G/F Net Park, 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City
Open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.*
(SPOT.ph) Much like Chef Nicco Santos' Your Local, Hey Handsome gives off a comforting, subdued vibe. The design elements might remind you of those tiny hole-in-the-wall eateries in Singapore that have been around for decades, serving the same specialty: tiles, a long bar, and the open kitchen, where you can witness the magic as it happens. "It's patterned after my mentor's kitchen," Chef Nicco says. “But this all very much my aesthetic,” he adds, referring to the bright, very open place.
Tile details and light fixtures give off an industrial, homey vibe.
You'd think that after Your Local's immense success, it would be a breeze for Chef Nicco to create a menu based on mostly Asian cuisines. “The menu really took a while...[The actual planning,] a little more than three months. But I plan on being very hands on here. Until now, in fact, we're still practicing and experimenting with our dishes.” Their menu is purposefully concise, mostly consisting of mains that are good for sharing. “Meals are supposed to be engaging and conversational, after all,” he says.
We couldn't get enough of the Laap Phet, a mouth-watering plate of minced duck, fresh herbs, khao man, and deep-fried egg with deliciously crispy edges. The duck itself is spicy but not overpowering, the sauces already incorporated while it was being cooked. The rice, delicately flavored with hints of coconut, plays the perfect backdrop, but it's the unexpected brightness from kaffir lime that really lifts up the dish.
The Beetroot Paneer was conceived for vegetarians, but certainly won't make carnivores feel deprived. Beetroot curry, paneer, mushrooms, quinoia tabbuleh, yoghurt, egg, and papadum all work together to create flavors that are expertly layered: the warm, nutty quinoa, punctuated with sweetness and texture from golden raisins, all balanced by the yoghurt. It's difficult to stop at one bite.
To the conservative eater, the Buah Keluak might seem intimidating, because the Buah Keluak is naturally poisonous. But the kitchen has expertly washed it every four hours for three days to rid it of the poison. The lamb shanks bathe in a slightly sweet sauce to balance the sourness of the Buah Keluak, which also has a light crunch. The plating is thoughtful and ingenious, a leaf separating the lamb so that the rice doesn't end up soaked—unless, of course, you want it that way.
If you're looking for something hearty, the Charsiu is pleasing both to the eyes and the palate—roast pork, iberico glaze, mushroom, lo mai fan, kailan, and ramen egg. The process of cooking the egg sounds almost like a science experiment: the egg is boiled, wrapped in foil, twisted, and then boiled again for exactly four minutes and 35 seconds. Once they unwrap the egg, it breaks apart into the shape of a flower.
For those who prefer something light for lunch, the Nasi Lemak is sure to be a hit: the sea bass is silky and luscious, the ikan bilis and pickled egg adding to its simple but noteworthy flavor.
Mocktails add a fun, refreshing note to Hey Handsome's filling dishes. The Donkey Punch is a delightful mix of lemongrass, galangal, and elderflower, then garnished with lemon. It's quite strong, but you get used to the tangy taste after a couple of sips. Their Passion Fruit Mimosa with lemon and ginger is light and refreshing, and their Rosy Arnold—a rosemary-infused lemonade, is zesty and perfect with the mains' bold flavors.
Passion Fruit Mimosa
It wasn't that long ago that Your Local made a quiet entrance into the local food scene, its success spurred by word of mouth from passionate, loyal fans. That same subtlety might be a little bit more difficult for Chef Nicco to pull off this time around, but with its rich flavors and inventive takes, Hey Handsome has just the right personality to shine just as bright.
*Hey Handsome will open the third week of August, with opening hours initially set at 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. only. Prices to be updated.
Photos by Criselda Carreon