Food Fare: For Miko Calo, The Most Innovative Dishes Are The Simplest - LA Wine & Dine

The Metronome chef shares how she gets creative with food.

READ ALSO: Foodstagram To Follow: Get To Know A Home Kewk, An IG Page That Celebrates Food Positivity

Chef Miko Calo is the kitchen leader at Metronome, a modern French bistro in Legaspi Village, Makati that she opened with partners Elbert Cuenca, Alain Borgers, and RJ Galang. Here, she turns French food ideas in her head, in her notebooks, and in photo pegs into reality.

Prior to its opening in 2019, it received considerable hype. For starters, Calo was trained by Joël Robuchon, a renowned French chef and restaurateur. He was named “Chef of the Century” by the guide Gault Millau in 1989. He was at the helm of over a dozen restaurants in many of the world’s capitals and by 2016, he held the most Michelin Guide stars for any restaurateur—a total of 32.

Add to that Cuenca and Borgers, who are already well-respected figures in the hospitality industry, as well as Galang, a branding and marketing whiz, and the team is complete for a buzz-worthy restaurant. Then, CNN International writer Chris Dwyer, also known around Asia as the Fine Food Dude, included Metronome on his list of Great Plates: 15 New Restaurants to Try in 2019.

When it did open, Metronome did not disappoint and was met with rave reviews.

Though it’s currently operating on takeout and delivery only due to the pandemic, Calo continues to get creative with food. Her most recent experiment, for instance, involves a pigeon, flown in from France. She garnished the soon-to-be-launched dish at Metronome with a local fruit and an aigre-doux or sweet and sour sauce.

Get creative

The pigeon dish is just one of the many examples of how Calo is with food—usually beginning with the produce, tasting it in its simplest form, and then building more flavor around it.

“I’m inspired by produce first, flavors second, and experiences third,” she tells Lifestyle Asia.

At Metronome, where she always works on serving the most memorable dishes, she remembers serving a lapu-lapu dish, steamed á la plancha topped with garlic confit and served with coconut and coriander sauce.

“It’s a very simple [and] delicate dish that shows simplicity and restraint, which I think is more difficult to achieve,” she adds.

It’s not part of the menu anymore, but it proves that a dish can be considered creative just by being simple.

“For me, an innovative dish doesn’t have to come with grandeur nor does it have to be avant garde,” she says. “Just simply putting together techniques and flavors with a new perspective while still respecting ingredients is still innovation in food.”

Cooked up collab

This is also what Calo and longtime friend, former publisher and editor, Bea Ledesma, are doing for the latest food to sell via the foodstagram, A Home Kewk.

Calo previously helped out Ledesma for her IG account’s bestsellers, the veggie burger and egg sando.

A collaboration that “just kind of happened,” it features a vegan edition of a Filipino favorite—adobong beets.

The idea was inspired by Calo’s pop-up experience a few years ago in Paris.

“[It was] at my friend’s restaurant in Paris where I did traditional Filipino dishes, served Parisian bistro style,” she says. “One of the main courses for the prix fixe menu—a meal with several courses at a fixed price—was pork belly adobo garnished with roasted vegetables, including beets.”

Pleased with how the purple vegetable complimented the adobo sauce, the discussion on what meal to serve via A Home Kewk eventually led to beet becoming the key ingredient.

Just like how a normal meat adobo is cooked, the beets are slow cooked in the sauce, pureed with roasted onions and garlic. It’s also topped with homemade atchara and blistered Baguio beans over Ledesma’s suggested coconut-lemongrass rice. It retails for P400 is available for pre-order.

The two are set to dispatch the first batch of orders this Saturday and will arrive to curious diners tightly-wrapped in banana leaf inside a box.

Moving forward

Not all food ideas like adobong beets work, however.

In fact, Calo herself has experienced letting go of dishes and concepts in her 15 years of experience as a chef.

“My cousin, RJ, and I had a couple of concepts we were working on a few years ago, but the timing wasn’t right,” she says.

On how she dealt with it, Calo says she simply shrugged it off.

“[We] moved on to bigger things,” she says. “One of the concepts popped back up during the pandemic, which became our takeaway brand, Lazy Oeuf.”

Its menu is different from Metronome’s and instead offers comfort French food for the lazy home cooks, as the name implies. Most of its dishes also involve oeuf, which translates to egg.

Calo also hopes for the lockdown’s home cooks to not be afraid to get creative in their own kitchens.

“Respect the ingredients, cook things properly, and have a clear idea of the flavors and ingredients you want to highlight,” she says. “Don’t throw everything you know into one dish.”

Banner Photo from @restaurant.metronome on IG

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