BUENO Tapas and Wine Restaurant at The Grove by Rockwell

Saturday, August 19, 2017

All smiles, Kapuso star and Chef Ken Alfonso welcomes you to this new restaurant BUENO Tapas and Wines Restaurant at The Grove by Rockwell
The last time I got to talk to Ken Alfonso was during the Valentines event of GMA Social Media a couple months back. First impressions was like looking at a guy who's spent most of his life as a model, dutifully bound by his ginormous physique, expensive demeanor and good looks. A few days ago I was surprised to see him in the kitchen dishing out a throng of his Spanish favorites in a new restaurant they call BUENO. 

I was a bit taken aback by the use of my surname for a Spanish restaurant (Oh hi I'm John Bueno!) but I know how it is to have a theme and food of this magnitude with a term very familiar to me, as my lineage came from Valencia according to my personal research. There's nothing more Spanish than BUENO so it's quite apt. It literally means GOOD, and if the name actually matches the food they serve, then we're in luck. So we took the trip to The Grove which is a property managed by the Rockwell group. It's a property right in front of Tiendesitas, sits along E. Rodriguez Jr. and is a couple hundred meters away from Eastwood City. If you are looking for a cozy, small place for intimate parties, then I'd suggest you do the same. Here's a peek of BUENO Tapas and Wines Restaurant. 

The Interiors

The facade was sized like a retail store with red lined door graphics on the glass, reminiscent of the well loved color they have on the flag and flamenco dancers. The place could accommodate around 25-30 people, perhaps more if they provide seating outside later on as most of the restaurants in this place also do that. It's a short walk from the drop off point in front of The Grove's rotunda. You won't have that much problems if the weather doesn't cooperate too as most of the property is shaded. It's like a room in a Spanish villa, quite inviting.

They use mosaic tiles, scribbles and a couple of framed art works laid on red brick walls with a couple of wall sconces, exposed bulbs, in very well air conditioned place. The clay plates, setup, was all Hispanic looking, but not too fancy or overkill ala fine dining restaurant. It's a good place to start if you're gearing for a night out, with friends, family or a special lady. The acoustics are pretty decent, talking over dinner and wine would really not make you listen to other tables conversations. I think they set it up much like those Tapas bars people find at night in Madrid. It's like an old brick house, cozy, I could imagine it would have been romantic in the evening.

The Food

Chef Ken Alfonso schooled at Global Culinary Academy and lived a couple months in Spain to get the experience of how it's like in the land of my forefathers. Food is simple, not too complicated and get it's roots on local produce that make ingredients shine on its own. The base of olives and oil from their orchards, the tomatoes, chili and smoked paprika was evidently present in most of the dishes. We tried them all out and will tell you about how it fared, I was surprised to say the least.

Grilled Bread with Catalan Butter - As the name suggests, this is lightly toasted in the oven or over fire then smothered with room temperature butter mashed with orange rind, salt and pepper. I've seen a version of this with sun dried tomatoes but this presents a more citrusy taste, perfect for summer. I think this is served with every meal so expect this on your table for starters.

Raspberry Iced Tea - Served with lots of ice, this would be great for non alcohol drinkers and kids. I'm afraid it was a little too sweet for me so I doused it with water. Adjust accordingly, but it's fine.

Callos a la Madrilena - My Abuela aka Grandma cooks a mean Callos. So this was one thing I knew would make or break what they offer. This was prepared beautifully. The braised tripe, pork knuckles and feet was almost not felt because their version is quite light and non greasy. I would suggest though that you consume this as soon as they put it on the table. It wouldn't be the same when it gets cold, just like what grandma warned me to do. It's a great conversation starter.

Croquettas De Gambas - As with any Tapas place, you would need bite sized bar food to go with your lovely wine. This croquette is just one of the many varieties they have of it.

Croquettas De Calamares - Which takes us to this hit that afternoon the Squid Croquettes. When you bite into these balls, it still has that seafood goodness from the squid ink, it surprised me how it retained all that moisture when they obviously have deep fried this already. The answer was shared by Chef Ken Alfonso, but I couldn't tell you because it's a secret.

Arros Negro - Reminiscent of Paella Negra less the hodge podge of ingredients in the usual one, this stays simple with squid. Using the black ink, these morsels of arborio rice tastes like the sea yet has those al dente texture which I love in any paella. Especially those bits that stick to the pan, albeit moderately pricey I think this would be a good deal because you can still have this shared. For big men like me though this is just one serving, don't tell my Mom.

Paella De Marisco Y Pollo - It's literal meaning is Seafood and Chicken Paella which tells you a lot about the ingredients on it. From mussels, squid, clams, shrimps, bell peppers, peas, the savory grilled chicken and the super smoky chorizo, you will love this among everything that the restaurant would serve. Please don't leave the place without ordering this because this classic is done quite well by BUENO. I would go back just for this if it's my cheat day, that's how good i is. The arborio rice is also well covered with water simmered with Spanish paprika and perhaps a little saffron. It was fragrant, so it must have had that.

Bueno Sangria - An afternoon wouldn't be happy without Sangria on the menu. It's refreshing, with lovely fruit slices, and get you a little woozy if you have enough of it. It was perfect for that hot sunny day we visited the place so go ask for it with the servers. They can get you this in a jiffy!

Tarta De Santiago - We were served two desserts and this one was more on the eggy side. Yes the almond cake was moist and reminded me of that classic torta bread that I've seen in some local bread shops, but that citrus compote on top made it a whole lot better. If asked to choose I'd have the next one.

Tarta San Marcos - You won't say no if you see this moist sponge cake with yema topping because it's so darn good. Served cold or semi frozen, you'll feel like having custard cake with creme brulee on top. It was like sweet clouds, like fluff but with reason to it's existence. I was just shy to have seconds but I would if I could. Again, don't go out of the restaurant without having this!

Chef Ken Alfonso must have been really good in his past life seeing how blessed he is today. The opportunity to do his passion, plus the very illustrious career in GMA, the treasures in his life must have started somewhere... his dreams are coming to life. He's not quitting show business at all and will still work with shows if the opportunity arise. His stint in Encantadia, My Love From The Star and various shows he's been in won't be the end of it. He would be glad to do more shows but he promised to be in the restaurant almost everyday as he really does the cooking. He's single (you're welcome ladies!), he has dreams like the rest of us, and now that some of the good things he's had in different restaurants in Spain is being served to us at BUENO, he hopes you visit him there soon. 

BUENO Tapas and Wine Restaurant presents good offerings for people from the east and residents of Pasig and Quezon City. Tucked away at the corners of The Grove, we hope those who would want to have a great time with family and friends could experience their Tapas in a wine and dine setting can visit them soon. They are on soft opening and are still evolving as far as their menu goes. I could see how passionate Chef Kennedy Alfonso is on further finding their identity, starting and doing the best of Spanish and tell you his favorites through a "culinary story" told with the "dishes in his restaurant". There are still a lot of them on their menu that we haven't even tasted yet but the gist of what Spanish food he wanted to serve is quite there. The Paellas, the Callos, the desserts are impressive. I hope you say the same when you get to taste the dishes at BUENO. It's good, and I really don't mind if it was named after me ha-ha!

BUENO Tapas and Wine Restaurant is located at The Grove by Rockwell at E. Rodriguez Jr. Avenue in Pasig City, right across Tiendesitas. You may follow their social media channels at Facebook.com/BuenoManila or follow @BuenoManila on Instagram today. 


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