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Textures and temperatures at Elephant Grounds

By Spanky Hizon Enriquez Published Feb 23, 2020 6:55 am Updated Oct 15, 2020 3:56 am

It takes a great deal of talent to introduce new dishes that can shift the paradigm, and that’s what Nicco Santos and Quenee Villar do best.

The official line is this: Elephant Grounds Hong Kong is an independent micro-roaster renowned for its third-wave coffee. It’s a very cool café concept that’s also quite famous for its hand-crafted ice cream. I confess, my coffee expertise is limited to knowing what a flat white is (and Elephant Grounds Manila has an excellent cup), but I do know my ice cream very well, and I can, with a greater degree of confidence, state that their tutong, or Toasted Rice ice cream is definitely worth a try. Ditto for the café’s other signature flavors: Acai Wild Berry and the bestselling Earl Grey.

Hence, dessert comes first: a humongous scoop of ice cream atop a freshly made waffle. Cold and hot. 

An interplay of textures and temperatures. That’s how I started off my meal during my most recent visit to this always-full venue on One Bonifacio in the BGC. It’s absolutely one of the most popular franchises to open this past year, and kudos to The Standard Group, for bringing in another winner, much like their Ippudo.

As for their Yabu, many people think that it is a foreign brand, but is actually a 100%, most brilliant homegrown concept. Elephant Grounds lies somewhere in between; it is from Hong Kong, but it’s been elevated by adding a full-on all-day brunch menu, and now, with dinner as well, from two of the best chefs in the business: Nicco Santos and Quenee Villar.

Yuzu salmon toast. Photos by Gabby Cantero
Stadium Steps

I’ve tracked their careers from Your Local to Hey Handsome, stalked their consultancy projects, and now, I’m very happy to see them in their new home in the BGC. I’ve always admired how fearless the two of them are.

Unafraid to introduce bold new flavors to Filipinos; it can be a difficult sell sometimes. We Filipinos are mild eaters: we never really stray too far from the flavors of our childhood, the recipes of our mothers. It takes chutzpah, and a great deal of talent to compose and introduce new dishes that can shift the paradigm. And that’s what Nicco and Quenee do best. And that’s exactly why you should dine at Elephant Grounds.

Try their toasts: there’s one with mushrooms, slow-cooked Onsen eggs, sundried tomato hummus, and pesto, all on a crusty sourdough. I love the avocado toast too, but it’s seasonal, and this year’s crop, so far, leaves much to be desired. So, I recommend the salmon eggs genedict Toast: ask for the Yuzu Hollandaise to be slowly and languorously poured on the salmon for a more sensual dining experience.

For a less guilt-inducing option, I see the Titas of Taguig often ordering the Buddha Bowl, a mélange of quinoa, grilled baby corn, white bean stew, and pico de gallo. I’m not really the target market for that, but I once took a bite and actually really really liked it! But if I were to be completely honest? I’m really there for the Donburis: garlic Japanese rice (!) topped with our native Tapa a la Yakiniku, or with a slab of house-smoked Bacon Steak. New on the dinner menu is a dramatic Duck Confit, so that’s another reason to stomp around the restaurant.

Elephant Grounds is just about as famous for its menu as it is for its unique dining area, the Stadium Steps, the most Instagrammed spot in all of the BGC. So yes, come for the Coffee and Chill photo op; but stay for the good food.