Pasig’s hottest food magnet puts homegrown freshness at the head of the table

Lo-ca-vore (l?k??vôr) – a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food.

Locally nurtured, locally produced and locally prepared. This is the mantra of a hot, new restaurant in Kapitolyo, Pasig whose name reflects the passion to consume anything homegrown and organic.

Set up by four young couples – one of whom told Taste, Travel & Trends “are foodies who enjoyed having meals in each other’s homes until they decided to open
their own restaurant” – Locavore Kitchen & Drinks has been quietly but steadily attracting intrepid diners to this fast developing precinct of Metro Manila. With the booming Capitol Commons complex of Ortigas & Company occupying the former site of the Rizal Provincial Capitol, this side of Pasig is easily becoming a high-profile food magnet.

However, Brixton Street across the road, where Locavore is located, remains a quiet stretch, housing predominantly warehouses. But expect that to change sooner than later as restaurateurs actively seek out unusual venues to promote their budding cuisines.

Locavore is not too difficult to miss if visitors keep their eyes peeled for an undistinguished concrete wall emblazoned with a cocky rooster that nicely complements the bamboo slats lining the building façade. A discretely placed entrance belies the space within, featuring two spacious dining areas, al fresco and air-conditioned. The walls and floors were intentionally left unpainted and unadorned by architect Eric Matic, creating an industrial vibe that is in tune with the working class nature of the neighborhood. Even the long table arrangements, except those by the window, bring to mind an office cafeteria setting, ideal for the large groups and families that Locavore caters to.

Only a few months old, Locavore has been reporting a full house and a waiting line, especially during dinner hours, thanks to enthusiastic word-of-mouth advertising and food bloggers whose generally positive reviews have been spurring droves of customers to try out the innovative menu.

“Filipino food with a twist” is perhaps the best way to sum up the appetising vision of Locavore’s owners. And the individual entrusted with realising their goal is Chef Mikel “Kel” Zaguirre.

A product of De La Salle–College of Saint Benilde School of Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management, Zaguirre gravitated to the kitchen from a young age “because I was always hungry”, he says. There were cooks on both sides of the family, including his father Jonathan and paternal lolo Gregorio. However, sports, particularly basketball, almost sidetracked his F&B career if not for his lolo, who believed in the youngster’s potential and encouraged him to get serious about cookery.

Zaguirre did not disappoint and now boasts a track record that includes currently teaching at his alma mater and the Lyceum of the Philippines, overseeing the Junior Master Chef and Master Chef Philippines TV shows as well as previous stints with Eastwood Richmonde Hotel (executive sous chef) and Le Regalade French Bistro (chef de partie).

Locavore offers two menus: proper dining and bar chow, with majority of the ingredients sourced from small farmers around Rizal province and Tagaytay.

In the pampagana line up, the lechon and oyster sisig (P400) has been a runaway favorite paired with the wide range of beer and spirits available, while the ulam portion shines for the boneless lechon belly, consisting of Cebu lechon, pinakurat, bagoong dipping sauce and pickled red onion and cucumber (P550), and the
deconstructed sinigang made of beef short ribs, sauteed French beans and garlic confit served in a sizzling sampaloc gravy (P530). For a sweet ending, the bicho-bicho for dipping in coco jam and tablea sauce with banana on the side or turon, containing rum, banana and candied langka, are highly recommended. In addition, Chef Zaguirre informs his Filipino dishes with a whiff of the foreign such as his new version of the turon that is presented like a French puff pastry.

Judging by the tables at Locavore brimming with satisfied and happy customers, more restaurants serving locally sourced produce are sure to crop up in neighborhoods near you. Locavore has set a delicious example, and we smack our lips in toasting that feat.