A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I brought our teenagers for an afternoon at upscale mall SM Aura to celebrate our son’s graduation. As we browsed across the top floor lined with so-called premiere restaurants, we reached Todd English Food Hall in the corridor’s end.
Todd English Food Hall Manila is apparently the only branch outside its New York home. We then peered curiously into the restaurant, albeit slightly apprehensive about the menu prices. But as diners began to form cues before the place even opened, our curiosity got the better of us and we thought that we might as well try this place out at least once.
Todd English Food Hall as it turns out is literally a hall with high ceilings and wide-open spaces—something that bears close resemblance to the age-old university student union hall.
The wide open restaurant space is well decorated with a contemporary mix of granite kitchen tops, marble tile floors and blackened glass walls, adorned with crystal chandeliers and ambient amber lighting.
The food hall features open kitchens spread across the large space from which chefs and diners can get a close view of what’s happening around.
We’re pretty sure that as the dinner service ends, the place is easily transformed into a music lounge with chill club music. In fact, Todd English Food Hall is as classy as classy gets; it would have been a disappointment if it turned out any less anyhow.
Despite its stylish interiors, dining at there isn’t a stiff formal affair though, as many patrons do walk in dressed in casual clothes. Besides, it would have been a bit odd to expect formally dressed diners to walk through the mall first to get to the restaurant.
The Food Hall’s menu is an array of Asian and continental offerings of grilled meats, flatbread pizza, burgers, and appetizers. Most diners we saw enjoyed their wine and aperitifs with servings of oysters and fresh lobsters, the highlight of the menu.
But as expected, our teenaged diners opted for the more filling choices on the menu. For starters, we had the crispy Risotto balls with Parmesan and dipped in truffle aioli; a dish which was quite delectable. For mains, since they had run out of their version of Confit de Canard that evening, we settled for what was supposedly one of their bestselling grills—the ribeye steak. The grilled ribeye, topped with foie gras, is torched at your tableside to allow the foie gras to melt on top. With each bite, the steak feels tender. The simple seasoning of fleur de salalso comes through with every bite. It was the hint of foie gras, however, that gave the steak a unique tart taste.
We caution you though to order the steak done a bit rare as the torch grilling might overcook the meat.
For pasta, we chose the Crab Carbonara, the Food Hall’s take on the white sauce. Lightly creamed, the pasta was delicious as well.
As a grand finale, we were told to try the OMG Chocolate for dessert. This dessert made of silky pudding, Milo cereal crumble, and chocolate gelato is what chocolate lovers would probably consider the ultimate answer to a chocoholic craving. With sidings of chocolate mousse, the chocolate gelato was topped with more chocolate syrup and piled on top of malt chocolate. OMG is chocolate topped with chocolate over chocolate.
With a rich, diverse, and multi-cultural menu, diners are quite assured of a wide array of gourmet choices. Aside from the food, the service was quite impressive too, as slow food turned out to be quick service for us that evening.
Over dinner, our son then mischievously asked whether Todd English was indeed English, and said jestingly: “Truffle oil. Risotto. Foie gras. Not English at all, is it?”
Well as it is, Todd English is an American chef, a Texan at that, with a solid reputation and a rich culinary background in the States. Still, English or not, truth be told the Todd English Food Hall fare was a delightful and unexpected gourmet experience for us all.