It all started at the Salcedo Village parking lot that’s home to a beloved Saturday morning market.
That’s where the first two babies of chef James Antolin and his Japanese partners were born. I’m not talking literally of course—I’m referring to Ikomai and Tochi, both of which have since become landmarks in the Makati dining and dessert scene.
Ikomai is one of the coolest, and perhaps the sexiest Japanese restaurant in Metro Manila, renowned for its authentic Japanese street food with a gourmet twist, as well as its Japanese whisky cocktails. Tochi is home to, along with many other sublime pastries, the Espresso Walnut: one of the most gorgeous, outside and in, cookies in the city.
Their third baby is Chatto Bites, and it’s a Japanese burger joint located in one of the newest, and most unexpectedly beautiful malls in the city, the Assembly Grounds at The Rise, located along Malugay and Yakal, the streets directly behind the Makati Fire Station on the Ayala Avenue extension. Surprising to find such a high-end yet intimate mall in what was once a quiet district of small office buildings.
Even more surprising to discover a mall with, I have to say, the most well-designed elevator interiors, and the hippest amenities and utilities. Really worth a visit; parking’s easy, and right on the second floor, a very interesting fast casual Japanese restaurant that not only serves a surprising selection of unique burgers, but also, welcome choices of Donburi and delectable desserts. Oh, and a killer app of a curry rice.
Japanese burgers are unique; popularly know as “Hambagu,” I’d say they’re probably closer in taste and texture to meatloaf, rather than to the coarser chop of their American inspirations.
The patties are made from finely ground beef, so the mouthfeel is softer and gentler compared to the heftier ones we’re used to. Expect no ketchup or mayonnaise – instead, most Hambagu are slathered with savory and sweet Tonkatsu-style sauces. Chatto Bites goes a step further. This is chef James Antolin in the kitchen, after all: the all-beef Japanese-style burgers are topped with a rich red wine sauce. There are lots more in the mix: a crunchy Karaage burger with a wasabi tomato sauce; a chicken patty with Nagoya Miso sauce; the Ahi Tuna, lightly seared and topped with a bell pepper sauce with a kick.
My second most favorite burger has to be the Tamagokayaki. It is exactly what it sounds like: a thick Tamago omelet in a soft bun. That’s my kind of comfort brunch right there. And tops on my list in this heavenly burger haven? The Rice Burgers! Now this is something I’ve longed for, for a long time.
For one brief moment in time years and years ago, McDonald’s had this on their menu. I’ve not found anything close, until now. Two perfectly molded Japanese rice “buns”, torched on top for that toasted taste, sandwiching sumptuous stir-fried beef in Yakiniku sauce. Now that’s truly a burger “Turning Japanese”.
Say Konichiwa to Chatto, to your new destination for one-of-a-kind gourmet Japanese burgers bites.