New Restaurant Alert: Antojos at General De Jesus Street, San Juan
You would never think that this old-fashioned home is excitingly modern inside.
3 General De Jesus Street, Little Baguio, San Juan City
Tel. No. 463-8496
Open from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Tuesday to Sunday)
(SPOT.ph) This place is full of surprises. The entire building looks like a rather well-maintained heritage home until you enter the heavy front doors, and you’re greeted by the sight of an enormous Golden Buddha. Perhaps to accommodate the owners' own Chinese heritage. It doesn't begin to introduce the spacious three-story venue that multitasks as a restaurant, function halls, and to some extent, a bar.
Dark wood gives it an old-fashioned feel.
But then there’s this table.
Antojos, taken at face value, is all about old-fashioned charm. The ceilings are marble-inspired, high in some areas and low in others. To add to its colorful history, the mansion used to be Bulan, a restaurant owned by Marlene Aguilar, and it keeps some of her elaborate murals on the third floor. But behind the dark varnish, stained-glass windows, and intricate wooden furniture is the refreshing insight of one 25-year-old Anton Amoncio.
Jalapeño Crunch (P290)
The menu is detailed in tablets-the Android kind-and filled with dishes that portray the ambitions of a chef who wants to spice things up. His puttanesca is Tuyonesca (P250), his alfredo (P260) is spiked with Vigan longganisa, and his tapa (P380) is flourished with a strawberry-infused sauce. Filipino food makes up most of chef-owner Anton's repertoire, but with creative leaps.
Green Mango Chicken
Cheesy Beef Kaldereta
Creative, but recognizable, is the premise. Antojos means "craving," and that’s what Chef Anton pushes for. His Green Mango Fried Chicken (P295) looks like katsu. A boneless thigh is pounded tender, breaded, then lathered with green-mango gravy. The punch of tanginess immediately calls your taste buds to attention. Parmigiana swerves toward the Philippines in his bestselling Cheesy Beef Kaldereta (P510). To keep the flavors even, he uses a milder and creamier Mornay for the cheese component to elevate the tomato stew and to embellish the saucy beef and vegetable mix.
Then, in a move that seems blasphemous to the year-round warm climate, he takes halo-halo (P180) from its icy splendor and puts it within the warm hug of a turon. Sweet beans fill up the crisp, deep-fried wrapper while hand-churned ube ice cream keeps it a cool sweet trip.
One of the sections for private functions looks a little more modern.
Old meets new at Antojos, but Chef Anton's style-understated but quirky, youthful but mature-will likely keep this Old World restaurant fresher than ever with his exciting combinations.