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Renowned chef Vicky Pacheco’s concept for Flatiron in Uptown Mall in Bonifacio Global City is this: urban comfort food restaurant with an “eclectic” New York-style. She wants it offering mostly American and continental cuisine, as well as a selection of Asian-inspired dishes.
“We wanted to come up with something very familiar to a lot of people,” said chef Vicky, who is also the 1771 Group COO. “We wanted a restaurant where we can put different styles of cooking. So eclectic. We wanted the melting pot concept of New York because it is where everybody goes. That’s what we want Flatiron to be, where you can try anything. But it has [to have] a comfort food core [where] people can try different things.”
Together with restaurateur Ricky Gutierrez, Pacheco opened Flatiron in May of 2016. It is a member of the 1771 Group of Restaurants, which also owns Chateau 1771 and Sentro 1771.
Running true to its brand, the interiors of Flatiron have a relaxed ambience that is completely inviting. And its offerings are definitely full-flavored and filling—qualities that fulfill the promise of the comfort food concept.
What’s in a name?
“Flatiron” is another term for a flat-top griddle, which is a metal plate where you cook steak, burgers and pancakes, and something that the restaurant uses. It is basically a cooking equipment used for food which are fast and easy to cook. Flatiron also happens to be the name of a district in Manhattan where you can find the Flatiron Building.
Pacheco’s initial concept was actually for a fancy diner. In fact, she wanted to put up a griddle by the window, if only development regulations in the area had not prohibited them.
“Flatiron is a casual comfort food restaurant with an American cuisine theme, that is why we have the basic line of burgers and pizzas, things you can actually eat in a diner,” Pacheco explained.
Flatiron may cater to the mid-scale and upper markets, but Pacheco says that customers would always find very reasonably-priced dishes in the menu. She explains that comfort food “is not supposed to be expensive.”
“But if we use premium [ingredients and methods], some ingredients are expensive. But then the flavor is there. The food is familiar, but better,” Pacheco assures. In fact, they even offer rice toppings that cost only 200 pesos.
“Sometimes, you want to eat simple food with rice,” she said. “Something that’s filling, flavorful and something you don’t have to think about. That’s the concept of the rice toppings. But it’s still premium.”
Although Pacheco pegged Flatiron as having a “carnivorous bent,” she makes sure that they have one for every kind of eater. For those who do not eat meat, they have alternatives such as mushroom burgers and salads, to name a few.
Flat out must-tries
Flatiron’s house specialty is Flatiron Brisket 6. “Six because [we] cook the meat for six hours, sometimes even seven, just to make the meat tender and melt-in-your-mouth. It’s like a braise,” Pacheco said. “When you braise something, you brown the meat. And then you cook it in a pan with liquid seasonings. And then you cover the pan, and put it in the oven in low-fire until the meat is really tender. It’s not exotic, not spicy. That’s the flavor of the brisket.”
Another must-try dish is the miso-glazed salmon, one of their Japanese-inspired dishes. What they do is pan-fry the salmon and spread the miso glaze on top. To make the miso glaze spread, they cook the Japanese miso with mirin and sugar until it forms a paste. It is what they spread on top of the fish. They put the fish in the oven to cook the inside until it is medium-well. They serve it with shaved carrots and stir-fried bok choy and garlic, with rice on the side.
Pacheco also recommends their famous Sea Bream of Liberty. Sea bream is a kind of fleshy fish with silver skin. After one bite, I could say the dish does not disappoint. The meat of the sea bream, especially when dipped in ponzu sauce, is so tender it melts in the mouth.
“I pan fry the fish and cook it with soy, chili, garlic and sugar,” Pacheco said. “It’s like Chinese-flavored but refined.”
This comfort food experience would not be complete without a touch of Filipino cuisine. Pacheco has her own version of buffalo wings, which she calls Tostado Wings Adobo. “I cook it adobo-style and then I cook it in the sauce until it dries up and absorbs the sauce,” she said. “And then I deep-fry it until crisp. I serve it with a garlic dip. You eat with your fingers. It’s my answer to the buffalo wings.”
Another Pinoy-style dish is the baked salmon, which is cooked with calamansi juice, kikoman sauce, extra virgin olive oil and roasted garlic slivers. “The salmon’s flesh is fatty so when you bake it with soy sauce and calamansi, the fat oozes out,” Pacheco said, noting that it is a variation of Bistek na Bangus. “It has an elevated Pinoy taste.”
The chef who writes
Right after graduating with a degree in hotel and restaurant administration from the University of the Philippines in 1984, Pachecho enrolled at Les Roches International School of Hotel Management in Switzerland. On her third year, she went to Lausanne Hotel School. In 1988, she joined Chateau 1771.
Pacheco is very meticulous when it comes to making her own recipes. Just like in writing, her recipes undergo the dreaded re-writing and revising process.
“I always write a recipe,” she said. “Some people say they don’t make recipes. I come up with my own. Sometimes I have a dish in my head. So I write a recipe. I first write the ingredients, then the procedure. Then when I do actual cooking, that’s when I write the quantities. And then take one, then take two. I re-write. I am the type of person who needs to write it first for it to come to fruition. It’s very rare that I will cook on the fly.”
When asked how a restaurant can survive in today’s cutthroat industry, she said that they must always be consistent with their brand. And that means consistency in food quality and a sincere service.
“The market is more demanding and aware of what’s out there,” she said. “Unlike before, it takes ten years before a recipe could be copied. But now, you can get recipes from the internet. So it all boils down to execution and service. Consistency of training. It’s your tongue that will guide you. Your training skills will guide you.”