Learning from the likes of Chef Chele Gonzalez of VASK Tapas Room and Bruce Ricketts of Mecha Uma fame, Chef AJ Reyes found his own cooking style using his culinary influences from Filipino, Spanish and Japanese cuisine.
Reyes’ love for homegrown flavors and desire to uplift Filipinos in the culinary industry gave birth to a private catering business, which eventually turned into Radical Culinary Inc. — capturing the experimental approach of his cuisine.
Radical Culinary Inc. hosts private dining experiences in clients’ homes, but in November of 2016, Reyes and his business partner, mixologist Mark Marquez, opened Privatus, the newest addition to the culinary scene in Pasig City.
Privatus boasts of industrial chic interiors, a beautiful combination of rustic concrete with wooden accents and furniture, decorated with pots of real herbs and warm lighting. According to the owners, Privatus is a “premium fine dining restaurant in a casual setting.”
At a recent Privatus’ media night, we were treated to a sumptuous dinner courtesy of Reyes, complemented with drinks by Marquez. Here’s what we enjoyed.
Filipino and Spanish influences shine in Reyes’ Sisig Croquetas – tangy and creamy with just the right amount of heat from the chili mayo. This appetizer is dangerous because once you have one, you just gotta have more. I had at least eight.
Reyes’ Squash Blossoms is filled with luscious seafood mousse and creamy uni mayo. The vinegar (center) cuts into the creaminess and gives it a nice acidity.
Shrimp & Singkamas
You tell me something has aligue (crab fat) and I am instantly sold. Reyes’ Shrimp & Singkamas further ups the ante on that aligue godness, with this dish that has cabbage-wrapped shrimp and sinful aligue sauce, leading to a bite that’s light yet utterly satisfying. The pickled radish and singkamas (jicama) gives it a nice contrast of texture and acidity.
Every chef worth his/her salt knows how to treat meat with the respect it deserve—especially a cut as exquisite as this Kitayama Wagyu. Reyes nailed this medium rare local wagyu steak—perfectly seared outside and still pinkish and tender inside. It yielded to our knife like butter. While it is unnecessary for a steak this awesome, the glazed onions and sautéed mushrooms added a new layer of flavor to the dish, rounding it up and making it one of our favorite dishes of the evening.
Reyes’ Inasal Stew was definitely a hit at Privatus Manila’s media night. The chicken was smoked and slow-cooked using the sous vide method and the inasal broth itself was a beautiful marriage of Visayan flavors: sweet and savory with a touch of sourness and just a hint of bitterness in the end. This dish hit all the right spots and we just couldn’t get over it. Reyes also torched some (I want to say) lemongrass to bring the flavors home.
Fried garlic Risotto
The Fried Garlic Risotto stands alone very well, but also becomes an effective wingman for any main dish to shine.
Tangy, sweet, and definitely irresistible. Privatus Manila’s Strawberry Shortcake is for chocoholics, fruit lovers, and ice cream fanatics. The chocolate dome is filled with strawberry mousse with a sponge cake base and finished with strawberry sorbet on the side.
Fried Ice Cream
Underneath this beautiful chaos of fried shoestring sweet potato is fried homemade mango ice cream. Yes, Reyes and his team made everything from scratch. This salty-sweet combo is a personal favorite.
Privatus Test Kitchen is located at 8 F. Legaspi Street, Barangay Maybunga, Pasig City. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. For reservations and inquiries, call (0998) 590-0996 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info, visit www.radicalculinaryinc.com. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram @privatusmanila).
By CHING DEE