MANILA, Philippines – Who here remembers Strumm’s Makati? If you are of a ~certain generation, you might remember this iconic live music staple – it was Jupiter Street’s “place to be” for live ’80s and ’90s music, variety bands, events, or after-work drinks with officemates and weekend hangouts with friends.
The lively Makati City landmark was 25 years old when it closed down just before the pandemic. However, it only took nearly four years before a similar yet novel concept was reintroduced – the former Strumm’s location is now Pardon My French, PYC Foods’ newest restaurant and live music hall that serves a collection of French and Asian dishes helmed by Chef Ariel Manuel.
Come for the food, stay for the vibes
The structure is almost the same as Strumm’s, but the interiors and branding are totally different – following its French-Asian concept, the spacious yet homey restaurant and its two floors exude Parisian chic with white-linen tables and plush seating, accentuated with quirky elements and eclectic colors – French blue/yellow/red walls, fancy archways, vintage lamps, and renaissance paintings on the walls.
It’s a big space that accommodates both extrovert and introvert diners – there are group tables by the stage for those who want front row seats, as well as intimate alcoves at the second floor and private function rooms. If you want the best of both worlds – privacy with a great view of the festivities – there are also romantic table set-ups situated by the upper balcony.
The elegant ambiance during the day and early night quickly turns into a roaring, lively environment later in the evening, as local music bands begin to take the stage for dinner. As the drinks roll in and the lights dim down, people full on food and hungry for fun (and maybe slightly tipsy from the alcohol) await the night’s loud live tunes and trot to the open-space-turned-dance floor.
It’s good vibes all around at Pardon My French, especially if you’ve missed Strumm’s charm. After the lockdown, dining at this spot feels like both a nostalgic and welcome breath of fresh air; being able to enjoy live music, good food, and good company at the same time in a bustling restaurant (with good acoustics, I might add) once again.
President of PYC Foods Jun Sy got the idea to revive the location after the pandemic, when he discovered a love for entertaining guests and playing live music at home during the lockdown. When the time was right, he put his ideas into motion, and gathered fellow music lovers, entrepreneurs, restaurateurs, and up-and-coming F&B players to bring back a concept not so long gone but sorely missed.
“We don’t have enough of these kinds of places now and I’m hoping to open more in the near future,” Jun said.
Time to eat, s’il vous plaît
Pardon My French, which just opened in July, doesn’t self-proclaim itself as an authentic French or Asian restaurant. Rather, it’s all about fun and fusion here, as Chef Ariel’s playful take on both cuisines reflects in the mixed menu of French classics and Southeast Asian favorites, from the appetizers down to the entrees, and even cocktails.
When I think of French cuisine, I immediately think of snails (blame pop culture). Escargot is one of Pardon My French’s signature appetizers which I was a bit hesitant to try out. Snails, if not done or sourced right, can taste salty, dirty, and feel even grimy. However, my curiosity and FOMO won at the end, and so I tried out the Escargot in Burgundy Butter and Garlic (P600) and I was shell-shocked (pun intended). Pardon My French snail-ed it!
Fresh escargot was cooked in a simple sauce of butter, parsley, and garlic, and that’s it. It was served with crusty sourdough bread, which was the perfect medium to soak up all the remaining garlicky-herby juices. It tasted like a well-cooked piece of shellfish (somewhat like a clam) in a buttery, umami, and aglio olio-like sauce that was addictive as it was flavorful. This was a favorite.
The highlight, for me, was strangely enough – a salad. It’s not usual for a simple ceasar salad to be the talk of the town, but Pardon My French’s take on the classic deserved the buzz.The highly-recommended Caesar Salad (P460) is a hefty serving of fresh, crisp hearts of romaine, drizzled with one of the best caesar salad dressings I’ve ever had – a smooth, true-to-its-roots, salty-tangy emulsion of anchovy, lemon, and parmesan cheese.
The salad is topped with generous slices of soft, smoked salmon, crispy bacon, and a six-minute boiled egg (as a fan of soft-boiled, almost runny eggs, this was a winner). Mix that all together and you’ve got a high-protein, filling salad of varying textures that tastes more like a star main course than “just a salad.” It’s an elevated take on the simple caesar, and one that’s easy to crave for. Every element is flavorful.
As for the Asian dishes, Pardon My French has a Shrimp Cocktail in Sweet Chili Sauce (P620), which is medium-sized, juicy, and well-cooked shrimp cooked in lime, Thai chili, and cilantro, served with a sweet chili sauce that has a quick kick of heat. It was a good combination of fresh flavors from the shrimp and a punchy medley of sweet and spicy from the sweet chili sauce. The shrimp is skewered with cherry tomato and ripe mango, and served with shrimp crackers for crunch.
If you’re hankering for some meat, Pardon My French prides itself with its imported selection of steaks and meat cuts, care of One World Deli, the restaurant group’s other concept and fellow Jupiter Street neighbor. The good-for-sharing French Chateaubriand (P3,780) features a large, front cut of tenderloin fillet that’s oven-roasted and served with a thin slather of horseradish mustard on top and herbs de provence.
The steak I was served was on the well done-medium side (my companion’s was medium-rare, which is what I look for in a steak), so I would say that how it’s cooked may be a hit or miss, as it wasn’t consistent and not as juicy as I expected. The beefy, meaty flavor was there, but the most memorable part for me would have to be the horseradish mustard on top, as a fan of having mustard with my steak. It added a strong-spicy punchiness to a steak that tasted like… well, just a steak. The Chateaubriand is served with silky truffle mashed potatoes that was lacking in truffle, and some crisp asparagus served with hollandaise sauce.
Of course, there’s always room for dessert, and thankfully I left a tiny space in my bursting-at-the-jean-seams stomach for Pardon My French’s resident patisserie The Tattooed Baker and his line-up of decadent sweets.
I’m not a big sweet tooth, but I’m a sucker for dark chocolate and salted caramel. Surprise – the Dark Chocolate Delice (P320) merged both without it being too sweet! Inside the moist chocolate sponge cake was an oozing river of salted caramel at the center, served with coconut whipped ganache and kaffir lime, to temper the richness. I went hard, so I enjoyed the delice with a scoop of Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream (P190), ala mode-style (no ragrets). It was delice-ious!
A lighter dessert would be the Lemon and Mascarpone Cheesecake (P380), which was a fluffy and tarty delight.
Pardon My French’s line-up of music guests of different genres vary per week. It typically includes Pop Jazz on Tuesdays, Party Retro on Wednesdays, ‘80s Dance on Thursdays, Latin on Fridays, the Artist Series on Saturdays, and Easy Listening on Sundays. The menu, however, is the same all week. More than the food (since the price range may be a bit steep for the common diner), what Pardon My French uniquely offers is the thrilling yet intimate experience of live entertainment in a closed and comfortable, exclusive space.
Reservations are encouraged through 0917 823 0091. The restaurant is located at 110 Jupiter St., Bel-Air, Makati City. For lunch, it’s open from 11 am to 2 pm, Tuesdays to Sundays. For dinner, it’s open from 5 pm to 12 am on Tuesdays to Thursdays, and 5 pm to 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays.
You can check Pardon My French out on Instagram. – Rappler.com
Restaurant group PYC Foods is also behind One World Butchers, One World Kitchen, La Petit Cafe Fleur, and SawSaw.