Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Juandering: Quattro + Nation

Often, people go to trendy restos, bars, distilleries and other hangout places because of the name, location or simply because everyone seems to be going there. I went through that phase, the clubbing and binging on expensive drinks phase. But these days, I am more about finding good food. Sure, new restos with the promise of new food experiences excite me, but I don't know, I am allergic to 500+/plate places. I scour the metro for more honest food in accessible places. I found a place recently, at the corner of Kamuning and T. Morato: a hole in the wall that offers the triumvirate of highly marketable Ilokano fare: Ilocos empanada (glad it's finally becoming a trend), Bagnet (Lechon kawali++) and Vigan longganisa. I'll write about that place again and feature it here. Just need to bring my camera next time.

So I go on food hunts, but when it comes to places to share a lot of beers with people you care about, the old tradition of "inuman". Where I go for drinks is not dictated by trend or cool factor, not anymore. Where I choose to drink is not even really dictated by cleanliness, to be honest with you. I have this place I have been going to for years now, and it does not get its patronage because of it's certifications from the health bureaus. When my friends and I drink, we have to have good food.

Main bar area

My oldest and most trusted bar in the Timog area is Quattro. It started as a kick off point for night outs back in college and has evolved into a trusted bar I can always bring new friends to, or meet old ones in. I even developed friendships with a few waiters there and am still recognized when I walk into the joint.

The owners of Quattro have opened Nation in Sct. Borromeo, near Flight. It's an offshoot of my old fave but has entirely different look. While Quattro has that homely, cozy, bohemian vibe with it's old wood trimming chairs and eclectic decor, Nation is more modern, with well planned seating and minimalist decor and furniture.

Outside seating (front)
Indoor seating
The place is trendy modern Pinoy, in the spirit of Tides, chill out places with open spaces with a draw that you really don't understand. Why are people flocking to these places when the offer nothing of note in terms of food, are not really pocket friendly and are hard to get to?

With Nation, I finally understood the draw: the exclusivity of these places not being accessible to public transportation outside of a cab means that the straddle the line between exclusivity and accessibility. In these sorts of places, young and youngish people get to hang out without having to a., worry about the hoi polloi of people who can walk into, say, Quattro without b., having to spend as much as they would in places like Distillery or the many bars in The Fort.

What I love about Nation is that apart from the cool Pinoy pop art that lines it's walls, it meshes old traditions with new design. From the indoor seating ventilated by ceiling fans that remind one of old homes and lit by modernist lighting framed by abaca decor, to the outside seating accentuated by plants and antique looking furniture, to the patio-like outdoor area with the cloth umbrellas, the styles mesh well and lend the place a unique and classy look that sets it apart from the more jam-as-many-people-as-we-can style of Tides.

Outside seating (back)
But enough of this aesthetic nonsense. I am not an interior designer or architect. Let's talk food. Quattro grabbed me by offering competitively priced beers and generally above average bar food. With its Baked Fished Fillet, it has marked itself in my list of go to places forever. By chatting with Orly (a longtime Quattro waiter and the sole reason we even learned of and ventured into the place), we learned that the stuff we love in Quattro is essentially being ported into the Nation menu, with some additions. Now, I really don't take pictures of food before I eat it, not unless it's noteworthy, but often, even though. So let me just describe them to you.

What I absolutely do not like about a lot of bars out there is that often, they hire crap cooks who belch out bland, oily and overpriced dishes that no amount of beer would make me enjoy. But Nation is essentially Quattro v2, so order a Baked Fish Fillet for me when you go there. Enjoy the foil wrapped Tanigue fillet swimming in oil and its own juices, topped with a mayonnaise based sauce. Then go for their Gising Gising, a mixed veggie dish mixed with fish and squid pieces, drenched in peanut and oyster sauce. Or get the Crispy Liempo Bits that my friends love and the surprisingly enjoyable Crispy Bangus Belly. Now, they've glitzed up the menu with some additional fare, and I have tried their Sinuglaw and improved, crunchy Sisig, but I have my old faves and they will always show up in my table.

So check out this new chill out place for the food. Good enough and cheap enough for you to enjoy the night out while laughing uncontrollably at your friends' or your own drunken antics. The service is great, I guarantee it, as many of Quattro's waiters have been with them since I started going there in 2005. And my main man Orly's in Nation, so I know you'll be treated to attentive and warm service.

To get there, here's Google maps.

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