An Exciting Move: When A Balai Becomes A Kasa

Chef Aaron Isip’s beloved restaurant finds a new home as it continues to serve vibrant Filipino fusion cuisine inspired by French techniques.

Chef Aaron Isip’s greatest culinary influences are French and Filipino cuisines. He grew up in the Philippines and spent many years as a young professional in Paris. Cooking there taught him how to respect the seasons and work with only the very best locally available produce. The Yucatan Peninsula is another place that he discovered he has come to greatly appreciate and respect Mexican food and culture. 

Chef Aaron Isip
Chef Aaron Isip

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His style is rooted in French technique, with Filipino, Latin, and Southeast Asian flavor influences. Cuisine d’Auteur or Author’s Cuisine, is a type of original cooking that acknowledges a myriad of different influences that have touched or impacted a chef’s culinary life through their own experiences. It is a collective mélange of flavors, techniques, and even ingredients that have left a mark in the chef’s memory and is therefore what is responsible for creating their very own original style of cooking. 

The popular Balai Palma was his actual home which also had the restaurant. It was a wise decision to move the restaurant down the same street to a bigger Kasa Palma, which reflects his culinary identity and his personal Cuisine d’Auteur. Fish and seafood are his favorite ingredients to work with and it’s an obvious choice that he highlights Filipino seafood on his menu. 

Kasa Palma celebrates natural elements that he personally adores including food from the islands that were touched by fire and enjoyed in a tropical wabi-sabi (the Japanese art of impermanence) setting. He designed Kasa Palma as an artisanal house adorned with handicrafts and natural art and design

There is an outdoor bar and lounge with warm light emanating from hanging straw cloche lamps, while the outdoor floor is awash in white stone gravel, reminiscent of a sandy white beach. At sundown, the space delivers the atmosphere of a sleepy pueblo about to wake up from its disco nap, ready for an exciting evening ahead. It’s a perfect place to have pre-dinner cocktails. 

Kasa Palma's interiors and bar
Kasa Palma’s interiors and bar

The ground floor of the two-storey Kasa is the large teardrop-shaped wooden chef’s table that seats eight people for the tasting menu. Dining here allows guests to watch chefs at work in the large open kitchen. Next to the main dining room are several tables for two under a pergola in a semi-outdoor terrace that is perfect for date night. At the back of the property is the open Firewood Kitchen Counter that looks into the open working fire kitchen where they cook all the a la carte items. 

More of Kasa Palma's interiors, including the chef's table
More of Kasa Palma’s interiors, including the chef’s table

Three private rooms are available on the second floor. “Sand”, named for its beige decor, is the largest and can function dually as a private room for large parties or as a larger dining area with multiple tables when the restaurant is busy. “Charcoal”, is painted in a dark shade of grey and is centered by a large round table that can accommodate up to eight guests. The smallest room “Coral” is in a delightful shade of coral pink and is also furnished with a round table which seats up to six guests. All of the rooms feature macramé and fabric wall hangings, overhead hanging lamps made of natural sea grass or bamboo, collections of pottery, paintings, and tropical prints.

Kasa Palma selects seasonal produce from local farms such as the family-owned Teraoka Organic Farm in Pangasinan and fresh seafood from around the archipelago. Their meats are sourced from around the globe and include duck from Esguerra Farms in Batangas, Okan Wagyu from Australia, and Joselito Pluma Iberico from Spain. 

Their tasting menu is highlighted with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Signature dishes carried on from Balai Palma, such as the acclaimed Ube in Three Textures, served with clams, Oscietra caviar, and a clam emulsion, sit side by side with newer dishes bound to become favorites as well. Some of these would be the local pusik red shell broth made with bone marrow and the souring agent batwan.  The mantis shrimp with bisque and somen (thin wheat flour noodles) and the crispy scaled amadai (local tile fish) with spicy-sour coconut fish stew, cherry tomatoes, and arugula were other dishes bound to be future favorites.

On the a la carte menu, wood-fired meat, fish, and vegetables take center stage. Dishes are cooked using only smoke and fire, either on the flame or directly above it, and, in some cases, smoked over a large pit. Depending on the meat or fish, the wood that they use differs. Fire wood ranges from fruit trees such as santol (cotton fruit) and apple, to maple, hickory, and oak. Bright and flavorful sauces accompany the grilled protein. Vegetables such as heirloom corn, purple and orange sweet potato, and okra, are also cooked over firewood. 

Their craft cocktails selection makes the most of melding local ingredients and international spirit, inspired by tropical and Latin flavors. Have a Kasa Grande, the house’s signature mescal (distilled alcoholic beverage made from agave) sour made with yuzu (Japanese citrus), calamansi, elderflower, and lemongrass syrup, or try the Ube Crumble, a purple creation fashioned with Kraken (Caribbean black rum), ube (purple yam) liqueur, cacao white, and coconut cream garnished with cashew crumble. Classic cocktails are also available. 

Kasa Palma is open from Tuesday to Saturday only. Bar opens from 530PM to 1AM and dinner seating is at 7PM. It is located at 6042 Palma Street Poblacion, Makati City. Call or text (0917)1559669 or email [email protected] for reservations or inquiries. Check out @kasapalma on Instagram and Facebook.

Photos courtesy of Kasa Palma.

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