Let’s start 2017 on the blog with what many people are touting as 2016’s best restaurant. Hey Handsome has been making huge, titanic-sized waves in the food scene since it opened not too long ago, and for once I didn’t wait for years until I tried it haha! I mention that just because it took me that long to try out Your Local in Makati, which is the other restaurant of the head chef at Hey Handsome, Chef Nicco Santos.
This restaurant is actually a joint venture between Chef Nicco and Charles Paw of Hole in the Wall. The name is totally interesting and catchy; inspired by how Singaporean hawkers would invite prospective male customers to their stalls– by calling out, “Hey, Handsome” or “Handsome, come”. (The second one is actually what this restaurant uses for their Instagram!)
It’s not exactly easy to come to the conclusion that Hey Handsome is a place that serves a mix of Malay, Indonesian, and Singaporean food (or Nyonya cuisine for short). Heck, it’s probably not a name you’d associate with a restaurant, but I don’t think there’s a problem when it comes to that now, with the way this restaurant literally rocketed to the spotlight.
Naturally I was pretty curious to try this place out, but it’s been so hard to find my timing. This place is CLOSED ON SUNDAYS, my only free day. Luckily, over the New Year holidays I was able to reserve a table for my family for the 30th of December. I can’t even describe the excitement I felt.
Entering the restaurant, the mood was everything I expected it to be: casual, hip, and utterly Instagram-able. A tiled wall on one side and floor to ceiling glass at the front gives this place a minimalistic, modern-industrial vibe. Aside from normal tables and a high communal-style one, they have an open kitchen type of set-up with bar seating similar to Your Local. This area is great for couples and solo diners because you get to see the action before your eyes!
Their staff members are some of the most friendly I’ve encountered, even assisting me in photographing the dishes from the bar area because that’s where the best light was haha! (It’s really tough to take pics in the evening here because of the lighting.)
I’m not sure if it’s due to the holidays, but the menu was a little differently written when we ate here compared to what I’ve seen from my fellow food bloggers who have been here way before me. They didn’t write the names of the Big Plates and instead labeled according to the main ingredients found in each dish. Nonetheless, the names they used before can be found in the description portion so old patrons who already have a favourite will still be able to identify with the menu.
However, the approach is still similar in that the staff assigned to your table will basically walk over with one of these chalk boards and explain their offerings to you. There were only five Big Plates (aka Main Dishes) during this evening, so we ordered each one to share.
Normally I put stars beside the names of the dishes I recommend, but in this case, I honestly recommend EVERYTHING. Despite that being the case, I decided to put stars beside my personal favourite dishes instead.
Bebek Penyet aka DUCK (Php 780) 🌟
White Pecking Duck is deep fried until a juicy and tender texture is achieved. The dish is served with duck egg, nasi ulam (Malaysian mixed herb rice), and achar (Indian pickles). This dish reminds of the duck dish my friends and I ate during our trip to Bali, except that one was a bit drier in texture and had dips on the side while this already had those juicy flavours on the meat. To make it spicy, you can eat it with the homemade sambal on the side. Utterly gorgeous to look at and OH SO GOOD!
Lamb Buah Keluak (Php 640)
Braised lamb with buah keluak, served with nasi ulam (Malaysian mixed herb rice) and some sambal on the side. That black thing blocking the lamb is actually a kropek made using shrimp paste (belachan kerupek). I remember snapping a picture of the lamb itself but I seem to have lost it, so to describe, it’s similar to lamb stew with a more unique taste thanks to the buah keluak. The lamb was nice and tender too.
Beetroot Paneer (Php 560) 🌟
Hands-down my favourite dish of the night. This a vegetarian option, but I think any meat-lover would enjoy this dish as well. This is one of those times the lovely sweet beetroot simply shines as a sauce over yummy bite-sized paneer. (Looove paneer!) Served with some flavourful quinoa tabbouleh, plus some pappadum and yogurt. I’m actually still thinking about this dish until today and am plotting my next visit to Hey Handsome so I can have it again haha!
Nasi Lemak aka FISH (Php 750) 🌟
Salmon otah with a piece of ikan bilis brittle (dried anchovies and nut brittle) stuck in the middle. Served with nasi lemak (Malaysian coconut rice in pandan leaf), sambal sauce, and a pickled egg that oozes when poked.
This dish was one of the stars of the evening no doubt, coming in just a teeny tiny bit behind the Beetroot Panner. Every single thing on the plate was absolutely delicious, and although I really feel bad about the fact that we didn’t get to try this with seabass (how glorious would that be?!), it wasn’t a bad substitute that they made here. The salmon was perfect. I mean, the chef really knows what to do with salmon. Just look at his signature salmon dish from Your Local!
Nam Tok aka BEEF (Php 750)
Barbecue beef short-ribs with khao man (Thai chicken rice), and some super spicy som tam (Laos-style green papaya salad) on the side. This dish is probably the most reminiscent of a typical Filipino dish in terms of appearances. Since the ribs are a bit on the sweet side thanks to the glaze, it balanced out the spiciness of the papaya salad quite nicely. The two are really great with the white rice because of how flavourful they are individually, so proceed with caution. The spicy som tam really makes your appetite flare up!
Durian Cream Puff (Php 250) 🌟
Okay, admittedly this is not for everyone. People who don’t like durian will run in the opposite direction the moment you crack this cream puff open. Personally, I neither hate nor love durian. I like it well enough to eat and enjoy desserts like this, and so there was not really much hesitation on my part.
And you know what? I loved it! The durian-flavoured cream inside has just enough of that signature smell and taste without being cloying. It doesn’t have that aftertaste I dread, but maybe it’s because six of us shared one order of this so the portions were a lot smaller.
Interestingly enough, that salted bit of what looks like caramel or dulce de leche also has a touch of durian flavour. I loved eating everything together!
Yogurt (Php 200)
This dessert is probably the safest thing on the dessert section, or in the whole menu if you think about. It’s just plain yogurt that can serve as a palate cleanser, with a sprinkling of beetroot powder on top and a piece of lace cookie. But I really appreciate the black sesame layer underneath. It gives this yogurt some character. I recommend trying out the other more interesting desserts though!
Well what else is there to say other than: THE HYPE IS REAL. It’s so real in fact that I can’t wait for what else the genius Chef Nicco Santos will come up with to expand his menu. These dishes are just mind-blowing in terms of flavours. The parts of each dish come together to make the whole an incredible adventure in your mouth, but what amazes me is that you can still sense the components even as you eat them together.
I guess I can imagine how some people can feel a bit intimidated by the fancy plating, but the trick is to just take a bit of every element on the plate and eat them together. And if you think the dishes are expensive, well let me tell you that there are a ton of fresh ingredients that go into these dishes to make them as flavourful as they are. And let’s not forget that each dish is painstakingly built from the ground up like works of art! If you ask me whether the price tag is worth it, my answer is ABSOLUTELY.
I completely understand why so many media people and foodies are naming this their best restaurant of 2016. At the end of the day, it’s because of the food, plain and simple. And the food is some of the most memorable I’ve put in my mouth this year for sure.
I am so jealous of you BGC peeps.
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5, maybe even 6 out of 5
Full disclosure: I received no compensation for the gushing I did in this post. In short, this post is not sponsored in any way and opinions are 100% mine alone.