Hip Heritage Food

11 months ago


A revolution is happening in Manila, and Braska is in the center of the action.


Words by Ceej Tantengco

Photographed by Ed Simon of Studio 100


Manila—Once patterned after Washington D.C. and called the “Pearl of the Orient” by early 1900s newspapers, has spent much of the post-World War II era falling into cycles of development and disrepair. It was home to high-powered businessmen and diplomats until they moved to Makati; a bohemian haunt until local government cracked down on nightlife. But these days, the capitol city is having a renaissance.

A growing spoken word scene, old buildings being saved from demolition by young creatives, start-ups like the bamboo bike tours going around Intramuros—and new restaurants like Braska, serving Filipino comfort food made with local ingredients.

“We wanted to do something that’s familiar but not usual,” says Braska’s brand director Mark Abellon. Take, for example, their Guava Jelly Toast, a savory-sweet French toast sandwich stuffed with locally made guava jam, cream cheese, and crispy bacon; and topped with shoestring kamote fries. Another option is the Tablea Waffles
, a comforting treat made up of crisp tablea-flavored waffles topped with luscious mango cubes which you can drizzle with condensed milk. Both can work for breakfast, merienda, or even as a midnight snack.

Their bestselling Bangus Sardines Pasta 
is more straightforward. No frills, just al
 dente noodles bathed in a light oil-based sauce and chunks of tender bangus. Another no-nonsense yet an absolutely must-try main is the Short Ribs Caldereta. Juicy fork tender beef is cooked for hours in a rich tomato sauce made sweet and tangy by the red bell pepper slices. Comfort food, alright. And it’s hard not to remember a Pinoy childhood when eating Braska’s Chocnut Cake and fluffy Bibingka topped with salted eggs and ube buttercream.

At night, Braska dims the lights and transforms into a chill lounge where the favorite at the bar is the Lychee Martini. Pair your drink with Longganisa Meatballs, a Pinoy take on Scotch eggs where hard-boiled quail eggs are wrapped in garlicky longganisa and crunchy breadcrumbs.

Chef Poch Hogar knows her stuff —after all, she grew up around the area. You can hear her passion for local ingredients when she talks. “During my thesis research, 
I found that our cashew industry is dying. The Philippines used to export, but now people prefer cashews from Indonesia. So I wanted to showcase local ingredients and support local growers,” she says.

Braska operates on the ground floor of Amélie Hotel—the French film is the favorite of Mark’s wife Giselle, and they named their daughter after the quirky lead character. The couple lived in America before coming home to the Philippines, and Mark says the key to appreciating Manila is a matter of perspective.

“If you get a general consensus of people [from Manila], they don’t have the best things to say about their city. But there are things to cultivate, like the offices in El Hogar and the vibrant subcultures,” explains Mark.

“When we have foreign guests at the hotel, it’s because they make a conscious decision to choose Manila. We have a lot of guests asking, ‘how do I ride the jeepney?’ and eating silogs every morning.”

But despite promoting Filipino culture, Braska’s interiors are anything but your typical Filipiniana. Instead of random paintings of the countryside, Braska features a hip design by interior designer Anton Barretto and a wall of wooden planks saved from old houses torn down in the area. Like the name of the restaurant—Braska is short for Nebraska, the old street name—it’s a subtle callback to the past, hidden in plain sight within a modern design.

The dream for Braska is to not just be situated within the city’s resurgence, but to
be active in the revolution. When we dropped by, they were setting up an indigenous art exhibit in the hotel. They’re also meeting with local musicians of different genres who can perform live at Braska. “I’d like to expose the area to different kinds of music,” says Mark, who turns out to be a former DJ steeped in the vibrant subcultures of Manila.

“Lately, Filipino food has been making noise here and abroad,” adds Mark. “Why else would Anthony Bourdain take two trips to the Philippines, and specifically visit Malate?” For a long time, locals took Filipino food
for granted, just as foreigners thought of it
as weird and exotic. Now, more and more understand: Filipino food and culture is something to be celebrated.


G/F Amelie Hotel

1669 Jorge Bacobo St., Malate, Manila

(02) 995-3981

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