Tom Hines Premieres Culinary Theatrics At Kobe Jones
Like a thespian, this chef puts on a show you should go see — and taste! — in person!
Two years after the lockdown started, most of us barely remember what dining out entails — mostly reliving the good ol’ days (a.k.a. 2019 and earlier) in our heads. Some may be asking, “What’s it like to dine out these days?”
Well, if you’re dining at Kobe Jones in Makati City, it’s nothing like you’ve ever experienced before.
Tom Hines is a British chef who’s been in the Philippines for almost three decades. In his extensive career in the Philippines alone, he’s worked with numerous chefs from various backgrounds, but it’s his European flair he chose to pair with his training in Japanese sensibilities.
At the ground floor of Le Grand Condominium in Salcedo Village, you’ll find Kobe Jones. Dark and moody despite the lunchtime sun, our visit to this “sushi x steak” place was filled with great food and equally great wine. This writer came in with no expectations, but was still pleasantly surprised by how Chef Tom managed to bring a certain showmanship to the meal without distracting the guests from the actual food. His menu is reminiscent of his stint as the head chef of two restaurants also previously found in Makati City, Wasabi and Smith Butcher and Grill Room.
Our visit to Makati’s new hidden gem started with a glass of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (2019), which is always a great way to start basically anything.
The first course soon came: Warm Blinis with Oscietra Caviar paired with a rich Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon (2019). The Russian-style pancakes, served warm on top of a polished rock enclosed in a glass dome, comes with a dollop of velvety creme fraiche and topped with of one of the most expensive types of caviar in the world: the Oscietra Caviar (sometimes spelled Ossetra or Asetra) in all its golden glory. The tiny spheres contained seas of briny flavors and the creme fraiche did a great job of balancing it out. The pancake was the perfect canvas for this masterpiece. So simple, yet so poignant. This first bite was a promising start for the meal.
Next, we were served the Fresh Oyster and Baked Oyster Combination with a glass of Terrazzas Chardonnay Reserva (2020). It was refreshing and almost palate cleansing, because the flavors were so fresh and almost untouched.
The third course was timed perfectly because it’s decadence in every bite: Chef Tom’s Pan-Fried Foie Gras features a generous serving of foie gras — pan-fried so it forms a perfectly seared exterior while keeping the interiors lusciously creamy, the way really foie gras should be — served on top of a crispy sourdough croute for a contrast of textures. he foie is topped with Zambales mango chutney for a little bit of tangy-sweetness and it’s served with a shaving of Italian black truffle, as if the foie gras wasn’t rich enough. Despite all the luxury in this dish, it didn’t taste or feel off-putting or cloying, which could be because of the perfect serving size. It was beautifully paired with Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir (2018), a deep red with fruity notes to balance all the richness.
Chef Tom’s showmanship and experience with Japanese cuisine are evident in the next course, which is best shared with the table. You better get your phones ready when it arrives on the table because the second they lift the enclosure, the (dry ice) smoke escapes in such a dramatic fashion, revealing the Jones Seafood Platter. Served in an ice platter that literally lights up, it has different kinds of sashimi (king fish, tuna, and salmon) and rainbow maki rolls featuring salmon, snapper, crab, and bright red tuna. It’s served with a small bowl of uni (sea urchin) that serves almost like a creamy sauce for the sashimi and maki. On the side, there are some shiso leaves to provide a minty-peppery freshness to the fresh seafood. We washed it all down with glasses (yes, more than one) of Cape Mentelle Chardonnay (2017).
The highlight of the meal came with a glass of Terrazzas Malbec Reserva (2018). The Mb7 Wagyu Steak was as tender as you could imagine, but its flavors were robust. You can just taste the wonders of the Maillard reaction on it. Perfectly seared outside to form a crust to keep all the juices and flavors within the meat fibers. Each cut was like slicing through butter. The only thing wrong with this dish is that I wanted to have more of it. The steak was served with sautéed spinach and crispy-on-the-outside-fluffy-inside hand-cut fries on the side.
The meal’s conclusion was a sight to behold. Mrs. Jones Dessert turns the dining table into Chef Tom’s canvas, much like Grant Achatz of Alinea in New York. With a few waves of his hand, he creates swirls of dark and matcha chocolate on the table, followed by a sprinkling of crumbs. He then gently lays down his signature Lemon Cheesecake (made with probiotic yogurt, which aids in digestion after a good meal) to the left, to the right a tiny skillet of Mochi Brownie topped high with meringue and soaked in liquor, a smattering of fresh mint leaves, and the grand finale is a chocolate ball that’s dropped from a height by a volunteer diner right in the middle of the canvas so it breaks into a Rorschach made of green tea mousse. Eaten separately, the desserts were splendid, especially the (drunken) Mochi Brownie, which pairs so well with Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
Like a thespian, Chef Tom doesn’t shy away from putting on a show, and this audience member recommends you go and see — and taste! — it all in person.
Kobe Jones is located at the Ground Floor of Le Grand Condominium, 130 Valero Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City. They are open from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Mondays and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday. For reservations, contact +63 915 098 5735. For updates, follow Kobe Jones on Facebook / Instagram at @kobejonesph.