Let's Get Ready To 'Rambla!' Dani Aliaga Of The Rambla Group Makes Us Fall In Love With Spanish Cuisine All Over Again At Power Plant Mall's New Food Hall, The Grid
This food-loving Spaniard who dreams, breathes, and lives delicious food shares his life's biggest love with the Filipino diner: uncompromised Spanish food cooked up to please every single time.
"Food is something very cultural to us. In Spain, we love food. And we are very lucky because we have great produce and ingredients, chefs, cuisine. It’s part of our culture and we love it," says food entrepreneur Dani Aliaga with a clear sense of pride.
A native of Barcelona, Dani spent much of his youth deeply steeped in some of his country's best culinary delights. To him, the food he grew up on has developed from being mere physical sustenance to his life's ultimate mission, becoming elevated works of art worth sharing with an international audience.
"We enjoy it and it’s a big part of our lives. I wake up thinking about our restaurants, I go to sleep thinking about our restaurants. That’s the passion behind it," Dani continues.
Indeed, the passion in Dani has not dimmed one bit since he first discovered it, despite being a restauranteur in the Philippines for over a decade. Having dabbled in many food ventures since he first set foot in his second home in Southeast Asia, Dani is mostly recognized for being a member of the group of passionate restauranteurs who have blessed Manila with the likes of Rambla, Las Flores, and Tomatito.
Anyone who's eaten in any of Dani's restaurants—even just once—need not jog their memories to recall their mouthwatering hits: El Cochinillo at Tomatito, Angus & Foie Minis at Las Flores, and Tagliatelle Al Nero Di Sepia and Scallop at Rambla. We gulp in anticipation at just the thought of them.
While all restuarants specialize in Spanish cuisine, Dani reveals that the reason they've all been successful in their own right is because their menus are representative of Spain's different culinary styles: his Barcelona roots define Rambla's flavor profile, while Las Flores features Spain's universally loved tradtional dishes, and Tomatito offers up Spanish food with a playful hint of Latin influence. Just as the Philippines boasts of a wide stretch of regional cuisine, so does Spain, and this is the story behind Dani's approach to food.
Dani's existing ventures have certainly earned their stripes in Manila's vibrant culinary scene, proving their longevity and maintaining their appeal throughout the years. Hence, the Rambla group's loyal following will be extremely glad to learn that they're adding yet another brand in their roster of restaurants: Tapas & Pintxos by Rambla.
A teaser of what awaits at Tapas & Pintxos by Rambla
Comparably more casual than their previous projects, this tapas and pintxos bar is one of the 15 thoughtfully selected players at Power Plant Mall's newest dining destination, The Grid. The food hall was designed to be the Rockwell headquarters of some of the metro's most celebrated chefs and food experts, and to those familiar with Dani's food, this essentially meant that Rambla was a foolproof choice.
Dani's customers know Spanish tapas well, so there's defnitely a lot to be excited for in that area. But, what are pintxos, you ask?
Simply said, pintxos (pronounced with the "tx" as a hard "ch") are similar to tapas as they come in small plates or servings. The main difference is that they're often enjoyed as a stand-alone snack accompanied by a wine, and almost always, come in the form of a slice of bread topped with savory bites of different cold cuts, meats, seafood, or vegetables on top, or a combination of complementing food served on a small skewer.
Asked about why he chose to focus on pintxos in this menu, Dani explains, "Having pintxos will make it a little bit friendlier. We will be in a food hall setting, so it will even be more approachable. [At The Grid], it’s not like you are in a rush when chatting with many people as you eat, and I think that putting pintxos there will make it a bit more casual and we can definitely reach a bigger crowd."
Beginning operations in the first week of July, Dani's words have already been proven right: his gambas pintxos and quail egg chorizo pintxos are on the top of most diners' picks, while he personally suggests the jamon tortilla and blood sausage as must-try tapas.
"If you want just a bite you can have that, but if you want more, order more! [The menu] is very flexible when it comes to the quantities, shapes, and formats [of dishes], and that makes it a little bit more fun," he adds. Best of all, the ingredients used in these authentic Spanish tapas and pintxos are supplied by the same trustworthy partners Dani has for his other restaurants, which means quality is always an assurance. Price-wise, this restauraunt will also be a crowd pleaser.
Dani's life has been defined by a life of serving up great Spanish food
Trusting his gut about his group's newest venture, Dani believes that it will be yet another feather of success they can tuck into their caps as Spanish food has always had a natural affinity with the Philippines. Enjoying Spanish flavors, regardless of their origins, will always have a special place in Filipinos' bellies. These days, however, it is now a matter of broadening Filipinos' knowledge of Spanish food by giving them the opportunity to go beyond paella, callos, or pochero, a responsibility that Dani has happily embraced.
In fact, Dani says he's already having to play catch up with the Filipino palate and on occasion, has been pleasantly surprised by how much local diners have learned about food in general. Thanking the ease of travel, exposure to different cuisines, and globalization as the main drivers of Filipinos being more informed about food (and expecting more from Rambla and others), Dani couldn't be happier about the direction Manila's culinary scene is heading towards.
"A lot of Filipinos are really pushing the boundaries of different cuisines. You can be very surprised at how many know so much. I’ve been here for 12 years in the country and since the day I arrived till now, the change has been huge," he describes.
“Before I would be able to just say my food was Spanish, but now, my diners come to me and say they want dishes from a specific region. I’m like 'Wow! How do you know this? I barely know that.' That’s beautiful. That’s the nicest thing that can happen that you have a conversation with your diner who tells you 'I went here, I tasted this, I tasted that.' I have to write it all down then go and check things out myself the next time I’m back home," he laughs.
Overall, it appears that Dani and his partners have struck gold yet again at The Grid, where they won't only be attracting old customers, but new diners as well.
And with that, they'll be able to accomplish what they were born to do with ease and joy: bring Spanish cuisine to fellow food-loving people like Filipinos, and in the end, have everyone fall in love with it all over again.
Produced by Christina N. Lopez and Grace Libero-Cruz
Photography by Daniel Soriano
Special thanks to Sab Lee
Shot on location at The Grid, 2F Level Expansion, Power Plant Mall, Makati