The Olive Tree Kitchen and Bar (OTKB) is Manila’s first antipasti bar and the collaboration between Chef Rob Pengson (of the Goose Station fame) and the Del Monte Corporation. Chef Rob and his team are livening up the local food scene with original antipasti dishes that take diners to interesting and creative new directions, while paying homage to Italian traditions. These dishes are designed to pair with your drink of choice, whether it’s a simple glass of wine, an ice-cold beer, or one of their original cocktails.
OTKB, located at Bonifacio High Street
The plural term for antipasto, antipasti make up the first course of an Italian meal. While traditional antipasti usually vary depending on the region of Italy, popular items include cured meats, olives, and cheeses. You will find these ingredients on the OTKB menu, but they are given an unexpected twist via modern cooking methods or inventive pairings.
Prosciutto and Taleggio Panino
The Prosciutto and Taleggio Panino (P220) is a decadent sandwich made up of prosciutto curdo, pan seared mushrooms, sous vide egg, and cognac mustard. While it’s listed as an antipasto, it could easily be a meal itself. Visually, the panino is a lot to take in, but the flavors of the dry-cured ham, sous vide egg, and pungent Taleggio come together beautifully and create a very memorable sandwich. If anything, your hips will definitely remember it.
Perhaps because Filipinos love rice and fried food, the Saffron Arancini (P210 for the Risotto Pomodoro, P230 for the Fennel Sausage Ragu) is another favorite. An arancini is basically a stuffed rice ball that is battered and fried. OTKB’s version is lighter that most of the ones found locally, and is served with a tangy tomato sauce.
Despite its delicate presentation, the Sea Urchin Bruschetta (P275) packs a lot of flavor. It’s a bit tricky to eat without making a mess, as the toasted bruschetta is cut lengthwise and the serving of urchin is a bit more than a mouthful. Crumbs aside, this is still a great dish to go with any of the signature OTKB cocktails such as the Ginger-Lychee Mojito (P250), Velvet Corset (P290), and the Manila Mule (P250). While the drinks are not traditionally Italian, they do go well with the progressive menu. Lychee lovers will adore the light and refreshing mojito while those who love citrusy drinks will prefer the Manila Mule. While the previous two drinks are mild, the cognac in the Velvet Corset gives a stronger kick.
Sea Urchin Bruschetta
Of course, what is an Italian restaurant without a pizza? OTKB’s brick oven produces a chewy, crunch crust for its toppings, which range from the classic Pepperoni (P390) to the more adventurous Apple, Gorgonzola, and Walnuts (P420). The pizzas are best eaten hot so you can enjoy the light crunch of the crust and the delicious, gooey cheese. The pepperoni version contains pomodoro sauce, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella bufala, basil, and a drizzle of olive oil. The sweet and savory apple, Gorgonzola, and walnut pizza also contain steeped dates, braised red cabbage, raisins, and spicy arugula.
Apple, Gorgonzola, and Walnuts
While the Olive Tree Kitchen and Bar is pushing for smaller plates to share over drinks, they also accommodate the lunch and dinner crowd. They have a long list of popular Italian dishes that will satiate one’s craving. One of them is the Mushroom Alfredo (P350), spaghetti pasta with pancetta, porcini mushroom dust, smoked ricotta, and fried mushrooms. Creamy pastas are perennial Filipino favorites and this dish is no exception. Despite its rich-sounding ingredients, this is lighter than many other cheese and cream concoctions.
If you’re looking for more protein-heavy fare, then look no further than the Rib-Eye Bistecca (P2,890), which is 650 grams of certified Angus Beef, homemade French fries, two fried eggs, a green salad, steak relish, and a decadent bone marrow sauce. This behemoth was made for sharing, but people are welcome to take it down on their own, provided they are of sound mind and stomach. While the steak is cooked according to one’s preference, when done medium-rare, the beef is tender, juicy, and very flavorful with a good crust. Together with the thick-cut fries and fried eggs, this is definitely a meal for champions.
If you have room for dessert, popular choices include the Lemon Cheesecake (P210) and the Upside Down Pineapple Cake (P195). The cheesecake is tangy and sweet, with a delicious layer of lemon curd that cuts through the richness of the cake. Pineapple lovers will love the surprisingly light and creamy upside down cake, which features the popular Del Monte fruit. If you want a dessert with a kick, then the OTKB cocktail Chocolate Alexander (P290) is the one for you. Served in a mug, this frozen hot chocolate is made up of cognac, chocolate, cream, and toasted marshmallows. This milkshake for grown-ups will not only satisfy your sweet tooth, but also take the edge off after a long day.
Upside Down Pineapple cake
When you’ve got a company like Del Monte as a partner, you can expect a lot of farm-fresh ingredients to play with. Chef Rob Pengson and his team do just so, making Manila’s first antipasti bar a must for food lovers!