I've had the fortunate opportunity to go to Malaysia twice this year, and I must say I absolutely fell in love with the country that I regrettably overlooked throughout my entire existence. More than just a food paradise, the warmth of Malaysia's people, the splendor of it's natural beauty, and the disciplined demeanor of the community, left me spellbound.
But yes, the food was truly outstanding. Their rich culture allowed for a plethora of influences from around the world, leaving me to wonder what else from Asian Cuisine have I been missing out on due to my stubborn pickiness?
I might not be able to go on a Food tour of Asia anytime soon, however the latest collaboration of renowned Chef Nicco Santos and the Tasteless Group, "Hey Handsome", helped me take a mini tour of Asian Flavors, one plate at a time.
Also a photographer, Chef Nicco first caught my attention through his Instagram account, where he puts on display the stunning photos he takes, which include some of the most beautiful women from around the world. Truly an artist at heart, Chef Nicco's creativity is not limited to his photographs. You can see the intention to concoct something that will captivate your senses with every dish he plates.
It's only been recently that I've soften my stance on Tofu. Which is why I was willing to try the Soft Soft Tofu (P250) (No pun intended). A pillowy soft slab of tofu, is doused in a Century egg Mousse, whose flavors are balanced out by a topping of Bonito flakes.
Something as mundane as tofu, is elevated to a whole new world of complex flavors by Chef Nicco, so I knew I was in for a night of amazing food.
If I initially gave pause before trying the Tofu, I tore into the Beef Pancake (P400), on the other hand, with reckless abandon. Shredded Beef Short Rib meat is rolled into a spiced Pancake, and served with Yogurt and Pappadum. Truthfully, I didn't mind the yogurt and Pappadum, and focused on the Pancakes, leaving the two sides as the Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams of the plate.
I'm going to flat out and say that Hey Handsome's Fried Egg Salad (P250) is the greatest salad I've ever had. The eggs are deep fried, with their edges crispy, just the way I like it, and is mixed with minced sausage for an added savoriness, bits of Chili for a touch of heat, and then topped with Cilantro and other herbs for an added fragrance.
This is spectacular, and a MUST TRY dish when visiting Hey Handsome.
Hey Handsome's Beetroot Paner (P560) marked the first time that I actually tried Quinoa (Sorry, I'm not hipster). Although it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, it still wasn't enough to get me sold on it. I'm not even going to try to explain the explosion of flavors that this brings, because it was derived from an Indian Dish, with Chef Nicco giving it his trademark twist.
The Laap Phet (P480), left me a little befuddled. I normally stay away from Salads, but the aroma from this dish made that impossible. A laap is known in Laos as "Meat Salad", and Chef Nicco's version uses minced duck, perched on a bed of torched cabbage, with a deep fried duck egg, other herbs and Khao Man Rice thrown in. Incredibly tasty, and worth trying.
One of the many standout dishes was the Nam Tok (P700). Delicious Beef Short Ribs are cooked in a bath of coconut milk and herbs, and served with a cone of Coconut rice and Thai Papaya Salad, reminiscent of Atchara.
The unique Buah Keluak (P640), is a lamb curry stew with herbed Rice, nasi ulam (herb rice), Hey Handsome's signature Sambal Matah, and a Kropek for added texture, which was given a shrimp pasta like flavor through the Belachan, Malaysia's version of our Bagoong.
A dish that totally blew me away was the Bebek Penyet (P780). A white Pekin Duck is deep fried, yet maintains its internal juiciness, and served on a bed of Herb Rice and Scrambled Duck Egg. The dish is then served with Chef Nicco's Sambal, that should be bottled and sold at every grocery around the world.
The Sambal offers a surprising, gentle sweetness that belies its fiery hue.
If I were to recommend you to try only one of the Big Plates from Hey Handsome, It would be a toss up between the Bebek Penyet....
...The Nasi Lemak (P720). This take on the Malaysian staple is on a whole new level of awesomeness. Using a Sea Bass Fillet is cooked with Coconut milk, and spices, and served on a bed of Coconut rice, with Chef Nicco's legendary Sambal on the side. Another brilliant component to the dish is Chef Nicco's Ikan Bilis, which I can only describe as "Caramelized Anchovies". It sounds strange, but believe you me, it's nothing short of AMAZING.
For Dessert, we tried the Yogurt (P200). Digging into the light, and creamy exterior reveals a flavorful black sesame mousse, and is topped with a Black Sesame crisp.
I'm not a fan of Durian, so I passed on the Cream Puff (P190). The soft pate a choux shell, which was rendered black by the infusion of squid ink, is given a sweeter vibrance by Brown Butter Powder, and Gula Melaka.
My favorite dessert was the Kueh Lengkuas (P180). I was intrigued at the thought of eating a dessert, with a Rose as its flavor base, but with all the components, such as Gula Melaka, Coconut Meat and Galangal Cream, the flavors worked seamlessly together. Meringue Shards are added, giving the dish for added texture.
All of us Bloggers and Food writers that were there that evening were blown away. The common consensus? Hey Handsome could very well be the best new restaurant of 2016.
Congratulations to Charles and Chef Nicco for the opening of a great addition to the thriving restaurant industry in the Philippines! It's because of visionary minds like theirs, that our country is suddenly on the radar in the international food scene!
Hey Handsome is without a doubt a restaurant that you MUST TRY.
Net Park Building
5th Ave, BGC
Hey Handsome Menu
(It Changes from time to time)
(It Changes from time to time)