New Poblacion Discovery: Element Boutique Hotel and Restaurant

The Poblacion area in Makati City, Philippines has slowly transformed into a bustling haven for artsy hipsters. While the seedy girly bars are still around, the young, hip crowd is no longer deterred from checking out the surrounding more wholesome establishments.

My latest discovery in the area is the ELEMENT BOUTIQUE HOTEL and RESTAURANT along Guerrero St, just off P. Burgos Ave.  Taking a cue from the more popular Z Hostel in the same area, Element offers accommodations for the traveller who is willing to go off the beaten path and away from the cookie cutter hotel chains.

While the hotel is interesting in itself, I want to talk about the restaurant on the building’s ground floor. The entire property was built in 2016 and the restaurant forms as much of its identity as the hotel itself.

Specializing in all-natural, sustainable and artisanal food, Element fits right into the profile of the new Poblacion crowd. My friends and I dropped by for afternoon drinks and an early dinner.

Artisalal Cheese platter (For sharing Php790, small Php490)

We started our afternoon with a lovely cheese platter with items imported from France. The platter contained wedges of Roquefort, Brillat-Savarin, St. Nectaire and Brun de Noix. The Roquefort, a kind of blue cheese, was my favorite. I’m ashamed to say that I had quite a bit more than my fair share of cheese.

Each one had its own distinct flavor and texture. paired with some walnuts, raisins, grapes and a side salad, the cheese platter is a meal in itself.  The classic wine and cheese combo was completed by glasses of organic house wine. We were able to sample a white, red and rose variety. I’m partial to rose but all of their house wines were obviously curated carefully and are of the highest quality. It’s also a steal for only Php190 a glass!

Speaking of drinks, we were also able to try a pre-mixed lambanog cocktail called Barik. the locally-bottled drink is another homage to local artisanal products, which is the restaurant’s main thrust. They want to serve traditional French cuisine and introduce the French dining lifestyle while using locally produced and biodynamic ingredients.

Apart from the cheese platter, our happy hour wasn’t complete without trying the HAPPY OYSTERS PROMO (PHP500). Instead of your usual happy hour cocktails, Element offers half a dozen Aklan oysters served with a glass of wine and some home made french bread.  The fresh oysters are served raw with diced shallots and vinegar on the side.

The oysters, as well as the cheese platter, were served with crusty, in-house bread. Luckily, the French head chef couldn’t be satisfied with any bread that’s available on the market. He decided to experiment on making his own bread in the restaurant. The result is a loaf that’s unbelievable crusty but soft on the inside. This bread makes you feel like you’re sitting along the French riviera, enjoying your afternoon aperitif.

Before we stuffed ourselves full with this delightful bread, we decided to proceed with some salads. We went for a light salad with grilled tuna. The tuna was perfectly pink on the inside and the salad was served with a light vinaigrette. Our other salad featured a balsamic dressing, grilled aubergines and parmesan cheese…because we really needed more cheese after that platter.

Grilled tuna salad (Php310)
Grilled Aubergina, Asparagus, Pine nuts and Parmesan (Php280)

Following the light salads, we dove into the Crispy French Thin Tarts. These are similar to a pizza except it uses puff pastry. Yassss!!! Puff pastry is life! Both versions that we had were full of unique flavors that went really well with the crispy and buttery crust. These might be my favorite parts of the meal.

Pissaladiere (Php290)
Caramelized Onions, Anchovies, Olives, and Capers
Swiss Gruyère, Onion and Sour Cream (Php370)

Along with the French thin tarts, we also had some fresh pasta dishes. I’m always weary of pasta served in restaurants in Manila because I’m a big pasta Nazi. The home made tagliatelle in Element didn’t really blow my mind. I found the pasta to be too soft. I like my pasta with a nice, strong bite still left in it. The flavors were not particularly mind-blowing either. I would not crave the pasta here, and would likely choose something else next time.

Chorizo and Piperade Tagilatelle (P490)
Scallops, Clams, and Saffron Sauce Tagliatelle (P520)

Another dish that didn’t really do much for me was the Rouille de Seiche (P480).
It’s a dish made of cuttlefish in saffron and chili sauce served with rice. We were told that this is the specialty in the chef’s hometown. Growing up eating this and eating it again now probably evokes a sense of familiarity and comfort that Filipinos also get while eating sinigang or something similar. However, to a newbie like me, it tasted good but I won’t be dreaming about it.

Rouille de Seiche (P480)

Next, it was time for the meat! We had a bone-in beef rib grilled medium rare. The 500 to 700-gram beef rib was topped with herb butter and served with Tian Provençal (grilled slices of zucchini and tomatoes) and Pommes Dauphines (potato croquettes).

The temperature on the beef was perfect. It was pink in the middle, but the flavors didn’t really reach well beyond the outer crust. We also had a little bit of a tough time cutting into the meat near our favorite fatty portion.

Beef Ribs (P1380)

Finally, it was time for dessert. In my opinion, no self-respecting French restaurant should serve a mediocre dessert. Luckily, Element put in the extra effort and we were all impressed by their dessert offerings.

My favorite was the Apple “Tarte Fine” (Php280). It’s reminiscent of an apple pie a la mode but with a thin, crispy and caramelized pastry instead of a pie. Totally divine! My only issue is the way they served the ice cream. It’s on a cold slab but even if we tried to inhale this dish as quickly as possible, much of the ice cream melted away. If it were in a small cup, there’a still a chance to scoop it up even if it’s melting.

Apple “Tarte Fine” (Php280)

The other desserts that we tried were the Chocolate Profiteroles (Php280) and Calamansi Posset (Php230), a rich Calamansi mousse. These were really good too! I only wish I hadn’t already eaten so much at this point. Next time, I’ll leave more room for dessert!

Overall, dining at Element was a wonderfully unique experience. It isn’t exactly cheap here, but you can really see the quality in the ingredients and the expertise in the cooking technique.

Check out the full menu and other reviews on Zomato:
Element Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato