This New Bar Concept Honors The Philippines' Local Ingredients

Elevated Filipino fare best describes these innovative dishes that honor the Philippines’ local ingredients. 

This is an excerpt from Lifestyle Asia’s October 2023 Issue.

Popular Filipino restaurant is moving from Quezon City to Makati. The seventh floor of the Balmori Suites in Rockwell will be the new home of Hapag and their new bar concept, Aya (Filipino for “to invite”). The new restaurant will have a mezzanine, which will be Aya. 

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Chefs of the progressive Filipino dining restaurant John Kevin Navoa and Thirdy Dolatre gave the public a month-long preview of their concept at a pop-up at the ground floor of Balmori Suites. 

Chef Thirdy and Kevin
Chefs Thirdy Dolatre and Kevin Navoa

A selection of libations (best suggested by their sommelier Erin Ganuelas) to be enjoyed with appetizers, mains and desserts had the pop-up full for lunch and dinner. All the appetizers served here will be the ones served at Aya. They are keeping the desserts as well but changing all the main courses served during the very well-received pop-up.

Katipunan Express from Hapag Manila
Katipunan Express

Dolatre and Navoa always use the best local ingredients in their innovative dishes. Think of their food as elevated Filipino fare. 

Their Gamet (seasonal seaweed from Ilocos) Kropek (crackers) served with fermented red pepper aioli was made by combining gamet into an arroz caldo and dehydrating this to create the cracker. Their Warek-warek (a pork offal dish of twice cooked ear and collar) was made with a grilled pig’s face, crisp lumpia (spring roll) wrapper, and dinakdakan (the Ilocano term for warek-warek) aioli, pickles.

Sugpo at Buro from Hapag Manila
Sugpo at Buro

A flavorful Adobo Liver Mousse was complemented by red onion marmalade, toasted cashews, and kamote (sweet potato) brioche. Their Okoy and Pearls was an extremely light and crisp shrimp and vegetable fritter served with pinakurat (fermented coconut sap from Iligan) chives & cream topped with ikura (salmon roe), which served as the “pearls”. 

Okoy and Pearls from Hapag Manila
Okoy and Pearls

Four exemplary dishes that could have been main courses were the Pares Toast – beef and tendon pares on a pan de kalinga toast with garlic aioli, pickled red onions, and Laguna chimichurri; their version of the Filipino classic Sinuglaw – catch of the day fish ceviche and smoked pork belly in a coconut-tuba (fermented coconut sap) leche de Tigre (a Peruvian citrus based marinade) with roasted pineapples and pickles; the Sugpo at Buro–two large grilled tiger prawns, smoked buro-bagoong butter, Kai farm Mexican lime; and the Kilawing Baka–handcut raw beef tenderloin in fermented mustard aioli, itlog na maalat (salted duck egg) gel, and imbaliktad (an Ilocano stir-fry of medium rare beef) sauce to be put on root vegetable chips.

Read more by purchasing a copy of the Lifestyle Asia October 2023 magazine via or select newsstands in National Bookstore and Fully Booked. Subscribe to the E-Magazine via Readly, Magzter, and Press Reader.

Photos courtesy of Hapag.

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