You'll Want to Be an Istambay at Chef Rob Pengson's Esqinita in Poblacion

He's serving up Filipino food in a way you've probably never seen before.

( After the closing of The Goose Station back in 2016, Chef Rob Pengson took a well-deserved break. But he's back now, dipping his toes in bustling Poblacion with his latest concept Esqinita, which he dubs a "modern Pinoy carinderia."

A neon sign leads the way to the hidden restaurant.
PHOTO BY Jericho San Miguel
Aside from Esqinita, the complex is home to tapas bar Beso Beso and Izakaya Motto.
PHOTO BY Jericho San Miguel

Esqinita is actually part of a three-concepts-in-one restaurant by Chef Rob, the other two being Beso Beso and Izakaya Motto, which are set to open later on. But, though Esqinita's menu is the only one still available, there's a lot to check out. For one, Chef Rob proudly proclaims that they try to be 100% sugarfree at Esqinita, with the sugars limited to what they can't eliminate from their ingredients—a mean feat when Filipino cuisine is known for rich, sweet-salty flavors.

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The Inihaw na Talong comes with smoky paprika-seasoned nachos.
PHOTO BY Jericho San Miguel
Chef Rob is trying his hand at mixing drinks at Esqinita, and his first experiment is a tequila-guyabano cocktail—and it's sugarfree, too!
PHOTO BY Jericho San Miguel

You won't notice the difference though, when you try Esqinita's à la carte menu: The Inihaw na Talong is a standout and is hardly even what it says on paper. What you get instead is grilled eggplant done to resemble a guacamole with sour cream, salsa, and cheese (or as Chef Rob dubs it: "The talong-amole"), and is served with nachos. The result is smoky, rich, and creamy but still with the familiar flavors of inihaw na talong.

For a sample of what Esqinita has to offer, you can opt for the tasting menus, which starts at P1,000. These will get you small plates and one main dish served family style.

Esqinita is at 4988 P. Guanzon Street, Poblacion, Makati City (beside Crying Tiger).

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