The flatbread pizzas are a delicious reason to try Grind in SM Aura
The bistro + cafe also has mad milkshakes!
Grind Bistro + Cafe
3rd Level, SM Aura Premier, McKinley Parkway corner 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
(SPOT.ph) "Food is our family life, if anything," says Steven Carl, one-half of the duo behind the fast-growing, all-American food venture, Grind. His wife and co-owner, Cristina, agrees: "When we first met, our dates revolved around trying the newest restaurants and finding out what wines to pair with our meals. When we got married, it was coming home, cooking, and having dinner together. When we had children, it was us going to farmers' markets, seeing what's available, and cooking from there."
According to Cristina, Grind started seven years ago when she and Steven got married and then had their first child. She shares, "We started thinking about really doing something for ourselves. We started taking trips to the Philippines from the U.S., and my family was really encouraging us to start our own thing here. And so we took a few trips, and then finally, we thought it was time to take the leap."
And we're glad they did. The Carls moved to the Philippines early 2015 and brought with them their extensive experience in the food and hospitality industry. Both are veterans in the field. Steven is a chef and a former food and beverage director at the Hyatt, while Cristina is an experienced sommelier, who used to head operations at the same hotel.
Add to that the couple's natural love for entertaining (having hosted countless elaborate dinners at their home) and their philosophy of making everything from scratch, and you have a recipe for success.
Grind Bistro, the more upscale branch in Net Park BGC that offers a fuller menu, opened its doors in May. The second branch, which is closer to the Carls' initial idea of a traditional burger joint, opened in SM North EDSA not long after. And in just five months, they now have a third branch, a bistro + cafe that's somewhere in between its predecessors.
Grind Bistro + Cafe in SM Aura Premier offers bestsellers as well as items exclusive to the branch. They also have more sweets, including some pretty outrageous milkshakes. But before we get to that, we have to talk about the star of the menu, the Grind Burger (P395).
Grind uses 100% USDA-approved beef that is freshly ground in-house, so the patty has gaps that store more juices. But it's their special butter, with a mix of secret ingredients, which captures the umami taste Filipinos love. The extra-savory patty with tomato, lettuce, sweet onion, and American cheese is sandwiched in warm brioche bun, and each bite is a sure hit.
Jamaican Sandwich (P395)
Black Chicken Sliders
Mini versions of the Grind Burger come as starters; just ask for the Sliders (P345). Or you could try the slightly spicy Black Chicken Sliders (P395) with chicken patties in crisp black coating, sriracha aioli, coleslaw, and tomato.
Popcorn Shrimp (P395)
Don't skip the Poke Nachos (P495). The Hawaiian dish is a colorful bowl of taro, wonton, and sweet potato crisps with raw ahi tuna marinated in soy, chili, and sesame. Our suggestion: Toss it together like a salad to experience the pleasant mix of contrasting textures and flavors.
There are items exclusive to the new branch, like their lineup of flatbreads. The Veggie Flatbread (P295) with homemade marinara sauce has a combination of strong flavors from the toasted peppers, capers, artichokes, olives, and sundried tomatoes. Meanwhile, an herby profile stands out in the Shrimp + Pesto Flatbread (P295), which is gorgeously decorated with shrimp, pesto, roasted garlic and peers, arugula, and toasted pine nuts.
Nutty Black Chicken
Grind also takes pride in the Nutty Black Chicken (P295/one piece; P450/two pieces). It's the same black tempura in their Black Chicken Sliders but bigger and placed on top of hazelnut romesco and drizzled with sweet chili sauce. Order this if you want to load up, as it's served with white rice and coleslaw.
Grind Fried Rice
Another heavyweight and a sure hangover cure, the Grind Fried Rice (P375) is packed with savory ground beef. It's enhanced with soy, garlic, and a secret sauce, and finished off with a sunny-side up egg on top. As if that's not enough carbs, you get toasted brioche on the side, too.
Spaghetti + Meatballs
The Spaghetti + Meatballs (P495) is tempting because of the juicy Grind meatballs and homemade ricotta. Dollops of pesto are added to the tomato-based sauce, adding an herby twist to a classic.
Malted Chocolate Earthquake
A variety of pastries and desserts are available to help you cap off your meal, but we suggest trying the crazy milkshakes. The Vanilla Earthquake (P450) is a colorful masterpiece. The beverage is served in a mason jar covered with sprinkles, while a thick slice of rainbow cake sits atop. Fancy chocolate? Go for the Malted Chocolate Earthquake (P450), which has a stack of brownie and giant homemade, torched marshmallow on top.
The Carls definitely didn't expect Grind to grow as fast as it did. Of course, we had to ask what they thought of the experience. "As more and more restaurants open and the guests get more and more educated, it really drives us to be more creative, be more selective, and to really push and work a little bit harder. The more competition you have, the better it is for everybody,” Steven says.
Cristina adds, "Overall, it's been a really great experience. There's a really welcoming food community here, not just people who love food but also the community of chefs and restaurateurs."
The Carls are on a roll, indeed, but really, they're just getting started.
Photos by Jericho San Miguel