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I see dead people. Specifically, I see long-gone stars of stage, screen and song, the legends of American Vaudeville and the Silent Era. Charlie Chaplin, looking dapper and nothing at all like his immortal Tramp persona, enters the bar with his latest squeeze Oona O’Neal, daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neal in tow.
Meanwhile, Paulette Goddard looks on with a knowing smirk and a highball glass of Prohibition-grade gin raised in mock salute to her former paramour’s new arm candy.
Mary Pickford gives her a playful don’t-make-a-scene look before turning to welcome her regular co-star and his new leading lady.
Off to one corner, Fatty Arbuckle sits on a velvety couch, a giggling Ziegfeld folly in each arm while across from him Tom Mix regales the ladies with tales of his stint in his Wild West Show, done in his irrefutably Southern drawl.
Inside a haunting ballroom, Al Jolson sings Mammy sans his trademark blackface makeup to the delight and applause of a coattail-and-top-hat-wearing crowd while Rudolph Valentino leans over the railings and gazes into the cityscape beyond, the night lights reflected in his fathomless, unknowable eyes.
Spawned by friendship
This is the atmosphere and mystique that greet me when I arrive at The Penthouse 8747. Located in Makati’s venerable BA Lepanto building (whose address happens to be 8747 Paseo de Roxas), the place evokes the glamour of the early 20th Century through its classic art deco look and glitzy vibe. And in true classic fashion, one could even say that Penthouse 8747 began as part of a beautiful friendship.
“My bosses, Chase Yap and Carl Cordova, are entrepreneurs and longtime best friends,” recounts May Yao, the bar’s marketing and advertising assistant. “Both have businesses in the building and during their breaks, they would come up for a smoke while admiring the view up here. It was then that they came up with the idea of sharing this experience with other people—of enjoying the view of the city and being able to relax and chill.”
Lively theme nights
Since its opening in April 2016, Penthouse 8747 has set its sights on being the place to be for the Makati CBD crowd as well as the “It” crowd, depending on what time you show up and what you’re there for.
“We want people to come and relax after a long day,” continues Yao. “We don’t mind if you come as you are—there’s no dress code.”
The later the night gets, however, the more lively the scene. “We have theme nights when we invite DJs to come and mix the best music for us and it becomes more of a party atmosphere,” she relates.
To add to the variety, in the middle of Penthouse 8747 is a central entrance, normally concealed as part of the wall, which leads to a yawning ballroom that has a private tasting room, complete with a baby grand piano, for more exclusive affairs. “So the party that’s outside can be of a different flavor than the one happening in here,” Yao adds.
For proper partying or even just for knocking back after a stressful day of market fluctuations, exemplary beverages are a must. “Our liquors are premium-based, meaning we use only the best for our mixes,” states Yao. “Of course, we also offer the best for straight drinks, single malt whiskeys and house wines. Our mixologist is Alyona Vinogradova-Jeffery and she’s really amazing—she’s come up with some really innovative and delicious cocktails and she makes all the choices for our bars.”
Like Laurel and Hardy, good booze must be complemented with good food and head chef Mischa Okina ensures the pairing is as good as they come.
“I don’t like very technical dishes,” she declares without preamble. “What I want is to bring something light and refreshing to the table. It’s not about overwhelming people with a whole slab of salmon or steak—I want our dishes to be very clean, straightforward but different in a way that hasn’t been seen or tried before.”
The infectiously bubbly Chef Mischa has truly wicked skills in the kitchen. Her Golden Crab Cakes, with fresh Blue Crab meat topped with Sriracha Remoulade sauce are a crowd-pleaser, the bite-sized cakes biting back with a zesty spice that works with a lovely creamy counterpoint.
For a classier take on a Filipino classic, her Mahi Kilawin gives quite a kick—the raw mahi mahi fish is soaked in penthouse pinakurat (Philippine spiced vinegar), resulting in a balance of acidity without overwhelming the palate. Topped with shallots, bell peppers, orange bits and a side of cranberry coulis, each morsel bursts with just the right bit of fire to make you want to do the Lindy Hop.
I’ve a soft spot for risotto and Chef Mischa’s Seared Tuna and Zesty Risoni hit that spot like Elliot Ness doing a number on Al Capone’s tax books. It’s tuna covered with furikake (Japanese rice seasoning) and black sesame breading served with risoni pasta, olives, cherry tomatoes, and spinach seasoned with anchovy oil and orange glaze.
Pizza lovers will marvel at the Italian Sausage and Prosciutto Flatbread, with prosciutto, mozzarella, arugula and balsamic reduction. When they say it’s flatbread, they’re not kidding—the cheese and meat are held together by pizza dough that’s almost as thin as calling-card stock and each dainty slice is delightful without delving into debauchery.
However, my personal favorites are the Steak Salpicao and the Salted Egg Calamari. The former is striploin cubes, bell peppers, onion, and house sauce cooked to perfection so that the tasty juices run down your gullet with every niblet. The calamari is a marvelous feat of culinary engineering with oh-so toothsome squid rings coated with a micron-thick layer of salted egg batter that’s impossibly crisp, surrendering to the teeth, only to be cushioned by the softness of the squid flesh beneath. Now this dish should have been prohibited during Prohibition. It’s so good that Doctor Caligari would go insane for it.
After all those flavors, one would need to do a proper tastebud reset and I couldn’t find a better way to call it a night than with Cheesecake ala Misch with blueberry coulis. “It’s close to my heart, this cheesecake,” Chef Misch admits, and it’s not hard to see why. The fruity, full-bodied blueberry coulis brings depth to the rich, velvety cheesecake underneath.
Oh, how sweet it is
The Bee’s Knees – A notable cocktail from the Prohibition Era, the Bee’s Knees was also a popular slang term that meant the best you could possible have or get. Here we have some potential potables that live up to that little moniker. Take note that this is one of the few places that uses actual Champagne for cocktail mixes—not sparkling wine from just anywhere but honest-to-goodness sparkly grape juice from that very French region.
Yale – This ticklish concoction of Bombay Sapphire, Champagne and fresh lemon juice will brighten your spirits.
Decadence – Gin, fresh pomelo juice, and aloe juice combine to create pure genius. I never thought that gin and aloe juice went so well together; it’s sheer relativity.
East Egg – Peach and Champagne is a no-brainer. The two go well together like Bonnie and Clyde and one too many of them will rob you blind of your senses.
Night in the Plaza – This vodka and fresh watermelon juice tonic just became my personal favorite and it will be yours, too, once you give it a try.