“If God is with us, who can be against us?” This message is tattooed on the arm of sprightly, 35-year-old businessman John-Michael “Mike” Hilton. He is the president and CEO of Visum Ventures Inc, an F&B company that provides fresh experiences through new brands, product trends and concepts.
At the media launch of his newly opened upscale restaurants at the MOA Square, Sante and Meraki — specializing in healthy, chic dishes and elevated Greek cuisine, respectively — we sampled gastronomic delights he personally created and curated and learned so much about this inspiring, indefatigable, youthful businessman, whose savvy for his projects has surpassed the pandemic and continues to reap outstanding accolades.
Since faith and fate sealed his venture, authenticity became the order of the day when healthy and Greek dishes were served at the launch.
For healthy breakfast choices, try their whimsical Signature Mini Croissant Cereal that allows the palate to enjoy a most delightful burst of flavors of fresh strawberries and edible flowers that swim in creamy T2 Tea infused Very Berry milk. The Lilliputian croissant cereals are the most delicate croissants I have ever seen and Mike explained that he was inspired by these tiny pastry edibles on a trip overseas.
One of my favorite dishes is the divine Mushroom and Truffle Sourdough made with fresh mushroom, drizzled with truffle oil and topped with fresh parsley on toasted sourdough. The flavors created simply blend perfectly and you will certainly ask for more.
The delectable tapas selection included another group favorite: the Tuna and Avocado Tartare with fresh tuna and avocado drizzled with sesame oil topped with micro greens. Another dish I will surely come back for is the Squash Blossom made of squash flowers and goat cheese on a bed of Napoletana sauce and topped with micro greens.
It was certainly a treat to sample these amazing dishes with Mike right beside us as he explained in detail how each dish, how each burst of flavor, how each story and history that accompanied each of his creations came to be. One can certainly assess how involved, enthusiastic and knowledgeable Mike is when it comes to his creations. Articulate and inspiring, Mike is one whom you would love to listen to. His love for food and travel is simply inspiring. At 35, Mike certainly has a lot of lessons learned, which he puts into good use in his businesses.
Pumpkin Risotto with a creamy blend of goat cheese and balsamic glaze, and Chicken Marsala, a combination of moist chicken breast with cream and Marsala wine, topped ingeniously with fresh mushrooms, are a must-have.
Another group favorite is the fabulous Beef Pot pie utilizing flavorful beef, potatoes, carrots and red wine in a delightful puff pastry that you will savor till the last bite.
For that sweet ending, try choice desserts like Mike’s Mess, a sumptuous blend of fresh cream, strawberries and passion fruit in a crunchy meringue. Another delicious delight is the Mango Crème Brulee Cheesecake that melts in the mouth. The T2 Tea Mangoes and Cream tea-infused cheesecake has macadamia and almond Dacquoise crumbs that are gluten-free, to boot.
Elevated Greek cuisine
At Meraki, described as “elevated Greek cuisine,” smashed avocado with Halloumi cheese, poached eggs and sourdough is a must-try. Their quintessential beef moussaka, made from hearty layers of beef, eggplant, potato and topped with a decadent sauce, goes from subtle to robust, healthy to hearty.
Worthy of mention is their succulent Salmon Tzatziki, fresh salmon lightly pan-seared and served with fresh asparagus and fresh thyme. Meat lovers must try the tender Fillet Mignon and its combination of flavors from the herb butter, grated cured egg yolk and peppercorn sauce.
They also have beef and pork gyros with a heavenly Tzatziki sauce, and generous heaps of vegetables and meat.
And my personal favorite is the simply divine Chocolate Lava Cake, a chocoholic’s fantasy served with almond Dacquoise, vanilla bean ice cream and sweet berries.
Healthy drinks include a special immune Booster with green apple, cucumber, celery, kale, lemon and ginger. They also have kombucha drinks in many flavors.
Mike’s life story is as sumptuous as the food at his restaurants. He was born in Zamboanga but raised in Sydney, Australia, since he was six months old.
He started his career in hospitality at the young age of 13, rising from the ranks washing dishes and waiting tables. He developed special menus from his penchant for travel and gusto for food. He was also influenced by Sydney, a city known for its vibrant food scene. In fact, he had just arrived from a three-week trip there and sampled so much cuisine that inspired him even more.
In 2016, Mike moved back to the Philippines to take over the management of his father’s businesses.
In 2019, while exploring Sydney, he and Ahtisa Manalo, now one of his company Vissum Ventures’ managing directors, became curious about Koomi, an Australian natural drinking yogurt. Today, Koomi has 80 branches in the Philippines and their target is 100 by June.
As the world faces the post-pandemic era, Visum Ventures and its growing brand portfolio infuses its DNA of fun, flavorful and healthy food at accessible price points. During the pandemic, 80 percent of their products were ordered online; today his restaurants are opening to in-house dining, as clients like to enjoy the cozy and elegant ambiance of the restaurants.
Worthy of noting is that, as cases slowly eased, they opened Oh My Greek!, Zig, and Salt & Ice, an oyster and craft cocktail bar at the Uptown Parade in Bonifacio Global City.
He shared that when he was working for the largest catering business in Australia, he fell in love with Greek cuisine and at a very young age was at the helm of this business with a lot of staff under his management. Today, he employs around a thousand staff and with his upcoming ventures, this number will surely multiply.
Giving much value to the voters in the country, walk-in customers who show their voter IDs can avail of a 20% discount on all Koomi drinks until May 9.
Sante and Meraki restaurants are evidence that tasty food and healthy eats go together.
Mike is joined at Visum Ventures by CFO Adrian Luansing, chief marketing officer Andrew Neri, chief human resources officer Hyacinth Luansing and marketing director for PR and social media Ahtisa Manalo.
Some new concepts in the pipeline include a spa massage business, a chocolate brand from Belgium and an Australian café. More exciting ventures will unfold shortly.
It is no wonder that Mike’s plans are set to materialize and keep evolving in very little time. After all, with God on his side, who can ever be against him?
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