5663 Alfonso Street, Poblacion, Makati City
Open from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. (Monday to Thursday) and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. (Saturday to Sunday)
5663 Alfonso Street, Poblacion, Makati City (above ABKD)
Open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Monday to Thursday) and 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. (Saturday to Sunday)
Poblacion may be no stranger to new hip nightspots that continue to open one after the other, but places where you can simply enjoy a hearty, sit-down meal and maybe even a cup of coffee, especially before the sun sets, are still a bit rare.
If you happen to be in the area during these quiet hours, stop by Alfonso Street. A bit quieter than the rest of the booming district, this strip is home to some hidden gems, like ABKD, the newest kid on the block.
ABKD is Lica Ibarra's baby. Though it isn't her first foray into the restaurant scene—she launched Kartilya in BGC after she participated in the first season of MasterChef Asia—this cafe, she shares, has always been her dream. "Dream ko talaga to have something like this—a cafe-bakery with comfort food. But I wanted to make it a bit different."
"ABKD is from baybayin," adds Lica. "We're not necessarily a Filipino restaurant—it's more like we're going back to our roots. So this place has a lot of Filipino touches, from the influence, the techniques, to the ingredients that are mostly locally sourced."
These local touches are apparent in the space itself, which feels like a brighter and airier family home, from the capiz light fixtures hanging from the ceiling to the retro batibot chairs and mismatched plates and bowls. All these come together to create an ambience that feels cozy in its familiarity.
The menu, too, features familiar dishes but with twists that are all Lica, who shares that she loves experimenting. "I thought of what people would look for when they think 'comfort food,'" she adds. "But I wanted to make them different and interesting."
Eenie Meanie Bucatini
Her version of carbonara, the Eenie Meanie Bucatini (P405), has a sauce made traditionally with just eggs—how many eggs, though, is the question given how creamy the sauce is—and Parmesan cheese. Lica trades the usual spaghetti for bucatini for a firmer, enjoyably tender texture, while porcini mushrooms and smoked bacon give the dish a bold, earthy-smoky flavor that could rival any truffle-laden dish.
Chori Burger (With Shrimp)
The Chori Burger (With Shrimp) (P398) doesn't skimp on punchy flavors, either. The thick chorizo patty will remind you of sweet-smoky barbecue, with the garlicky shrimp adding just the right pop of spiciness and bite—all of these between two pillow-soft potato buns. The peppery-sweet side of arugula and caramelized onions don't fall behind in the flavor department, either—have these in-between bites for that perfectly tasty balance.
MNL Clam Chowder
Even comfort-food staple clam chowder gets a fresh update at ABKD. As with the traditional recipe, Lica uses mashed potatoes to give her MNL Clam Chowder (P335) a hearty richness. What sets hers apart though, are lemon rinds which, together with the edamame and tobiko, give the stew a citrusy brightness that offsets the brine of the clams. With the Parmesan crisp on top, this chowder can turn any bad day around.
Upstairs bar N has a more dramatic, steampunk-inspired vibe
The Mintmelon (P100) fuses fruit wintermelon and a hint of mint for a refreshing cooler.
N's signature cocktails feature local produce like calamansi and a reduction made from Red Horse beer in the Kalesa (front, P250), and the La La-Rosa (P250)
Of course, it isn't a Poblacion haunt without some after-hour drinks: ABKD hides theirs in their upstairs bar, N, though you can order their bar chow in the cafe as well. We can't blame you if you choose to have the Wagyu Stick (P140) with an extra order of rice. The incredibly soft wagyu beef cubes get a generous dusting of furikake, togarashi, and nori flakes for a vibrant lip-smacking saltiness youâll get addicted to.
ABKD and N are welcome additions to Poblacion—you'll always need places that offer a hearty meal and a cup of coffee, whether you need the fuel to start the day or to power through after-work drinks. But, while you might stumble upon this cafe out of necessity, you'll leave with a new cozy hangout to add to your favorites.
Photos by Hans Fausto