Sagana Is the French Restaurant That Wants You to Forget What You Know About French Food
Chef Marc Aubry is back after Champetre.
Sagana Epicerie and Bistro
G/F Net One Center, 3rd Avenue corner 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City
Open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Monday to Saturday)
(SPOT.ph) For many, Chef Marc Aubry’s Champetre was a gateway to French cuisine. A hit not just with the growing French community here, but also with anyone who wanted a taste of France without having to get a visa, Champetre offered food that was distinctly French, but without the stuffy unapproachability usually associated with the cuisine. So it came as a shock when Chef Marc announced early this 2017 that he was closing his French bistro.
But it wasn’t a farewell—it was a “see you later” as Chef Marc also announced that he would be opening a new concept at the space soon. That concept is Sagana, now open where Champetre once stood in Bonifacio Global City.
Despite the Filipino name, make no mistake: Sagana is still a French restaurant. “When we first opened a few days ago, people would ask me: ‘You’re a French chef who used to work at French restaurants. So why Sagana? Are you doing Filipino food?,’” says Chef Marc. “And I say ‘No, no, no!’ Sagana still remains a French restaurant, with French techniques and French flavors. We don’t try to make anything Filipino.”
What they do at Sagana is celebrate the country's produce—hence, “sagana” or abundance. “In France, we have this idea called terroir, which means ‘what the soil is made of,’” Chef Marc shares. “The soil affects what you get from it, the taste and quality of the produce. So what we do is we find produce from different regions, what stands out.”
“At Sagana, we’re French on one side and Filipino on the other,” he adds. The divide is more literal in the space itself, with one side resembling a rustic home you’ll find in the French countryside, and the other a marketplace that offers produce from Sagana’s partner farming communities, from Batanes garlic to fruits from Cordillera. The overall effect is cozy and far less intimidating than how you would imagine a French restaurant to be.
The menu, too, is French and Filipino, just perhaps not in the way you might usually think. It’s still composed of French dishes, but ingredients are locally sourced and organic, offering flavors and textures slightly different from vegetables and fruits grown in France. And with Chef Marc highlighting each of his ingredients’ freshness in every dish he creates, that local identity is still apparent even in dishes that are traditionally French.
The fresh clams, for example, are the star of the deceptively simple-looking Clam Marinière (P420). Cooked in a light white-wine cream sauce, the clams have a mildly sweet brininess to them, as if they're taken straight from the ocean to your plate.
La Côte d'Agneau
The traditionally French La Côte d’Agneau (P1,650) uses locally grown zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes for the side of ratatouille. Butter-soft and deliciously savory, the vegetables could steal the show—but the lamb is just too good to contend with. Each lamb chop is seasoned just right, so you still get its natural meaty flavor but without a hint of gaminess. The marbling of fat near the bone gives the lamb chops a succulent finish.
Seared Turmeric-Flavored Tuna Loin with Tomato, Basil, and Balsamic Salsa Sautéed Marble Potatoes
Sagana also offers a Market Menu (P700/three courses), which changes weekly, depending on what's in season. Part of this week’s menu is the Seared Turmeric-Flavored Tuna Loin with Tomato, Basil, and Balsamic Salsa Sautéed Marble Potatoes. The tuna is beautifully crusted, and Chef Marc shows restraint with the turmeric, giving the tuna a gingery boost without masking its natural freshness.
Fresh Baguio Strawberry Sherbet
The Fresh Baguio Strawberry Sherbet (P180) is a light, sweet end to a hearty meal, but you can also indulge your sweet tooth with the Mille-Feuille (P360), the fresh mangoes and green apples adding fruitiness and a nice crunchy contrast to the chewy pastry.
“When I first came to the Philippines, French food didn’t have the best reputation,” says Chef Marc. “There used to be a time when French kitchens would go high-end, so you get beautiful big plates but with very small servings at very high prices.” Not that there was anything wrong with French fine-dining places, but the French chef knew he wanted to be different. “I think in my small way, I helped change the perception of French cuisine as being overly snobbish and fancy,” he shares. And Sagana, with its cozy and rustic vibe, and commitment to highlighting local produce, is yet another milestone in that journey.
Photos by Vincent Coscolluela