The Fatted Calf
Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, Barangay Neogan, Tagaytay City
Contact: 0977-643-7477; 0917-789-2352
(SPOT.ph) Driving out of the Metro to reconnect with nature—perhaps with scenic views and good food in tow—is one of the premises we city folk look forward to in the midst of a long week at work. The Fatted Calf, then located in Silang and famed for their farm-to-table fare and elegant but homey setting, was one such establishment that became an in-demand weekend destination for the food-loving Manileño. Hearts were broken as they announced they were closing last January—thankfully not permanently, but to “take a break” and make way for their move to a new location. That time has come: The Fatted Calf has reopened their doors at their new home in Tagaytay.
Silang’s The Fatted Calf has reopened their restaurant in Tagaytay:
The Fatted Calf—owned by chefs Jayjay and Rhea SyCip, and whose moniker takes after The Parable of the Prodigal Son in the bible—is in a new home along Tagaytay-Nasugbu Road. It admitedly isn’t the most attention-grabbing sight in the area; keep an eye out for the small wooden sign displaying their name.
Step in and you’re greeted by what appears to be a lush garden and outdoor patio surrounding a large, family-sized house. It’s from here that Jayjay and Rhea welcome guests into the restaurant, not unlike how a host would welcome family into their abode.
New as the location may be, it retains the quaint, chic-meets-country style charm the OG Silang restaurant was known for. There’s an al-fresco area in case you fancy making the most of the natural Tagaytay breeze; the sight of trees, plants, and hanging lamps does wonders too soothe the city-dweller’s soul. Trust us when we say you’ll want to savor the scene in the company of one or more of their cocktails—try the eye-opening Savory Matcha and Hazelnut Tonic (P395) with Bombay Sapphire and Frangelico, or the Tequila- and Aperol-spiked Blush (P395) flavored with the local berry known as sampinit—available from the outdoor bar right by the patio.
You’re more than welcome to head into the main dining area, of course. Designed by Senator Loren Legarda herself, the inside is plenty spacious, and yet—perhaps given the dominant use of elements like wood and rattan, not to mention the open windows—it feels every bit as comfy as home. They source locally wherever possible—from the hardwood tables where the food is served, to the rattan lamps from Cebu that hang from the ceiling. Perhaps adding to the nostalgic atmosphere are the freshly baked breads (care of sister company Flour Pot owned by Rhea!) on display on the shelves by the counter, among them Dinner Rolls that are served as you’re seated and can be purchased by the pack.
As with the original location, Jayjay and Rhea go the farm-to-table route that goes beyond the finished product itself, also taking into consideration the ingredients, the source, and the folks behind them. The result: a diverse menu that stars superb local produce and other ingredients, prepared a multitude of ways.
Great-quality fruit and veg—from Lucciole Farms in Amadeo, and Grandfarmer’s Farm in Alfonso—are put on the spotlight in their salads. The Vegan Glow Salad (P475), for one, is as rejuvenating as it gets with greens from Tagaytay, zucchini, asparagus, raisins, grapes, oranges, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, a maple-sesame vinaigrette, and hunky wedges of squash roasted to bring out its natural sweetness. More zippy in flavor is the Smoked Duck Salad (P595) starring smoked Pekin duck from Tarlac, sakurab kimchi for a welcome punch, dried mangoes, lucciole tatsoi, mizuna, and a five-spice vinaigrette.
There’s a clear playfulness to The Fatted Calf, as the two allow different cultures to cross over cultures or switch up certain components of classic dishes, or serve them in novel ways. Korean meets Chinese in the Wagyu Galbi Jim Bao (P495), or warm house-made mantou stuffed with Australian Wagyu bathed in ssam, and topped with radish and carrots for zing. The Vietnamese Shrimp Balls (P450) cleverly gives you the best of Vietnam’s chao tom and Japan’s takoyaki, what with wild-caught sea shrimp fried into crispy balls that are then adorned with mayonnaise, tonkatsu sauce, and housemade fish floss.
The natural fattiness of local gindara (an oft-overlooked fish, Jayjay tells us) cured in pastis and gin shines in the Cured Fish (P395), which then goes the Scandinavian-Asian flavor route with house creme fraiche, kaffir oil, lemon, and thin sheets of sliced red radish. Settled down and feel ready for their relative heavyweights? Go for an order (or three) of their pasta dishes—like the deceptively simple Shrimp Spaghetti (P575). Don’t let its seemingly plain name and appearance fool you; this is surprisingly stuff with an intoxicating shrimp head oil (note how they make use of as many parts of the plant or animal whenever possible) infused with spices like cumin, cinnamon, and star anise, coating pasta noodles that are then topped with wild-caught shrimps and bits of kesong puti.
While The Fatted Calf team does use imported meat at times, they rightfully go local where applicable as well. The Red Curry Beef Pot Roast (P895) stars Batangas beef in a red curry sauce that soaks into every piece of the melt-in-the-mouth meat. In the Thick Cut Porkchop (P1,475), Jodini Farms organic pork—which boasts a cleaner taste than most—is taken the (more or less) German-style direction, it being accompanied by braised red cabbage, Cebu corn grits, a dollop of apple sauce, and corn ribs.
Local catfish fillet is likewise the star of the Fish and Chips (P850). The use of the fish makes for a meatier bite that’s sublime against the light yet crackly beer batter, not to mention a slightly more assertive taste than traditional white-fish based versions—and they cleverly pair it with slightly sweeter Chinese black vinegar over the classic malt vinegar for more mellow and fruity (but equally satisfying) results. Of course, you can’t visit The Fatted Calf and not have their Signature Whole Roasted Leg of Beef (P3,450), a fan favorite of local grass-fed beef shank roasted low and slow for 10 hours (be sure to preorder in advance!) until tender as a baby’s bottom. It’s as simple on paper as it is sublime in execution, especially as you alternate forkfuls of the meat (get it with a bit of the accompanying rum jus!) with that of the roasted veg.
The Fatted Calf serves a number of Flour Pot’s signature cakes and other pastries for desserts—don’t you miss them. They happily extend the farm-to-table philosophy to the sweet realm, and it’s all about the flavors of Filipino confections here. The Ubi Kinampay Cake (P350/slice, P2,950/whole), with light-as-air layers of ube sponge, house ube jam, and whipped cream, is a phenomenal version of the Filipino classic that shines the spotlight on the oft-overlooked natural taste of real purple yam. Their version of chocolate cake is no generic bake, either, but the Tableya Chocolate Cake (P350/slice, P2,950/whole)—a towering slice of chocolate cake and Davao cacao fudge that’s simultaneously dark and robust in taste yet surprisingly billowy in texture.
Fresh strawberries from Benguet make for an especially memorable Strawberry Shortcake (P395/slice, P3,350/whole), as their natural juiciness mellow sweetness meet their match in layers of vanilla sponge cake, custard, and whipped cream. And oh, is the Mazapan de Pili Cheesecake (P400/slice, P3,375/whole) just brilliant, as it takes the buttery, caramel-y character of mazapan de pili and reimagines it as a creamier, silkier meal-ender to sustain your sweet tooth on your ride back.
That The Fatted Calf keeps its OG soul alive amid the changes works beautifully to its advantage. They’re still doing what they do best, highlighting the best of local produce in the process—in a new home that allows Jayjay and Rhea to share their love for food and the community with others.