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WHEN we think about French food, it’s easy to think about feasts with sauces and names that are hard to pronounce, and a snooty chef towering over one’s shoulder wincing at your choices. Thankfully, Pardon My French in Bel-Air’s Jupiter St. dispenses with the pretension and we could all just have a good time.
One doesn’t even have to sit down to have a good time.
During a launch on Aug. 15, guests were invited to sing and dance, as the restaurant is a bit of a revival of the concept of the supper club. Fellow dinner guest, folk singer Noel Cabangon, certainly did not back out from singing. It also helps that Pardon My French occupies the space vacated by live music venue Strumm’s, which closed during the pandemic.
Julio “Jun” Sy, Tao Corp. founder and president, had passed by the space and decided to lease it from the owners after the closure of Strumm’s. Tao Corp. owns Pardon My French through subsidiary, PYC Foods Corp. Pardon My French’s siblings under PYC include the trendy One World Deli, One World Kitchen, One World Butchers, and Chef Sau del Rosario’s Cafe Fleur and Sawsaw.
During dinner, Mr. Sy said that his house looked just like the restaurant, with a live band setup due to his own passion for music. Just before the pandemic, he had also picked up a passion for cooking. When they opened Pardon My French in May, he had decided to combine these two passions in one place. “I always like to say that it’s food for body and food for the soul, when you have good food and music combined.”
FOOD FOR THE BODYThe dinner kicked off with French classic Escargot, baked with garlic herb butter. Next came a shrimp cocktail in sweet chili sauce, emphasizing the French-Asian fusion in the restaurant. Still, aside from the playful addition of the fresh and tender shrimp, the dinner had yet to excite; especially since the next course was a Caesar Salad.
We were fortunately mistaken, since this salad was a reeducation in the pre-war resort classic. A whole romaine heart was topped by a crispy strip of bacon, a bit of toast and cheese as a giant crouton, a six-minute egg, and an anchovy dressing that combined French methods with the original Caesar dressing. For a salad, it was robust, and strangely filling despite its spareness.
Next came a Pondicherry Prawn Curry Indienne, named after the French foothold in India. During the colonial period, the colonizers shared their own culinary traditions with the locals, resulting in a curry made with cream and white wine, a recipe replicated in this version. The next course was Chateaubriand, tenderloin oven-roasted and topped off with mustard and herbes de provence. The curry was addictively spicy, with perfectly tender prawns. The steak, meanwhile, coming from the restaurant’s sibling One World Deli, through US-based brand Braveheart Beef, was soft and moist, sure — there was nothing much to say because the meat’s quality said everything. However, both the curry and the steak share a characteristic that makes one think twice while eating: should one keep chomping to maintain the high of the taste, or should one slow down and savor?
Dessert was a lovely Lemon and Mascarpone Cheesecake (perfectly cream), and a dark chocolate delice (light, almost like fluff, but creamy and substantial; not to mention rich in its chocolate taste).
Another Tao group member had been a distributor of Indonesian coffee brand Kopiko in the Philippines. Mr. Sy said that in 2018, there was a pivot from their companies from importation and distribution to go into the food and beverage sector, partly due to a confidence in the Philippine market.
“We’re going to be a very fast-rising middle-class market,” he told BusinessWorld in an interview, crediting this to a young population. “Despite the pandemic, we believed in the future of F&B.”
We’ve tried it out in some of the other restaurants in the group, and noticed that food there is made seriously, but not taken too seriously. It’s good to have a very good meal with very little fuss. Mr. Sy said, “We try not to be pretentious about things. We want to be as authentic as we can.”
During his speech, Mr. Sy noted that there were once two birthday parties held at Pardon My French. “You could see that the old folks were behaving like kids, and the young kids were behaving like adults,” he said with a bit of laughter. During our visit there, what he said was true: the “kids” (20 and early 30-somethings) were busy fixing their things and rushing home, while the “adults” (they’d rather not talk about their ages) had zero pretensions and were as authentic as they could be: dancing to “Dancing Queen,” as performed by the house band.
Pardon My French is located at 110 Jupiter St., Bel-Air, Makati. The restaurant is closed on Mondays. For reservations, contact 0917-823-0091. — Joseph L. Garcia