Bebek Penyet, Nam Tok, Kueh Dadar – these words sound foreign and very unfamiliar to me. But the taste of the food at Hey Handsome were as comforting as eating Filipino or Chinese food.
Hey Handsome seems like a strange name for a restaurant serving Peranakan cuisine. Peranakan or Nonya cuisine is a mixture of Malay, Indonesian and Singaporean food. So how did they come up with the name? In Singapore staff of the hawker stalls try to attract customers by calling them “Hey Handsome” or “Handsome come.” Naturally I’ve never heard of this. I will be crushed if someone calls me handsome instead of sexy.
The kitchen is headed by Chef Nicco Santos of Your Local who had his training in Singapore.
This is just their soft opening menu. They will have many more dishes in a few weeks. That only means more reasons to go back again and again. I actually know four people who have eaten twice in the few days that Hey Handsome has been open. Yes it’s that good but I’m getting ahead of my review.
Malic milk is made with yuzu yogurt, passionfruit. Thai chilies and butter!! I wasn’t able to try it but my friend said it was good. I’m ordering this next time.
I had a hard time taking pictures of their food because their plating was in 3D. Take for example this Bebek Penyet. It’s a quarter of crispy fried Peking duck that’s so incredibly tasty. Beside it is achar or spicy pickled carrot strings and their homemade sambal (chili sauce) which my two friends raved about. The duck itself wasn’t spicy at all. Let’s call this the star.
The star was supported by nasi ulam or herbed rice.
If the rice and duck weren’t enough they added scrambled duck eggs topped with sauce. See not only was the plating 3D the flavors and textures were too. There was so much going on yet they all complemented each other. I think that’s the genius of Chef Nicco’s dishes. Not one thing overpowered. It was just bite after bite of goodness.
I’m the last person who will be a vegetarian but shockingly I enjoyed the Beetroot Paneer. Again the impressive layers of components in this dish. The star was the paneer (housemade Indian cheese) and mushrooms drenched with a sweet beetroot mixture. Its rice is a quinoa tabbouleh studded with herbs and veggies. Then there’s a yogurt sauce that’s also housemade. See that round thing that looks like a quail egg? It was actually a sphere of yogurt sauce topped with beetroot powder. Hello molecular gastronomy. Put a little of each item into their too small spoon and eat it and I guarantee you will either moan or grunt. Either way it’s a joy to the palate.
By the time the Nam Tok arrived I was getting antok sa busog (sorry I had to). There’s very little beef short ribs I don’t like. Well those that are hard and chewy are obvious no-nos. But this was so tender, well marinated and just plain delicious.
Everything so far was good but a taste of the seabass otah cooked in the most luscious coconut gravy with a hint of heat brought me to food heaven. On top of the fish was a perfect half cooked pickled egg. There were also shards of ikan bilis (dried anchovies) brittle on top of the fish.
I thought the short ribs or duck would be my favorite but it was the fish that I will go back for. We were four who ate all these and we shared like friends do. But when I go back I’m having this dish all to myself. Fantastic!!
Charles, one of the owners, treated us to all their desserts. Hands down my favorite was their housemade thick yogurt which had a texture akin to panna cotta with a hint of sweetness and tanginess. The yogurt had a sheet of chewy crunchy black sesame brittle and a sprinkling of beetroot powder. I was happy eating most of the yogurt until I hit the bottom where I found pool of black sesame paste. Naturally I scraped it all up. Now that I know the surprise at the bottom it presents a future dilemma. Should I stir it into the yogurt next time or eat it in its natural progression?
I don’t eat durian not because of the smell but because of the funky taste of garlic. Yes that’s what I tasted when I tried durian once and when I made a mistake of trying a small piece of this deceptively good looking cream puff. But my two durian eating friends absolutely adored these cream puffs. All I can say is I hate durian burp.
These crepes filled with gula malaka and shredded coconut meat on a bed of galangal cream was more to my liking. As my friend said, “Bukayo?”
We were already so stuffed when RJ came out of the kitchen and gave us another dessert they were developing called onde onde. Think mochi meets pichi pichi filled with sweet gula melaka (palm sugar). This was the favorite of Miss Bukayo. Thanks Charles and RJ!
After our meal I understood why some people have already gone back twice in less than a week. The seemingly complicated food tasted very familiar and even more comforting. Each dish was very well thought of. I can’t wait for the new dishes in the coming weeks. Now the big question is when do I go back?
From August 22-26 Hey Handsome will be serving dinner only from 6:00 to 10:00 pm. Please check their Instagram accountfor changes in operating hours.
Net Park, 5th Avenue Bonifacio Global City Taguig, Metro Manila