CHECK IT OUT: Atelier 317 by Stephanie Zubiri
Try Mediterranean, French and Filipino fare at this secret private dining spot.
Tel. Nos. 384-7064, (0917) 830-8393
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(SPOT.ph) Atelier 317 chef and owner Stephanie Zubiri found herself rather bored while studying at Paris' Le Cordon Bleu at the tender age of 18. "I found the rigidity too stifling, I have a much more bohemian approach to cooking," quips the charming chef and restaurateur. "Later, I realized just how lucky I was and I am very grateful for my classical French training."
Ms. Zubiri, who also owns Modern Epicurean Kitchen, opened Atelier 317 in late November last year. The secrecy of its nondescript location in the heart of Makati is part of its allure and the address is only revealed to would-be diners when calling ahead for reservations. The space can only accommodate a maximum of sixteen diners at a time, and the lucky few who are able to secure a table at lunch or dinner can expect a relaxed and enjoyable private dining experience.
The lilliputian room in both charm and size is filled with salvaged finds that are given a new lease on life from the segundo manos of Bangkal while other serveware and pieces of artwork are remembrances from a life formerly lived in Paris. Chockfull of style and character, the dining room is another personal reflection of Stephanie's bohemian spirit. "I prefer to mix things up and I don’t like the empty feeling that comes with off-the-rack everything, there should be a story behind it all, even our wine list tells a story of its own."
Unlike most private kitchens with set menus, Atelier 317 offers guests a full a la carte menu. The choice selection of Mediterranean, French and Filipino fare is based on simplicity and quality, and directly reflects Stephanie's sensibilty and passion for great food and wine. Starters like the L'assiette de Mezze (P400), a selection of charred eggplant salad, spicy roasted bell pepper and feta dip can easily be shared, as can the various tartines: flamed camembert and rasberry jelly (P250), smoked salmon and dill (P250), gourmet cheese pimiento (P200). The house specialties include Zubiri's famed truffle mushroom lasagna (P300) and an aligue pasta with lemongrass and kaffir (P250). But the requisite order here is their signature balsamic beef adobo served with portobello red rice sinangag that must be ordered in advance. It’s the perfect example of comfort food gone global and gourmet.
Desserts at Atelier 317 are a must and while the selection is not extensive, each dish is done well. The spicy pumpkin and ginger cake with cream cheese frosting (P150) is delicious and comforting and is the only dessert on the menu that is made in-house. "I love the idea of collaborating," shares Zubiri. "I leave it up to the experts to execute my ideas." And what great ideas they are. Zubiri takes the childhood joys of ice cream and cupcakes and gives them a decidedly adult twist. Her collaborations have resulted in decadent desserts such as a delicious white chocolate black truffle ice cream (P150) from Alexandra Rocha's Pinkerton label and a heavenly Nutella cupcake with truffle honey frosting (P150) by Patti Grandidge of Sweet Patti Cakes. In the works are specialty macarons with flavors such as gingerbread and foie gras, and dark chocolate with candied orange from Buddy Trinidad's Park Avenue Desserts. "People who really love food enjoy working together. It’s fun and in the end we’re all winners as we drive each other's businesses."
While it may seem that Stephanie restricts herself to only back-of-the-house operations, she also displays a natural talent for front-of-the-house action as well. Waiting tables as well as taking time to explain the menu's selection and the all-French wine list come naturally to this perfect hostess. "I definitely have waitressing fantasies!" she confesses and it is quite apparent that above all else she loves the contact with people along with making sure everyone has what they need even before they need it. "It’s hard to teach that instinct to someone else so I just take care of it myself. "
Photos by Majoy Siason