It has a London design vibe. But it makes you feel like you’re walking around a beautiful neighborhood like Le Marais in Paris. It has a lot of hard-to-find global food stuff, yet it looks modernized Filipino, complete with the heart and soul of our very own artisans.
We’re talking about Joel’s Place, a revolutionary concept that just opened at the Proscenium Retail Row in Rockwell, Makati. It enters Manila’s lifestyle landscape with the idea of a grocery + restaurant. Hence, it is called a grocerant.
Donnie Tantoco, its president and CEO, explains: “In 2019, I dreamt of creating a food concept whose suppliers would be a community of small entrepreneurs rather than industrial companies.”
So in 2020, Donnie went with his cousin Christopher Tantoco (who is now the COO, and his son Christian (who is now consultant of the team) to London and Paris to meet owners and check on stores that inspired them. “We not only saw what they were doing, we were also enlightened by the purpose, the why, the how that made their stores so special,” says Donnie. “I did not want it to feel like a store, but more of a nurturing and stylish neighborhood.”
For the past 12 months, Donnie and his team were busy turning Joel’s Place into something physical, yet also emotional. “And we needed a key person in our team to make that happen, and that was Crickette.”
One afternoon, the Star Lifestyle team visited Joel’s Place, where Donnie and Crickette gave us a taste and feel of the grocerant. Where else can you push your grocery cart while relishing a drink made of orange, turmeric and ginger? And then enjoy Adlai Seafood Paella, a fusion of Spanish flavors with Filipino?
For meat lovers, Lechon Style Pork Belly, Prime Rib Roast and Beef Yakiniku Skewers are prepared by the chefs. There are seafood delights and you can buy lobsters, prawns and fish (I love the section’s name—Fishmonger!) fresh and have them cooked on the spot. And before I forget, Joel’s Place is perhaps the only place where you can buy fresh pako (fern) for salad with red salted egg, yum!
I love the pastries and desserts, which come in smaller sizes that don’t overpower and make you sugar-scared, and allows you to taste several. Where else but in Joel’s Place can you find bite-sized confections with a tiny bomb of vodka? The mini croissants come with meaty fillings or seafood. Then there’s Coconut Streusel Pie with young coconut custard with queso de bola crumble.
Christopher brings in his many years of work experience in Morocco, while Christian gives input from a hardworking millennial’s point of view. “What is the thing you’re proudest of about Joel’s Place?” I asked Christian and he answered: “My parents. And what they’ve taught me.”
Donnie says, “We are entrepreneurs, artisans. We don’t ask: Who is our target market? We ask: Whose lives can we elevate? In the end we are a community serving a community.”
I have seen how retail creativity sparkles in the DNA of the Tantocos. There is always passion with purpose.
Joel’s Place will have a second location at Rustan’s Makati soon. It promises to offer different meal offerings every time you visit. But what if we get addicted to the first ones we tasted before?
The pandemic has changed people’s shopping habits. If I’m to be perfectly honest, I hardly step out to buy anything anymore. Why would we? Everything essential is at the tip of our fingers. However, much can be said about the experience of a beautiful space, particularly a grocerant.
Joel’s Place offers something that no online outlet—or frankly any other grocerant store in the metro does—the luxury of emotion. Wandering through its well-curated shelves, one feels like they’re in an artisanal market. Gorgeous produce piled high, glossy and vibrant, enticing you to whip up a delicious meal. I believe that retail has to be so much more than just a store, it has to evoke emotion. And that’s what Joel’s Place does. It tickles my senses, allowing me to explore and discover ingredients from around the world that might make its way into tonight’s meal. To touch and smell, pick up and read, even taste and savor. It’s also a place to linger, to pick up a craft coffee, freshly made juices, even have a cocktail and nibble on thoughtfully made treats as you ponder your next move. It’s a fervent reminder to slow down and enjoy the process. To relish life’s little pleasures. The one thing this gorgeous place truly offers are ingredients for the imagination, a recipe for the heart, and food for the soul.
The foodie in me was transported into an exciting wonderland of perfectly curated food items, colorful produce, prime meats, fresh seafood, select wines, and more to discover. I gravitated towards the Living Lettuce, racks of lettuce in planters with its root balls still attached. The Living lettuce can last up to 18 days or more, just as long as the root ball does not dry. It has better flavor, texture, is crisper, and full of nutrients. When creating your salad, just snip away, and voila! An array of pretty, edible flowers also caught my attention. I always fancied plating with flowers to decorate a dish, or a sprinkling a salad with them. Attractive and colorful, the edible flowers included butter daisy, orange cosmos, blue and purple torenia, impatiens, and French marigold.
I was delighted to find that Joel’s Place carries cotechino, a large, traditional Italian pork sausage served during the holidays.
My late father-in-law, Ambassador Sergio Barrera, was last posted in Italy. When he retired after 40 years of diplomatic service, my mother-in-law would order cotechino from their former staff at the embassy so that we could enjoy it during Christmas or New Year’s. It is reheated and sliced, then traditionally served on a bed of lentils. You can make the lentils more flavorful by cooking them with finely chopped onions, carrots, celery and fresh herbs.
Cotechino will appeal to Filipinos because the flavor is reminiscent of luncheon meat or Spam. For me, being able to find cotechino at Joel’s place means not having to lug it home from Hong Kong, plus this “grocerant” is a delightful destination for foodies, gourmands, gourmets and cooks of all persuasions.
I love the Fishmonger section with its fresh tuna, hamachi and salmon sashimi and sushi from Japan and Chile at reasonable prices, along with large, fresh lobsters and shellfish from Palawan and Aklan. One can bring them home or opt to have them cooked on site by chefs.
At the Deli counter, I hungrily eyed deliciously healthy adlai mushroom risotto, paired with a succulent fish fillet wrapped in a paper-thin crust, a tender chicken and chorizo casserole a la Español and a crisp salad topped with juicy watermelon bits. For meat lovers, there’s tender Angus roast beef paired with Yorkshire pudding.
Since one of our family favorites is dried fish (tuyo, daing, dilis, espada), Donnie and Crickette Tantoco enlightened us that they come from communities in Roxas City, Aklan, where the locals are extremely proud that these newly reeled-in fish are prepared, lightly salted and sun-dried as soon as they are brought to shore.
A grocerant where you can cozy up to a wooden bar in the back corner, order a glass of house wine and maybe set up a cheese spread? That’s one way Joel’s Place is unique. Joel’s Place is designed with special nooks and places to chill in the middle of shopping. The Sommelier does feature its own sommelier—hired from a cruise ship, he ensures shoppers of the best and latest wine picks. This month, it’s Raventós Can Sumoi, an impressive red that comes from the Spanish 400-year-old estate in the Panedés region southwest of Barcelona, known for its endangered varietals and natural fermentation. This kind of deep diving into wine knowledge is something unusual for a “grocerant,” but Joel’s Place is not like any other grocerant. You will find some overlap with other grocerant wine sections but look for its J. De Villebois and Ardèche Pinot Noirs, its lush Montes Purple Angel Carmenère, or its curated Rieslings for something special this holiday. Not only will The Sommelier help you land the right bottle, but it’s also the only grocerant we know of that lets you sample a glass (starting at P380) after pushing around your shopping cart.
Joel’s Place is an epicure’s happy place. Here, you’ll definitely find something that sparks joy, whatever your diet restriction may be. As for me, joy comes in a box of half-deboned, ready-to-carve Jamon Serrano from Noel Charcuteria De Toda La Vida, which is available at The Charcutier section. The box comes with a knife and wooden stand! Now I don’t have to worry about what to serve for media noche. What I also love about Joel’s Place is that it champions local producers and brands like the Manila Cookie Story. Using local ingredients like kapeng barako, queso de bola and South Cotabato chocolate, Manila Cookie Story cookies are packaged in colorful tins and boxes featuring design elements such as the barong, banig, and jeepney.
Warm and charming Christian Tantoco told me they had an award-winning barista at Joel’s Place’s coffee bar, so I ordered an iced mocha, not thinking too much about it. But what they served me was so incredible I had to find out more about the makers of this magical elixir. Dani Canlas-Torres, the founder of Type A Coffee, met Christian through her sister and designed a coffee program for Joel’s Place that would fit the customer journey they wanted. “I wanted it to be comforting and approachable,” she says, telling me that my mocha was made with Joel’s Place Blend No. 1., a mix of 60% Panama and 40% Brazilian beans roasted in Mandaluyong to the perfect medium-darkness. Dani “obsessed” over the mocha sauce, choosing Malagos chocolate from Davao that they cook down with a bit of sugar and even a hint of salt “to wake it up.” The result is the mocha of my dreams, served in the neighborly ambience of Joel’s Place. I loved it so much I bought practically all of Type A’s bottled offerings: Mocha Mixer so I can make that mocha at home, Cereal Oat Milk, Cinnamon Almond Milk, and the drink that started it all for Type A — Panama Cold Brew, a concentrate you can pour over ice with water or milk for instant coffee nirvana.
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Joel’s Place, located on the G/F The Proscenium Retail Row, Estrella St., Rockwell Center Makati, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., tel. no. 02-889-97034. Visit joelsplace.com and find them at joelsplacePH on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, and YouTube. Watch out for a second location at Rustan’s Makati, Ayala Center.