A (graphic) novel approach to restaurant reviews. Will Ms. Roxas live to critique another day?

By Iya Nakpil-Roxas

AN INTRODUCTION

Sometime in the middle of November 2009
Between 8:30 and 10:00 p.m.

Shot. Gunpowder. (Php195)
Sambucca set aflame; a dash of cinnamon and it blazes. Joel the waiter covers it with a glass, killing the flame and trapping the fumes with a napkin. He hands me a straw. Peppermint? Joel passes me the glass, and tells me to suck the fumes.

Note to self: Strong enough to get you giddy.
Note to reader: Drink if you want to experience a real pick-me-upper, or your sinuses cleared.

January 1, 2010
Somewhere between 3:30 and 4:30 a.m.

Shot. Snake bite. (Php150)
Rum and Tabasco. Maybe not my favorite mix, but the heat from the Tabasco goes down smoothly, and it warms everything up on the way down.

Note to self: New Year Ender; Iya – Fail.

Somewhere between 11:05 and 12:30 p.m.

Note to self: Coining the term, you’ve been “bourboned”.
Note to reader: Go figure.

A SETTING

May 8, 2010: a humid Saturday evening. The light in Rue Bourbon, Fort Bonifacio’s latest go-to, is dim, casting a faint glow on the woodwork of the five-month old bar and restaurant. Priced fairly cheaper than other establishments along Burgos circle, meals range from Php300- Php450, drinks Php70 up. Its interior echoes of New Orleans style. A niche for the laidback, the old, the young, the corporate, the backpackers, the night-cappers, the Cajun lovers, Rue is a melting pot for individuals from all walks of life. All that it is – carefully crafted by each of its seven partners – inviting and comfortable, made to feel just like home.

SOME CHARACTERS

Anna, Editor, Ms. Hotstuff
Iya, Writer, Yours Truly.
Mike, Partner, The Charmer
Arvi, Partner, Mr. Mysterious Eyes.
Joel, Waiter, Appropriately Friendly.

A PLOT

May 8, 2010
Somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.

Cocktail. 2 die 4. (Php240)
Vodka, melon liquor, rum, and juice. A surprisingly subtle taste of alcohol. Similar to four seasons – except you know it isn’t harmless.

Note to self: One too many might be a bit too heavy.
Note to reader: Drink if you like your cocktails a little on the sweet side.

“So…New Orleans? So has anyone ever come here and said, ‘Hey, this is very New Orleans’?” I ask.

Mike takes a breath, “Baliktad. They’re more like ‘Hey, what is this place?’ People are still uneducated.” He sighs jokingly, and then shakes his head and laughs. 

“It’s more of the concept, Girls Gone Wild, New Orleans, girls in white shirts…” Eyes squinted, Arvi smiles, waiting for the look of approval.

“So you planned it to be Hooters?” (Ms. Hotstuff hits ‘em where it hurts)

Everyone breaks into laughter. It was going to be a good night, I could tell; reveling in food, drinks, and good company.


Photo by Abie Del Mundo

Joel brings over a plate and sets it on the table. A start to Rue’s partner and CCA-bred Alex Cantor’s Cajun-inspired menu: blackened chicken Caesar salad. The greens lightly tossed with the dressing; although more subtle than your typical Caesar (hardly a hint of anchovy), the saltiness of the olives lends itself to the dish, giving that added flavor. The chicken is seared just enough to retain its juices, not over-salted and perfectly spiced. The cherry tomatoes add a nice hint of sweetness. My eyes widen as I take a little bite of everything – a marriage of flavors. I urge Anna to do the same.

AN INTERRUPTION... OR TWO

Sometime between 9:00 and 9:30 p.m.

Cocktail. Mango Lychee martini
Ms. Hotstuff tells me it’s what you’d expect a mango lychee martini to taste like. How can it not taste good?

Note to self: You’re allergic to mango. Better sit this one out.
Note to reader: Drink if you want something light and fruity.

Cocktail. Melon Mojito
A perfect balance of flavors. The taste of white rum lingers on your tongue.

Note to self: Who would have thought the three would work so well together?
Note to reader: A must-try! Drink if you want something refreshing.

THE PLOT THICKENS

Rue Nachos – a beautiful disaster that can be likened to a smashed piñata: pale yellow, deep red, and purple tortilla chips topped with jalapeños, Mexican spiced beef, sour cream, and cheese.

“Your portions are rather large” I say.

“They are,” Arvi replies. “They’re all good to share…it’s like us saying, ‘Don’t come alone, bring friends’.”

It almost looks typical, and yet the flavors of each ingredient alone are almost as good as when they’re eaten together. On the side: tomato and onion salsa, fresh and mild, adding that extra tang. Anna and I pick at the soggy ones that have soaked up all the flavors. We look at the boys. This would probably go well with their draft beer, we think to ourselves.

A CLIMAX


Photo by Abie Del Mundo

“You guys have to try this,” Mike prompts.

Rue’s take on the Southern classic hometown dish, fish jambalaya – earthy, rustic, and spicy. Seared dory drizzled with jalapeño mornay sauce, served on a bed of Cajun rice. Just the right amount of crisp on the edges, light and creamy, infused with a variety of spices. The cayenne pepper leaves your palette tingling.

“This is really good, it’s almost like eating meat!” Anna exclaims. Later we have it with a squeeze of lemon, neutralizing the heat, and adding that extra zest to balance out the flavors. We are happily stuffed.

Sometime between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m.

Shot. Gunpowder.

As I remembered.

AN ENDING

And so, a few shots, some hefty grub, and several cocktails later, the night comes to a close. The characters seemingly happy with the nights as they unfolded.

“Snake bite?” offers Joel.

“No thank you” I say.  Sometime in between, I’d like to remember tonight.



Rue Bourbon is open Mondays to Saturdays from 6p.m. to 2 a.m. The 2nd floor of Rue can be reserved for functions and parties for a minimum consumable of Php 35,000 on weekends and Php 25,000 on weekdays. Free corkage for 2 bottles. Rue  Bourbon is owned by partners Arvi Ubaldo, Mike Vergara, Arthur and Alex Cantor, Dennis Navarro, Jules Bonifacio, Jansen Munoz, Abie Del Mundo, and Cesar Monastrial.