‘Less is more’: Erik Matti offers suggestions for award-winning Toyo Eatery

January 23, 2024 - 3:28 PM
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Toyo Eatery
Toyo Eatery in Makati in this photo posted on its Facebook page on Jan. 28, 2023 (toyoeatery/Facebook)

Filmmaker Erik Matti made suggestions to an award-winning Filipino restaurant in Makati after taking part in an eight-course tasting menu with food offerings that did not meet his expectations.

In a lengthy Facebook post on Monday, the film director shared that he never reviewed restaurants he does not like. He said he only shares thoughts about restaurants he loves.

Matti said that his social media post was “an exception,” adding that the restaurant he was referring to, Toyo Eatery, “has been around for quite some time,” was “also quite expensive” and “listed as one of the best in the country.”

“Certainly, I expected more,” he wrote on Facebook on January 22.

The filmmaker then bared that he took part in an eight-course tasting menu where each course had three or more dishes.

Matti said that he was “excited” about it since he loves small dishes. However, he said that when he got a taste of the offerings, “somehow, the flavors didn’t match up with all [its] supposed glory when it was just talked about.”

On the other hand, he said that the execution was “very technical” and the ingredients had come “from the rarest regions of the Philippines.”

The director cited the “slow braising” for hours and how “few” of the vegetables are delivered each week. He also cited the unique salt used which he said was “almost extinct.”

Matti, however, felt that the restaurant “feels a bit too giddy” and “too gimmicky.”

“Like, they want to do too many things, hoping to impress its diners with the value for money of the quantity of dishes served. That’s fine if the food lives up to it. But I feel that all the showmanship and the lead-up to tasting the food was a letdown when I tasted the food,” he wrote.

“Maybe there were too many dishes in one course? I dunno. Maybe less is more? Don’t get me wrong. The dishes weren’t inedible. They were ok. Not very good. Not great,” the director said.

He continued that while the “marriage of the ingredients and the match up made sense” on paper, the flavors might not be “harnessed properly.”

“Execution is probably where it failed? Or that [sic] it needed more time to test the dish to find [the] right flavors perfect for the idea of the dish? I can’t explain every dish in relation to what I mean, but I can speak about a dish that encapsulates the entire meal,” Matti said.

He then said that he admires the restaurant’s “young” and “casual” vibe, adding that the crew also has an attitude of “almost like people going camping.”

The director commented that the vibe was not “sadly” reflected in their dishes.

“A lot of young ideas not yet fully formed. Felt like there was a lot of riffing in the kitchen, probably too democratic — giving each cook a chance to get their ideas on the dish. But it was obvious that there wasn’t a singular voice that wrangles the overall dining experience,” Matti said.

The filmmaker suggested that the restaurant should practice “less” gimmick and “more trial and error” when it comes to its dishes.

“I don’t bash restaurants. I know [how] hard it is to cook great dishes. But I want an honest-to-goodness restaurant. Something [that] doesn’t deceive me into thinking more than what they actually are,” he said.

The director shared that it was not his first time to eat at the establishment, adding that he last ate there “around 2018.”

Matti was referring to Toyo Eatery, a modern Filipino restaurant on Chino Roces Avenue and the brainchild of Chef Jordy Navarra and his wife, May Navarra.

Tatler Philippines wrote that every meal in the fine dining establishment “serves to showcase the country’s magnificent biodiversity and clever culinary histories, while exemplifying the talents of our local artisans.”

The magazine added that the restaurant is “best known for innovative twists on classic everyday dishes.”

Toyo Eatery recently made it in the prestigious Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants List for 2023. It has been landing on the list for the past five years as well.

READ: 2 Philippine restaurants hailed among Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2023

The Filipino restaurant was also given the Miele One To Watch Award in 2018.

RELATED: Asia’s 50 Best hails Toyo Eatery as Philippines’ ‘Best Restaurant of 2021’

It also won the Flor de Caña Sustainable Restaurant Award for 2023 with its “planet-first approach” such as removing beef from its menus and sourcing its ingredients locally.