, it is too damn nice! An imposing distressed oak door adds drama to the homey, very updated Laura Ashley (pardon by age) gentrified dining room. Panlilio comes from a large Kapampangan family (numbering seven in fact), and with that comes the robust kitchens that would have to feed her, her siblings, and her friends.
Panlilio isn’t new to the business. She began with the now sought-out caterer Nawwty’s Kitchen, bringing classic family favorites from her table to yours. She conceived the much-awaited Gourmand Market series that delights foodies at the Bonifacio High Street a couple of times a year. I look at Gourmand Market as the village grocers and purveyors on steroids. Well punctuated with new finds, and simply well-organized. It adds flair to the sometimes moribund High Street resto choices—yes, cloistered resto concepts that open as quickly as they close. Gourmand Market indeed has made a difference in the world of bazaars and pop ups. The biggest challenge in the dining scene today is longevity. Diners are looking for a unique experience, and restaurateurs looking for repeat clients. The days for conspicuous consumption, for retail, are reflected in our dining habits. An end of the day drink, may be followed by two choices—the familial or the newbie. Only recently, after a protracted PR campaign, a designer restaurant closed its doors. There was a lot of talk about that, but in the end, the diner decides the fate of putting the fires out in the kitchen and yes, hanging the apron. Diners are looking for home fare, accessible and real.
Mulberry Door is just that. It wasn’t pulled out of a hat. Or conjured by a newly minted chef from a prized school, but from a woman who knew how to eat, and indulge without an inch of fat to show for it.... Trish Panlilio built her name through a natural progression of doing things well. It does help that Panlilio had a following. But Trish is an artist, much like her mother. To make the Door work, she needed help. Then came three gentlemen: her sons Quintin, Matteo, and Luca. During the interview, Panlilio sat back with my editor, as the boys and I looked through the menu and the dishes.
The dishes were absolutely familiar, and presented well. But what killed me was that they were simply so indulgent. The combination of ingredients hit the spot (ask for a side order of Lipitor). The pasta, a black squink, tossed in crab fat and sided with garlic prawns left me saying a prayer. That set the tone for an afternoon tasting that the boys helped qualify: comfort luxe.
Quintin, Matteo, and Luca are extremely involved in the restaurant. The dining room itself is impressive. “Oh, it’s like our home, only more organized,” quips Matteo. The whole idea is to welcome a diner to theirhome, and serve them what they like to eat. The name itself was conjured by the boys—it was to evoke abundance, and filled with symbolism. Distressed oak, a semblance of organized clutter fill the dining room. Comfortable chairs and attentive service make it more like a social club (the in thing these days, I note), rather than a resto. The feel is homey, the ambiance clubby, and the food: familiar and done well.
It’s not very often that you highlight a menu with a burger. But Matteo’s lamb burger is a 175-gram succulent patty smothered in Gruyere, caramelized onions served on a Dutch crunch bun. I never liked mint jelly, but the mint aioli just sealed the deal. The menu, as the gentlemen put it, is an experiment. Items that move stay, and if they don’t, try something new. With their test kitchen not too far away in the adjacent village, the three, with their mother, conjure offerings that may truly delight the diner.
I like this spot because it’s real. The boys made me try a roast chicken topped with asiago and Portobello mushrooms that brought me back to our old home in San Juan. I remembered sitting at the kitchen table to have my after-school favorites—roasted chicken nakadikit sa Pyrex—like a chicken paprika with a rich gravy that with the asiago, just needed a dollop of rice. Don’t be fooled by appearances. Mulbery Door is authentic. Like the Disney movie Ratatouille, it brings out fond memories around the dining table, storiesoften repeated, maybe with a few things added or missed, but the food on the table is what binds memories. Keep this spot in your radar. If you want to dine alone, or just meet up with old friends, the menu is easy to spot, and will not burn a hole in your wallet.
What makes it more unique is it is about a family. Three men and their mother, making dreams happen over heaping portions of paella, prawn thermidor casserole, or just a full bite of bone marrow. Perfect spot these rainy days... or when you just feel the need to wash away that rainy day. It is a home restaurant that has become a refuge in the urban BGC jungle.
Mulberry door is located at 8 Forbestown, Burgos Circle, 1634, Taguig, Metro Manila. Tel.: (02) 810 5427 | OpenMondays to Sundays 11am-11pm.
Photos by Jar Concengco
This articles was originally published in Metro Society. Changes have been made for Metro.Style.