Thursday, August 24, 2006

4 out of 5 stars


Hole-in-the-Wall Winner

Michael's Place is literally a hole-in-the-wall for the following reasons:
1) you wouldn't know there's a commercial establishment in this entire area unless a friend or a magazine has referred you to this place;
2) The restaurant doesn't make itself available to you. It is effort on your part to find it and dine here;
3) The area is really small, but the cozy feel compensates for the lack of space.

Although the address is indicated at the bottom of this page, it would be best to describe the directions since it's impossible to locate just by looking at the adress. I usually go here through Buendia. Take Buendia and keep on going straight up until you reach Gil Puyat. Go ride G. Puyat past the post office building. Take a left immediately after the train tracks (going right will direct you to Manila) and just keep on going straight for several minutes. Note that directly above you are overpasses leading to Magallanes. Since you're under a flyover, there are low cement dividers separating the big left area of the highway and the small right area that leads to eskinitas. Before reaching the Magallanes juncture, stay at the small right area of the road. Take a right when you see an eskinita sandwiched between a 3M building (the big 3M logo is impossible to miss) and Makati View Apartelle on its other side (from this direction, you'll see the 3M building first before the Apartelle). After less than 100 meters, you'll see the Fat Michael's sign.

ExteriorJust from the outside of Fat Michael's, you can already see how playfully quirky this restaurant can be. A seemingly handmade tarpoline saying "Fat Michael's Place" overlooks chabby chic wooden benches that comprise their outdoor porch area. People usually end up smoking here since the inside is cigarette-free. Wooden bead curtains are hung from their door that is opened by green grill panels. Two windows, the yellow one displaying a plate collection and the other being covered by an intricate blue wooden molding. Mismatched, i know, but they seem to fit together just right.

Once you step inside, the chabby-chic mismatched furniture theme is played to the hilt. All kinds of paisley fabrics are put into any upholstered furniture. No chair is alike. No table is the same. There are ceiling lights where they place lampshades draped in fabric instead of a chandelier. Floor carpets are put on walls. Piles of books are arranged artfully one side of the room. A picnic basket of wine is straddled in one corner between a tea pot collection in an armoire and room divider filled with notes and pictures. There is a wall of paintings of different periods, an opposite wall full of family pictures and memorabilia, and a last one were there are different chalkboards with their menu written on them in various colors. I understand that as you read this, you'd think that it might seem too offbeat. I'd like to assure you that it's not. There seems to be a homey charm to this place that makes you feel as if you've visited this place a million times before.

InteriorInterior 2

Handwritten wall menusHandwritten wall menus 2

Sir Reuel and Lola NatyEvery seat you get has a different story to tell. Since we were just two, we were placed at a table up front beside the wall of pictures. The one that led us to our table was Sir Reuel, who is a member of this family-run business. We chatted Reuel up, and found that one of the pictures in the wall next to us is Michael of "Fat Michael's Place" and his siblings. Michael is Reuel's nephew, and they jokingly named the restaurant after him so that he would be less lazy. It was a good thing at that, because at present, Michael is not fat and is a very industrious businessman. Also, being a shoe aficionado after the heralding of "Sex and the City," I got enthusiastic when Reuel pointed out that Manolo Blahnik's photo was positioned next to Michael's family. Wow, apparently they've come across this man personally!

Let's get on with the review!Reuel also introduced us to Lola Naty, his mother, who served us some of our courses. Don't be surprised to find their different family members serve as Maitre D' all the way to running the cash register, and of course, their Chef, whose name is Judy. This restaurant is their baby, and they make sure to keep a tight watch on it. I suggest that you have a conversation with some of them; they have much stories to tell, and you'd get to know more about their restaurant and delicious food better.

We started with a Fruit and Walnut Salad. I've been here twice before, and I always make sure to get this when I return. It's made of iceberg lettuce, croutons, dates and papaya in sweet red wine vinaigrette. This salad always starts my dinner here right, and I'd highly recommend anyone to order this, too. Another thing I always make sure to get would be their Blended Iced Tea, which tasted slightly different from your typical Lipton, and really fun to drink cos it's frothy.

Fruit and Walnut Salad

Next was our main course of Chicken Kebab and Gambas with Saffron Rice. I had the chicken, and it was paired with gravy and semi-sticky fried rice. Chunks of chicken were generously seasoned with spices of what tasted like cayenne, paprika and cumin. People who aren't into spicy food might find this a little overpowering, but I personally liked it, and the gravy helped balance off its spiciness. I guess my only complaint was that there were too much rice and vegetables in the skewer as compared to the ratio of chicken, Nevertheless, the presentation of the skewer with its alternating ingredients of chicken, mushroom, onion, and green bell pepper looked very fancy for its price.

Chicken Kebab

The shrimp was also delicious-looking. Saffron-infused rice was combined with shaved garlic cloves, chilis, peas and shrimp. It didn't seem like a lot, but it was surprisingly filling. This is also another spicy dish. Not only did it have chilis in it, but the rice also seemed to have paprika or cayenne mixed into the paella-looking rice.

Gambas with Saffron Rice

Food that looked promising for larger groups based on my spying of the dishes from neighboring customers (C'mon, admit it! You do this, too! haha) were the paella and pizza. I'll keep a mental note to try these out next time.

Finally, we capped off our meal with dessert. We asked Reuel for any recommendations, and he told us to get the Cherry Walnut Torte. I'm glad we asked him because I wouldn't have initially picked out a dessert so different from their usual selection of chocolate cake or banana split. Funny thing though was that when the torte arrived, they served it on a really hot plate so that the frozen torte would melt a little. It's endearing foibles like these that make Fat Michael's food remind you of home-cooking --- but ones cooked during special occasions. Anyway, even if the top (not the bottom cos the hot plate warmed the lower portion) half of the cake was partly frozen, it was still delicious. It reminded me of a sans rival, only that it had whip cream and cherries on top, and that walnuts were scattered into its different layers.

Cherry Walnut Torte

We spent around 820 PhP for all the things we ordered (1 drink, salad, 2 main courses and dessert). So for a meal and ambiance that is unforgettably Boho-chic, the price is quite reasonable. Try it out and taste the experience for yourself! There's nothing quite like it.

Caveat: The owners are quite a character. Even the back of their handmade menu can attest to that (Check out the picture of the menu below). Be charming and patient, as the food might come late, but at least you'll be sure to get a conversation with them.

We cook slow.  Live with it.

115-A Rodriguez Ave., cor. Gen. Lacuña Street
Makati City
Tel. 843-1953

M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 11:30 am - 3:30 pm
M, T, W, Th, Sa: 5:30 pm - 10:00 pm
F: 5:30 pm - 12:22 am


Anonymous said...

I ate there and it was truly horrible. The place was filthy, the food wasn't that great and don't even get me started on their service!
Fat Michael's made me feel like they were feeding pearls to the swine, the service was super obnoxious and slow. I won't ever eat there again and I'm warning everybody.

graey eats said...

Anonymous: Sorry you had that experience :(

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