This year is probably one of the most delicious birthdays I’ve had so far, ringing it in at James & Daughters, owned by Chef Jonas Ng – who I had the blessing to have worked with before at his gorgeous French restaurant, Le Jardin – and his family of foodies with itchy feet. I guess you can say I am lucky to have found a job that allows me to pursue my passions in life – one of them being connecting with talented chefs and meeting passionate farmers who have taught me a lot about food, sustainable organic farming, and loving local products.
The story of James & Daughters speaks of the unique bond that one creates through food, warmth, comfort, and most of all, love. The Ngs are a family of travelers and eaters, led by patriarch, James, whose daughters (and daughter-in-law) know only to well hot to seek out the best dishes here and overseas. And that’s exactly what they did, bringing their favorite flavors to their new restaurant in Bonifacio Global City.
You can find James & Daughters along the road that runs along the American Cemetery and Essensa Towers – keep your eyes peeled for the Westin Show Suites and their food compass logo – they also have the added luxury of free parking for guests, so they ended up staying longer, bonding with friends and family instead of worrying about the parking meter.
The interior of the restaurant has a very cozy, homey vibe, with little details like the ivy overflowing from white window boxes as a nod to old Le Jardin, but also incorporating the spirit of James & Daughters, with the nautical colors of blue and white being the dominant theme, locally sourced floral wallpaper to one side that compliments the grey and blue furniture, and fresh herbs like Thai basil, arugula, and cilantro peeking out of tables and benches, giving the space a refreshing touch, courtesy of qubo.ph.
I rang in my 32nd birthday up to my eyeballs in comfort food inspired from all over the world, using local ingredients, whenever possible. Getting a crash course on just how much good food we have in this country kind of makes me wonder why we import most of our produce and meats – from duck sourced from Davao, to organic vegetables from Benguet, and free-range chicken from Abra – there is a whole world of good food to be discovered in our own country, we just need to know where to look.
I go to taste the entire menu, and holy shizballs, everything I put in my mouth was fantastic! And while everything was absolutely lick-my-plate delicious, I have a few favorites that I think is worth the trip over there:
If I were to pick just one starter, I’d highly recommend the Tuna Kilawin (₱420), which uses fresh chunks of yellowfin tuna sourced from General Santos, marinated in local coconut vinegar, fish sauce, and coconut milk. Topped with crispy aromatics, coconut sugar, and red chilies, served with crispy wheat chips, Jonas’ take on ceviche is addicting.
Another tuna dish on the menu is the Seared Togarashi Tuna (₱495), chef Jonas’ nod to his old mentor when he worked in Vancouver, Chef Tina Fineza. This beautiful piece of fresh yellowfin tuna tataki is seasoned with Japanese 7-spice before being seared and sliced, served with cold sesame soba noodles, grilled shiitake mushrooms, and ponzu sauce. The delicate balance of flavors of tickle the tongue, the perfect starter for a hot, humid day in Metro Manila.
The Duo of Mom’s Fried Chicken and Tori Karaage (₱475) is mom versus dad on a plate: mom’s simple yet delectable fish sauce marinated fried chicken, and a Japanese-style fried chicken for when Jonas’ dad used to own a Japanese restaurant.. This is served with Japanese mayo, chili flakes, and lime wedge for guests to play around with layers of added flavors. I’ve had this a couple of times now and when I share a plate with someone, it’s almost like a game, having people pick which fried chicken style they prefer, mom or dad. I’ve loved mom’s fried chicken for the most part, but every now and then choose dad’s crunchy version.
Another fried favorite of mine is their Softshell Crab Tempura (₱475). Locally sourced softshell crab is seasoned with lime, pepper, and sea salt, battered and fried, served with a simple aioli dip, sea salt, chili, and lime.
For the colder weather, Jonas’ sister has a recipe for comforting Beefy Noodle Soup (₱350) that soothes the tummy and the soul. Rice noodles are submerged in a light broth made from beef shanks, tail, and knee, served with freshly clipped Thai basil and cilantro form around the restaurant, a boiled egg, and crispy shallots.
Jonas does comfort food so well, when it comes to the battle of the birds, these two are tops on my lists for different reasons. The BBQ Lemongrass Free-Range Chicken with Rice (₱520) takes me back to a holiday in Thailand, where lunch would be grilled chicken from one of the many stalls around where I stayed or fried giant squid, with vinegar, chili, and a little salt. James & Daughters takes you there, with half a portion of chicken, marinated and grilled over charcoal for that smoky flavor and crispy, crispy bits, served with pandan coconut milk rice and a sour pickled green mango salad.
The Duck Leg Confit (₱600) on the other hand, is a classic from Le Jardin’s old menu, a nod to chef Gils Brault, another mentor of Jonas who also co-owned the former French restaurant. The crispy house-cured duck leg confit is served with a savory veal truffle reduction and duck fat fried potatoes. While I wouldn’t recommend having it every day, when you do, it really is quite the treat!
I’ve only seen stingray once on a menu in Metro Manila, and while I loved it, it was soon taken off the menu because only a handful of people would order it, and stingray can be hard to come by. I’m crossing my fingers this stays on this menu because this BBQ Stingray with Laksa Rica (₱575) is fantastic. Inspired from his trip to Kuala Lumpur, where Malaysian chefs took Jonas on a food trip around the city, this chargrilled stingray wing is sourced from Palawan, served with laksa rice, with a spicy house sambal and green mango salad. The Malaysian flavors come through and that housemade sambal really does pack a punch. I can’t wait for them to start bottling the stuff!
Jonas’ younger brother loves his lobster, so the Lobster Cheese Butter Noodles (₱1,800) is something for him. This indulgent dish is rich and heavy, with stir-fried egg noodles in a melted, creamy cheese sauce with what I think is more than one slipper lobster. Locally sourced, of course.
For big groups of family and friends, James & Daughters has sharing plates on the menu, like their Instagram-ready 40-Clove Iberian Chicken (₱2,200), which serves up a whole wood-fire oven-roasted Pamora free-range organic chicken in extra virgin olive oil and lots of garlic and roasted potatoes. The meat just falls off the bone and melts in your mouth.
If the aim is to impress, the BBQ Côte de Bœuf (₱3,500) will not disappoint. This monster1kg bone-in prime beef is simply seasoned with sea salt and black pepper before being thrown on the grill to a perfect medium, before being served with morel sauce, mustard, and duck fat fried potatoes.
A growing favorite for the sharing plates is the Pugon Oven Roasted Crispy Skin Pork Belly (₱1,800), and it’s easy to see why. The brick-oven charcoal roasted pork belly is stuffed with aromatics and served with spiced vinegar, fermented mustard leaves, and a mouthwatering Bicol express sauce. The best part about this Filipino porchetta? The skin. The beautiful, blistering, crispy brown skin. Get ready to fight over the crispy parts, the flavorful center, and that sauce!
If all you need is a slice, James & Daughters also has their Crispy Roast Pork Belly with Rice (₱580) on the menu, with the same pugon-roasted herb-stuffed pork belly with Bicol express sauce, fermented mustard leaves, house blend vinegar dip and garlic rice. I really hope they start bottling their Bicol express sauce, ‘coz I want to slather it on everything!
Lastly, a simple, well-executed dish for sharing is the restaurant’s Salt-Baked Red Snapper (₱1,900), made with roasted salt-crusted whole fish stuffed with aromatics, making the delicate meat sing. Served with lime garlic fish sauce with cilantro, this dish is served with mustard leaves so you can wrap a piece of fish in it and dip the little parcel into the fish sauce. Extra servings of rice is optional, but encouraged.
For dessert, my absolute favorite on the menu is Dessert Gils (₱250), the chef’s take on an Eton mess, using a berry sorbet, housemade vanilla ice cream, crumbled nougatine, meringue and raspberry and mango coulis. I can never get enough of this sweet treat.
For the chocoholics, the Fondant Au Chocolat with Vanilla Ice Cream (₱250) is simply put together with hot Belgian chocolate cake with a warm, oozing center, served with their very own housemade vanilla ice cream.
The Suman A La Hasset (₱200) is chef Jonas’ ode to his former partner, patisserie wiz chef Hasset Go. Arranged on a plate are his favorite Filipino desserts: suman with an ube halaya center topped with leche flan and a yema drizzle, with a coconut glaze, coconut sorbet, nougatine, and meringue.
The night ended with a few glasses of Provence wine, surrounded by good friends and fun banter. I’ve never really been one to celebrate another year, so this serendipitous day of eating really good food, indulging in really good wine, surrounded by people who support and love me was all I needed to usher in another year in my life. Thank you, chef Jonas!
James & Daughters by Le Jardin is located on the Ground Floor, of Westin Show Suites, 21st. Drive corner McKinley Parkway, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11am-3pm and 6pm-11pm. For inquiries, please call +63 917 6584.