Hey Handsome in BGC is the Boy You Would Want to Move Next Door

I’m not one who would jump at the latest bandwagon, or contribute to the newest hype. When it comes to food, I don’t like falling in line for a cup of ice cream or a pastry no bigger than a fist, so when The Food Alphabet invited me for dinner at Hey Handsome—BGC’s hottest newcomer—I was both thankful (no queues and rejected reservations!) and excited, but without heaps of expectation. I deliberately didn’t read any restaurant reviews prior to going—except for random, unavoidable raves from Facebook—so I entered the diner with no idea that my mouth was about to sample some of the most delicious dishes of 2016.

A collaboration between photographer-chef Nicco Santos (Your Local) and Charles Paw (Hole in the Wall), Hey Handsome is a homegrown concept that concentrates on Southeast Asian cuisines—specifically, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Singaporean. The restaurant is casual and rugged—and to some extent, industrial—with concrete and metal elements, tiled walls, overhead lights that evoke the feel of a laboratory, and an open kitchen that overflows with activity. The best seats of the house are the ones at the bar/chef’s table. As for the restaurant’s name, it was derived from how hawker vendors in Singapore call at prospective customers—just like pogi in the Philippines.

I like the friendly, busy, and casual vibe of the place—it’s a restaurant perfect for a casual date (and for impressing your date with amazing food), or for languid after-work sessions with friends. Everything from the interiors and non-stop movements pouring from the kitchen to the clinking of utensils and the buzz from the customers transports you to an eatery somewhere else. The playlist is one fit for a throwback Thursday—when “Come Baby Come” played, I almost did promenade runs and batucadas right then and there.

While waiting for our food, we tried some cocktails from Hey Handsome’s selections. They serve a Gin and Green Tea concoction made of Hojicha-infused gin, elderflower liqueur, and lemon. For something sweet, the Kiwi Vodka with lemon and rhubarb bitters is the perfect choice.

As a whisky lover, I naturally had to try their Old-Fashioned—which was solid, sweet, and strong. The Barrel-Aged Negroni, however, was just as enjoyable—using Tanqueray No. 10, aperitif, and sweet vermouth. The mixture was aged in 5-liter barrels for at most 7 weeks—resulting in an oaky, smoky flavor.

The food is, in one word, perfect—and I shit you not. When the appetizers came out, I didn’t know I was in for one of the best meals of my life. The Soft Soft Tofu (PhP250) is a play of flavors and textures: silky sheets of sweetish tofu topped with saline bonito flakes, and underneath hide bits of creamy century egg. The flavors are unabashed yet controlled—perfectly measured by the chef, of course.

A spicier appetizer came next: the Fried Egg Salad (PhP250), which was easily everyone’s favorite. Ground sausage and crispy fried egg tossed with herbs—how can something so simple be this good? It was probably the slight kick that took this dish from good to awesome, but who knows what other wonders happened in the kitchen?

Then in came the mains, and with that spectacular intro, I couldn’t contain my excitement for them. The Beetroot Paneer (PhP560) was as delicious as it was beautiful. Impeccably plated, the dish has cubes of paneer and mushrooms sheathed in beetroot sauce, quinoa tabbouleh salad, a yogurt sphere, and papadum. The sweet melds with the sour, and just when you think it’s all too plain, a spoonful of the tabbouleh brings in new flavors, and a bite of the Indian bread creates new textures. Brilliant.

If you like it really spicy, the Nasi Lemak (PhP720) is your best bet. But I highly doubt that spiciness is the main strength of this dish. It’s the delicate seabass otah itself, cooked in coconut, spices, and herbs, served with ikan bilis (anchovy) brittle, sambal sauce, and a pickled half-cooked egg. The dish is light yet exquisite, a perfect balance of tastes and textures—another demonstration of the chef’s skills.

I would have to say though that my favorite was the Bebek Penyet (PhP780). A perfectly-cooked white Peking duck explodes with sweet, salty, and spicy flavors. The skin is addicting, the meat so juicy and soft it just slides off the bone. There are pickles for some acidity, and a duck egg for creaminess. The nasi ulam is light and subtle, a perfect companion for the bold protein.

By the time dessert came, I wasn’t ready yet. Everything was so good, that the thought of having sweets—and dinner was about to end—saddened me. The ending didn’t disappoint though, as three luscious desserts were presented to us. I liked the light Kueh Lengkuas (PhP180)—rose meringue with gula melaka (palm sugar), coconut meat, rose glaze, and salted caramel. It sure brought to mind familiar local flavors (bukayo). The Homemade Yogurt (PhP200) was also delicious—a panna cotta-like creation with a black sesame tuile and a shower of beetroot powder.

What I didn’t expect to like was the Durian Cream Puff (PhP190), pâte à choux filled with durian cream, and covered in chocolate. The first bite tastes weird, but just like what lovers of durian can attest, eating more and more of it makes it more and more delicious. Let’s just say, I ended up finishing it.

With the boom of the restaurant industry in Manila, it’s typical to get a great meal—what is rare, however, is an unforgettable experience, a meal so astonishing it still sticks to mind many days after it has passed. Such is a dinner at Hey Handsome. Be prepared to be teased, to be wowed, and to be made love to. The plates here would arouse your taste buds, awaken your senses, trigger an orgasm. Ladies have been gushing about it, but I know a number of men (myself included) who couldn’t resist it too.

The restaurant has been open for less than 3 months, and time will tell if Hey Handsome can continuously provide consistent food and service. It’s just halfway through 2016, but flavor-wise, I think it has established itself as the top new restaurant of the year.

Hey Handsome
G/F Net Park Bldg., 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City 
Operating Hours: Mon-Sat, 6:00PM – 10:00PM (they’re opening for lunch soon!)
Budget: around PhP1,000/head

Have you dined at Hey Handsome? What do you think of Chef Nicco Santos' food?

My meal was sponsored by Hey Handsome. All opinions, however, are my own.

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