Chef Carlo Miguel's Take On Filipino Food At The 1st Bench Café In Bonifacio High Street
In line with its ongoing celebration of its 30th year in the retail business, Bench quietly opened a flagship store at the heart of Bonifacio High Street. This beautifully designed modern space now serves as an ideal showcase for all its product lines, including the Bench Design Studio. To complete its concept of a one-stop, everything Bench store, there is also a Bench Barbershop and Bench Fix Salon on one floor, plus the very first Bench Café.
Unknown to many, the mother company of the Bench brand, Suyen Corporation (which is headed by Chairman Ben Chan, President Virgilio Lim, and Vice-President for Business Development Bryan Lim), is already a major player in the restaurant industry, through its ownership of a handful of popular foreign franchises, mostly from Japan, like St. Mark’s Café, Maisen, and Pablo. Most recently, Bench opened Marugame Udon and Tempura which is, hands down, a crowd favorite with long queues way over a month since it opened, for good and reasonably priced Japanese food on Boni High Street. It’s my personal favorite for a quick udon and Spam musubi fix.
But for Bench’s first foray into opening a homegrown restaurant concept, the group opted to partner with FOODEE Global Concepts, headed by the dynamic father-and-son tandem of Ricky and Eric Dee, one of Manila’s largest multi-brand restaurant groups with over three decades of experience. For their first collaboration, Bench handled the design aspects of the project, while the FOODEE group focused on the food and drinks.
What to expect at Bench Café?
This new Bench concept adds another dimension to its invitation to “live life with flavor,” one of the brand’s most popular social media hashtags and guiding philosophies, by presenting a uniquely Filipino dining experience in a beautifully designed room with a brightly lit, modern diner vibe that’s very Instagram-friendly. The menu presents updated versions of familiar Filipino dishes created by FOODEE’s new Corporate Chef Carlos Miguel, a veteran of a handful of Manila’s revered fine dining institutions, combined with a beverage menu designed by the Liquid Maestro, Kalel Demetrio.
Sisig lettuce cups
Otap Sesame tsoknut drink by the liquid maestro
Bench Café introduces its bench/to meals, inspired by Japanese bento boxes, resulting in delish, glammed up versions of individually portioned set meals. Each bench/to is comprised of two ulams or viands, a cup of Ifugao rice, gulay or a vegetable side dish, plus a choice of two sawsawan or sauces, which includes a Bench special sauce. This complete meal, served in a locally woven tray, is competitively priced at P250-450 per set. My personal favorites among the viands that I got to try are the sous-vide Liempo Inasal and the Honey Patis Chicken that I enjoyed with special crab fat paste or aligue rice. Other must-try dishes include Chef Miguel’s “healthier” take on sisig served on lettuce cups with calamansi foam, and his halo-halo variants in classic, milk, and ube flavors that he brilliantly elevated with the use of snow-like bingsu ice.
The café also features other Filipino food staples like street food, all-day silogs, merienda options, more desserts, and kapeng barako. Lovers of anything local will be happy to know that 90% of ingredients used are sourced locally, keeping true to the brand’s slogan of “Love Local.”2/F Bench Flagship Store, 9th Avenue corner Lane O, Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City Facebook: Bench Café Instagram: @benchcafeph
Photos by Cyrene de la Rosa
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