Food parks and food halls don’t usually go for that minimalist chic look — it’s usually multi-colored LED lighting, bold colors, and a converted shipping container or two at these kinds of trendy communal food centers.
The Grid, newly opened in the new wing of the posh Power Plant mall in Makati, however, is in many ways an antithesis to what many have come to expect from a food hall. For starters, it did go for minimalism.
Built with dark brown wood and glass framed by a black grid pattern, The Grid’s see-through facade gives casual strollers a look inside the hall. What they’ll see are 15 stalls against the walls, plus tables and chairs arranged in a square pattern.
Missing from the booths are the loud, often “pun-ny” logos most of the metro’s food halls are filled with. Instead, stalls are numbered and are marked only with standard signage that matter-of-factly states the products being offered, as well as — in very small font — the restaurant that’s serving them.
Assistant Marketing Manager Sabina Lee said this was a conscious decision by the Tasteless Food Group, the team behind The Grid.
“Everything looks the same because the point of this is kind of to put the focus back on the food,” she said.
The same grid pattern found in the hall’s facade is seen in the logo and mimicked in the interiors — from the metal dividers the separate some tables, to the paper bag take-outs are placed in.
Another major difference at The Grid: all the vendors here — who are all pretty established in the local food scene — joined by invitation from the Tasteless Food Group, according to Lee. Vendors can’t simply sign-up and rent the space. They’ve got to be vetted first.
Apart from adding an air of exclusivity, curating the selection also serves a more practical purpose for diners.
Anyone who has ever been to a food park or food hall in Manila would know that they are proof that “The Paradox of Choice” is real. Most food parks have so many novelty booths — like cocktails-by-the-bucket and churros covered in marshmallows — that choosing what to eat becomes taxing, a frustrating exercise in weighing out the possibility of FOMO, instead of being enjoyable.
Coconuts Manila visited The Grid last week, and we’re happy to report that this was not what we experienced. Right now, only nine of the 15 booths have started operating, but that’s already plenty to choose from.
This includes stalls that are serving Thai, Japanese, Filipino, Spanish, Mexican, and American cuisine, as well as a beverage booth that serves coffee and cocktails, and a bakery.
Here are some of the stalls and dishes that we found especially good.
A food hall may not be your first choice when it comes to wine night with friends, but hear us out. Out of all the booths in The Grid, this one offers the most value for its price. Technically a retail spot, Happy Barrels is a deli that sells wine and charcuterie for your home pantry.
However, diners can also create a DIY platter filled with meat and cheese of their liking. The staff will plate them for you for free and picking what goes into the board means it can fit almost any budget.
Their selection of wines is also varied and available at different price points. This bottle of La Tita red wine, for example, is only PHP245 (US$4.59).
Flower Boy is The Grid’s Thai booth, but we suggest to skip the pad thai and try out the pork chop meal instead.
At PHP290 (US$5.44), you get a piece of fried pork chop with rice, a side of monggo (mung beans), papaya salad, and a sweet chili pineapple sauce made from scratch. Alternatively, customers can also opt for the milder green chili sauce.
The pork is fried really well — crispy but not greasy — and the breading made with crushed crackers gives it a thick crust. It’s seasoned very lightly and would not have worked on its own, but that turns out to be a non-issue because the sauce it comes with has a very punchy, spicy flavor with a slightly acidic tang to it.
The rice was too sticky for our liking, however — and the portion of it was not nearly enough for the slab of meat it came with. Carbo-loaders can turn to the monggo on the side to fill them up, though: The smashed monggo contrasts the pork’s crunchy texture well, although it was a tad heavy on the salt.
Manila is experiencing ramen weather once again! The Spicy Gyokai Tsukemen (PHP430/US$ 8.06) at The Grid is different from most of the ones served in Manila, as it is ramen noodles meant to be dipped in a concentrated pork broth.
The broth feels more like a sauce than a soup, so it may not hit the spot if slurping on a bowl of steaming ramen is what you’re looking for. The broth comes with tender chopped up chashu (pork), and since it’s essentially a dipping sauce for the noodles, it is pretty salty — so you’re meant to coat the ramen according to your personal preference.
Still, the meal itself was satisfying, not in the least bit because the noodles were prepared really well — chewy and with just the right thickness.
The best part, though, was the tamago (egg), which was firm on the outside but runny and glossy on the inside — just the way it should be.
Bun Appetit started as a stall in the Salcedo weekend market and is known for its lobster rolls, but here’s a tip: Skip the lobster rolls (which cost a whopping PHP695/US$13.03) and go for the grilled cheese sandwich with shrimp instead (PHP350/ US$6.56).
You’ll still get your fix of seafood and umami, but at half the price. Unlike the rolls, which are too rich, the grilled cheese sandwiches are more savory and simply more delicious.
The bread is crispy, but not oily. It’s similar to a pizza crust. The cheese was not too sharp, but was seasoned well, and the shrimp makes it more substantial meal than other grilled cheese sandwiches.
That being said, the sandwich is quite small and probably won’t be enough for dinner. We suggest pairing it with their garlic noodles (PHP150/US$2.81) or clam chowder (PHP220/US$4.12).
While The Grid has a bakery, we find that a good cup of coffee is a better dessert option — you’ll probably be too full to finish a slice of cake anyway.
Our pick is the Caffe Mocha (PHP180/US$3.37) by EDSA BDG made with espresso, milk, and chocolate from Davao.
We ordered ours unsweetened so that the chocolate and coffee flavors were deeper, making it a good palate cleanser from all the savory dishes we tried that day.
R2 Level Expansion
Power Plant Mall