We often hear of restaurants referred to as “hidden gems,” those little-known or undiscovered dining spots that offers exceptional food, service, or ambiance that is worth discovering.
Often tucked away in some out-of-the-way location, these spots may be hard to find but but once discovered, they offer a unique and unforgettable dining experience that makes them stand out from other more well-known restaurants.
It’s no wonder then that foodies like me are always on the lookout for hidden gems; aside from the delicious and unique eats, we greatly enjoy the feeling discovering a hidden treasure that is not widely known, and we take pride in sharing our discovery with others who share our passion for great food.
One such discovery is Amah Restaurant in Taguig City.
A quarantine venture
Amah Restaurant was founded by Chef Jose Villarreal, a young culinary prodigy who parlayed his childhood interest in cuisines into a budding career as a chef. While on lockdown in 2020, he and his classmates at the prestigious Enderun Colleges set about gaining real-world experience in their field by launching their own food business headquartered in Jose’s family home in Taguig.
From researching, test cooking and initially selling food products online, Jose and his team eventually opened AMAH Restaurant, named after his maternal grandmother, situated at the roof deck of his family home in 2021. By October 2022, the restaurant gained accreditation from Enderun Colleges as an establishment where its students can undergo their on-the-job training.
Amah Restaurant is known for its heirloom Filipino-Chinese dishes with a twist such as Sisig Stuffed Chicken Wings, Smoked Char Siu Pork Belly with Bao Buns and Bibingka Cheesecake. These delicacies are prepared by the young chefs who made it a point to use local ingredients and put their own unique twists to heirloom recipes.
The restaurant also treats its patrons to a breathtaking view of the Makati and BGC cityscapes. Sunsets were definitely amazing on the upper roofdeck, making it a favorite for engagement proposals, anniversaries, and other special occasions.
A dream collaboration
Chef Jose recently led his team of fellow student-chefs for a dream collaboration with Chef Donovan Cooke from Melbourne, Australia on a two-night dinner event which featured 14 specially-curated gourmet courses from Chef Donovan’s menu. These dishes were prepared by Chef Jose and his Amah team under the supervision of Chef Donovan himself.
Chef Donovan is known for his exceptional culinary skills and his extensive experience in the fine dining industry. He has worked in some of the most prestigious restaurants around the world and gained recognition for his expertise in seafood as well as for his innovative and creative approach to cooking, which combines classic French techniques with modern Australian flavors.
“This was such an honor for Amah and a great treat for our clientele,” Chef Jose shared. “We were so excited to have had the opportunity to work in the same kitchen as Chef Donovan and to have him guide us as we prepared dishes he developed. It was definitely a major milestone for all of us at Amah. And our guests for those two nights were so lucky for the experience that was in store.”
Chef Donovan Cooke was just as excited about the dinner event. “These young chefs are very dedicated and passionate about their craft. They could have taken it easy during the pandemic, found an excuse to just lay around and rest like many of us did during the lockdowns. But they forged ahead because they’re all determined to continue learning and honing their talents. It was my privilege to be one of their mentors, to encourage them as they make their marks in the business.”
A symphony of flavors
The 14-course dinner took Amah Restaurant’s guests on an exciting flavor journey, with each dish thoughtfully designed to showcase the interplay of ingredients.
The meal startsedwith a refreshing Chilled Oyster Truffle Soup with cos lettuce, followed by the delicate balance of Mud Crab with pomelo, coriander, and ginger. The Torched Sardines with escabeche olive offered a burst of smoky and umami flavors, while the Seared Spiced Tuna with Watercress, pickled mushroom, and truffle dressing offered a combination of spice and earthy notes.
The dinner progressed with the richness of the Mussels Mariniere with parsley and white wine sauce, and the Baby Squid with Pear, Parma Ham, and olive oil emulsion that offered a delightful play of sweet and savory flavors. The Grilled Octopus with Piperade and Spanish chorizo brought a smoky touch to the table, while the Slow Roast Free Range Chicken with celery heart and sauce Bois Bourdain offers a comforting and savory indulgence.
The Hibachi Grilled King Prawn with asparagus and shellfish citrus vinaigrette added a burst of freshness, while the Curry Roast Mahi-Mahi with cauliflower, capers, raisins, and apple offered a unique blend of sweet and spicy flavors. The Spiced Roast Duck with fig compote and spice jus brought a depth of flavors with its combination of sweet and savory notes, while the Braised Beef Shin with balsamic onion and bordelaise sauce offered a rich and succulent experience.
The meal came to a close with the delightful Mango and Almond Cake with Mango Salad and Banana Passionfruit Sorbet, followed by the Spiced Pineapple with Pain Perdu and gingerbread ice cream, offering a sweet and tangy finale to the flavor journey.
To fully appreciate the intricacies of each dish, diners were encouraged to savor each bite, to allow the flavors to linger on the palate while taking note of the unique combinations of ingredients, the textures, and the subtle nuances of flavors that Chef Jose and his team have masterfully crafted. Each dish tells a story, a culmination of culinary expertise and creativity, meant to be savored and enjoyed to the fullest.
After successfully executing a challenging 14-course menu in collaboration with Chef Donovan Cooke, it’s clear that Chef Jose Villareal and his team of student-chefs from Amah Restaurant are ready to take the local food scene by storm. This unique culinary experience allowed them to showcase their skills and creativity in the kitchen, while learning from a master chef like Donovan Cooke.
It sure is exciting to anticipate what more these enterprising young restaurateurs will be able to come up with in the future with the hidden gem Amah Restaurant as the backdrop for these culinary adventures!
Amah Restaurant is located at 27 F. Segundo Street, Phase 4, AFPOVAI, Taguig City, open Tuesdays to Fridays from 5pm to 10pm and Saturdays to Sundays from 10am to 10pm.
To know more about its regular menu, visit its website or follow Amah on Facebook and Instagram. To reserve your table, call +63 998 9721198 or +63 917 5101368, or visit heirloomamah.com/reserveme.
Disclosure: Together with fellow content creators, I attended a food tasting held at this restaurant. Food items mentioned here were served to us at no cost.