My college friend, K, has been after me over the past five months to try out the restaurant he works in. On a whim last week, M and I decided to finally make the effort, but not after K got super dramatic about it over Facebook. lol So it was off to The Belle & Dragon in Makati for an east-meets-west dining experience.
What’s so interesting about The Belle & Dragon is how it was constructed from the ground up. Literally. Apparently, the area it stands on used to be a parking lot before this old-timey gastropub was dreamed up from scratch. At first, M and I were afraid our cab would miss the building, but we needn’t worry. The structure is so unique that it immediately draws your eye, especially since it’s the smaller, painted building in that block that’s kind of hard to miss.
Inside is a continuation of the story. The interiors, down to the shapes of the lamps and the framed photos have a corresponding reasoning behind them. But instead of sharing it here, I’d rather you experience it for yourself by trying to guess and asking around. Finding out how each and every element was cleverly planned is part of this resto-pub’s charm.
The menu, like the interiors, is a juxtaposition. It’s Asian-European fusion cuisine. K treated us to a tasting serving of Umami Chips (PHP 150). That’s thick-cut French fries with seaweeds, bonito flakes, and Japanese chili powder. While I’m not much of a fry person, I do prefer thick-cut ones. The seasoning is fine, though I found it a little too heavy on the chili. This was not the case for M, who thought it was seasoned perfectly. If I get around to ordering it again, I’d ask for slightly less chili powder.
Next up was the Masala Mac ‘n Cheese (PHP 160). It’s actually a side dish that isn’t found on the list of entrees, but it’s a full meal for one in itself. As the name implies, it’s gooey, stringy cheese sauce seasoned with Indian curry spices coating some notably al dente macaroni . If you have an appreciation for Indian flavors, you’ll warm up to this in a heartbeat. M and I dug right in and finished this first.
The Pulled Pork Tonkatsu Sandwich (PHP 390) is another example of thoughtful execution. It’s usually such a mess to snack on pulled pork, but the meat was turned into a well-formed, breaded patty for this sandwich. It’s definitely greasy, but that’s what bar or pub food usually is. The potato bread isn’t too thick, so you won’t be filling up on bread alone. It comes with a generous serving of chips and a Sriracha aioli to dip into.
Lastly, we ordered a lunch set of Pork Schnitzel Katsudon (PHP 200+, almost PHP 300). It comes with a small bowl of Miso Soup and a slice of fruit. With the exception of the pork sliced thinner than with the usual bowls of katsudon I’ve had, the flavor is every bit Japanese. We found the Miso Soup a bit too salty, though.
Verdict: I’m usually averse to fusion cuisine, because it’s such a hit or miss. But in this case, the concept works. The theme and the menu are in-sync, and the story behind what you see gives the place some extra character. Bring a friend as the serving sizes are definitely meant to share.
The Belle & Dragon
100 Carlos Palanca, Legazpi Village, Makati
*Apart from the tasting serving of Umami Chips that I got to try free-of-charge, I was not otherwise compensated to write this review. Opinions expressed here are entirely my own*