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Asador Alfonso: The Ultimate Dream Dining Destination

Go for the architecture, stay for the lechazo!

A destination restaurant’s success lies on the impact their food and place makes on the guests. Driving two hours south to Asador Alfonso, its architecture alone will leave an impression that will be hard to forget, with a slow roasted Spanish suckling lamb that will make you want to return.

The spectacular dining destination that is Asador Alfonso | Jar Concengco

Asador Alfonso is the latest from the years long partnership of architect Carlo Calma and chef Chele Gonzalez. “Carlo wanted to develop this in a very innovative way and he wanted to bring art in a different setting. This is a vision of Carlo and he integrated the building with nature,”Gonzalez says.

Carlo Calma and Chele Gonzalez | Jar Concengco

The structure is made up of geometric, origami-like folds and houses the restaurant proper, a multi-purpose events place and a private residence for the Calma family. Surrounded by trees and farmland with Mt. Batulao (also an inactive stratovolcano) and Mt. Talamitam viewable in the distance, Asador Alfonso’s architecture took cues from its surroundings as inspiration, including Mt. Taal.

The unique architecture of Asador Alfonso was inspired by its location | Jar Concengco

“I was just inspired by the location when we went here with my dad and looked at the space. We just wanted to highlight the speciality of the place which is like mountains and volcanos. That was the first inspiration and I kind of created a design language with these lava rocks, volcanos, and topology,” Calma explains.

The approach to the restaurant leads you to a canopy made of a geometric web of glass and metal. Cantilevers fold over openings strategically. “All of these folds are intentional — either for viewing or buffering from the sun.”

A bird's eye view of Asador Alfonso | Jar Concengco

Staff in sleek grey uniforms designed by Ellis Co — a designer known for his clothing inspired by brutalist architecture and Japanese aesthetics — greet guests and lead you to your seat. The kitchen is at the heart of the restaurant with a sinuous counter in oak wood and marble. The ceiling features undulating louvers representing the topology of the area.

Sleek grey uniforms designed by Ellis Co | Jar Concengco
The undulating louvers of the ceiling | Jar Concengco

“Here it’s more like wood, soft tones, organic features with nature,” describes Calma. The tables and chairs echo the shapes of the architecture. “It all started out with the shape of a volcano. The geometric folds — that became kind of the language. The furniture that I designed had that kind of language as well and they’re made of oak wood and had them made in Cebu,” Calma says.

Warm wood, soft tones, geometric yet organic shapes and patterns | Jar Concengco

The second floor is an event space. “Upstairs shows more of the architecture. You see the portals and the beams. It’s very architectural,” Calma shares.

Concrete beams pierce through the space in an almost ecclesiastical fashion. At sunset, golden light enters through the western windows. Looking up will reveal laser cut panels and actually reflect more of the topography of the site. “We have a wall feature there. The mural there is also like a volcano and abstract lava rocks.”

The second floor private dining room with the laser-cut panels on its ceiling | Jar Concengco
The perspective from the ground floor | Jar Concengco

There were efforts in preserving all the trees on site. A coconut tree can be seen towering over the middle of the shed. A sunken seating area perfect for sunset drinking faces the pool and the cone-shaped structure of the restaurant. The tiles by the pool were made with plastic pellets made with recycled plastic bottles. “We used almost four tons of recycled plastic which is around 600,000 bottles,” he reveals.

Gonzalez’s kitchen is equipped with a Jumaco & Maestro oven — a Spanish company with more than a hundred years of oven making — which can fire 100 cochinillos or lamb at a time. The food at the restaurant is Gonzalez’s best — the Espárrago features seasonal, subtly sweet white asparagus and pairs it with a celeriac toffee purée. A surprising favorite was the Pan y Mantequilla (but then again who doesn’t enjoy warm bread and butter) — with the butter infused with the salinity and umami of Spain’s best anchovies.

The Jumaco & Maestro oven | Jar Concengco
Pan y Mantequilla | Jar Concengco

Cabinero prawns — deep red Spanish prawns with tender and sweet flesh — can only be eaten one way, Gonzalez says. “You must eat these with your hands. And I must hear the sound of you sucking the head all the way from the kitchen.” 

Cabinero prawns | Jar Concengco

The main dish is the Lechazo — a slow roasted suckling lamb — that is served with its own jus, stewed potatoes and a green salad. The lamb’s jus carries so much flavor and is recommended to be poured all over the lamb. The refreshing green salad’s tangy vinaigrette helps cut down the richness so you can eat even more lamb. 

Lechazo | Jar Concengco

“So many people make good suckling pig here in the Philippines. So I wanted to do something different with the suckling lamb,” Gonzalez says.

As day turns into night, the space transforms into a romantic vessel. The dim lighting complements the food while the muffled chatter of guests enjoying the company signals that everyone is having a good time. Asador Alfonso is a wonderful destination worth the visit to not only marvel at the architecture but to taste Gonzalez’s best dishes.

Asador Alfonso | Lot 3308 Barangay Road, Alfonso, Cavite | Phone: 0917 160 7621 |  IG: @asadoralfonso.

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 Photography by Jar Concengco