Cut away from a busy commercial center rises the famed Atelier Vivanda, a glass enclave that promises prime proteins and a Parisian dining experience unlike any other.
Written By Angelo Ramirez De Cartagena
Photographed Floyd Jhocson Of Studio 100
Binge watching food-centric reality TV shows and documentaries (as is the case during very late nights that stretch on towards the cock-adoodle- doo of the rooster), will let you in on a little secret—the steaming, lip-smacking and saliva-inducing plate of food before you is a product of a well-orchestrated kitchen staff led by an inimitable leader.
“I always say my food is not food, it’s a collection,” begins Michelin-starred chef Akrame Benellal during a sit-down interview at what was then a three-day old Atelier Vivanda here in Manila. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Bonifacio Global City, the new Parisian bistro is a mostly glass-paneled edifice that isn’t to be missed. Entering the restaurant, however, is a different story.
Clearly inspired by the great tradition of art and ateliers during its flourishing golden age in middle to 19th century Europe, the restaurant is a space where the principal master works and collaborates with assistants and apprentices to produce a work of art (in this case, food) that is truly unlike any other. Once the waft of prime meat, sautéed potatoes and a mix of cheese settles, one of the first things that catches your gaze is an open kitchen in full view of the guests. Call it transparency; we see entertainment because there is nothing quite fascinating and nail-biting (maybe we were a little too hungry) than watching line cooks and chefs come together to create a singular dish.
Instead of a dark and brooding leather enclave that is often associated with a traditional steak place, warm wooden floors and generous headroom of space greets you at Atelier Vivanda, where your sight wanders to a spiral staircase that leads you to the second floor dining area. Red walls on the periphery, obviously making for a great focal counterpoint, counter the brightness of the bistro as well as prepares your appetite for a meat and carb fest that one is about to be treated to (What diet?)
“I begin a dish based on an idea, an ingredient, a feeling or sometimes a mood. I explore its gastronomic depths; it matures just like we do, over the course of service,” romanticizes chef Akrame as we slowly chew on the much-talked about finely sliced smoked beef—aged for 50 days. Unlike most cured meat we’ve tried, this smoked version doesn’t veil the taste of beef as it is tender and well-seasoned. (Pro tip: try it with the signature Vivanda olive oil.)
Before we could have our fill, a rich whipped bowl of potato soup was served. Smooth in consistency, a welcome umami taste is introduced through smoked haddock and comté cheese. A platter of potatoes followed, an arresting medley of creamy Gratin Dauphinois, a starchy Pommes Darphin with a lashing of sour notes and fried-to-perfection Pomme Dauphines. We suggest pairing the potato dishes with their signature homemade ketchup, a sweet combination of tomatoes, molasses and strawberries.
And then we come to the clear climax of this gustatory feat, the meats. Currently, the initial selection on the menu offers Black Angus Hampe (heap thin fork-tender slices that invite you to relish the juices swirling in your mouth), Black Angus Hanging Tender, Vendee Yellow Chicken Breast, Canard Duck Breast (fresh, cooked to perfection sans the gaminess associated with substandard iterations), Iberian Pork Loin and Mahi Mahi Fillet. It is important to note that only Atelier Vivanda in Manila offers a fish option in its menu.
For the bolder and hungrier, take your pick from a top-grade Natural Angus Ribeye, the bsignature La Vivanda Ribeye, Holstein Beef Rib and Iberian Pluma. The succulent ribeye is a moan-inducing slice, practically irresistible in every bite.
Cut through all the sevenly spiced starch and expertly seared meat courses with their popular crème brulee (so crackingly good), vanilla yogurt with chestnut cream and pistachio financier, and a salted caramel ice cream with custard that will send you straight to heaven.
“I like to be a visionnaire,” mentions Chef Akrame as we rub our bellies full of his delightfully sinful offerings. There is no pretense to Atelier Vivanda, despite an obvious but under-the-radar flair. A fully realized vision, the Parisian bistro offers the best of both worlds, one that mixes the highs of French fine dining and the grounded and straightforward sensibilities of casual dining. It is a delectable compromise that will make you want to keep coming back for more.
Atelier Vivanda is located at U-A8 Forbes Town Center, Forbestown Rd., Taguig. Phone (2) 848 2632.