After the successful launch of Tim Ho Wan and Din Tai Fung in the Philippines last year, it didn’t come as a surprise that another restaurant touting Michelin Star credentials has just opened locally.
Atelier Vivanda is the brainchild of French-born Chef Akrame Benallal. A quick Google search reveals that his first restaurant in Paris received two stars from the Michelin Guide, so that’s where the credentials are based on. And because I’m such a sheep when it comes to trying out new restaurants, I decided to go with a group of friends last week to dine at Atelier Vivanda, barely a week into the restaurant’s grand opening to the public.
Atelier Vivanda is located at the corner of that new row of restaurants in Forbestown Center, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig (in front of Robinson’s Supermarket). The restaurant is small, even though it occupies two floors. The ground floor is just big enough for a bar and a few stools, plus a couple of tables for diners. The second floor houses the kitchen, a small private room, and the rest of the tables. The place was packed when we were there, so I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures of the interiors. This review is about the food anyways 🙂
The menu was straightforward. Upon recommendation of our assigned waiter, each person in our group (seven in total) ordered the Le Formule (PhP1,900.00), which comes with one starter (l’entree), one main dish (le plat), one side dish (l’ accompaniment) and one dessert. We all decided to order a variety of starters and side dishes so we could taste each one they offered. For the main dish, all of us opted for the Black Angus Striploin option.
Service was quick, and pretty soon our starters were served. I personally chose the Boiled Egg, Cottage Cheese, Mayonnaise and Mushrooms option:
It was beautifully plated, but ultimately it was just poached egg (cooked to perfection at least) with mushroom and cheese garnish. I took a bite of the foie gras, which was ok but nothing special. The best choice among the starters available that night was the potato soup with comte cheese. It was rich and thick and creamy but not overly so, and the serving size was generous (could be shared by two persons to be honest). The duck leg terrine was not available when we dined.
The main dish and the sides were served all at the same time. Let’s get the good news out the way first:
The pommes dauphines (potato croquettes) pictured on the left above was the best side dish they offered. I’m not sure what type of cheese was inside each croquette but it was oh so yummy. Runner-up for best side dish would be the gratin dauphinois (potato gratin) pictured on the center above. It was perfectly cooked and seasoned, and is a better version of Tender Bob’s the BOMB. The seasoned potatoes pictured on the right above were nothing to write home about. Incidentally, you may be wondering why they gave us a whole platter full of the potato gratin. That’s because the Le Formule set comes with unlimited servings of the side dish! And since there were seven of us in our group, their initial servings of each side dish was very generous.
(They also served us two other side dishes, mashed potato and the pommes darphin. The latter tasted like Japanese pizza. Mashed potato was just ok.)
Here comes the bad news:
I’m not a steak connoisseur. As long as the steak is tender and not overcooked, I’d be a happy camper. I’m already quite easy to please when it comes to steaks! But this one was just… not good. I had a difficult time cutting and chewing on the meat, so much that I only finished half of that slab pictured above.
For a restaurant that markets itself to be a “steak place”, their Black Angus Striploin steak was such a disappointment. I sincerely hope this is just growing pains, because the restaurant IS promising.
After that disappointment, at least the dessert selection somewhat cleansed our palate:
The creme brûlée (pictured on the left above) was a winner! Again, the serving was generous, the dessert was in a bowl twice the size of the usual creme brûlée bowls you see in hotel buffets. The custard pie with lemongrass ice cream was an interesting combination. The hot chocolate mousse was too heavy for my taste.
A few minor quibbles before I give my final verdict: while I have nothing but praise for the waiters who seated and served us, I wished the chef (or someone from the kitchen) came out to visit our group so that we could tell him personally what we thought about the steak. Also, at the time we dined there, they didn’t have a printed drink list yet. We repeatedly requested them to provide us wine options, but no one seemed to know what wine they had available.
The verdict: The Le Formule is not worth it for P1,900.00. We all chose the Black Angus Striploin for our main dish because frankly, for the price we were paying, we felt we would not get our money’s worth if we chose the other options (fish, chicken, pork ribs). As it turned out, we did not get our money’s worth by choosing the striploin anyway.
Will I go back? Honestly, no. Unless I’m not paying for my meal. Haha. Or maybe a few months down the line and I hear from reliable people that their steak has improved.
(All pictures in this post are courtesy of my friend Cat.)