As much as anyone, I’m longing for the return of nights out when we can enjoy drinks while in the middle of a crowd. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who sorta, kinda misses getting jostled a bit by a not-so-sweaty rando.) If the trade-off for reuniting with our favorite bars after quarantine is seeing them transform into restaurants, then I’m all for the change.
Take Yes Please, for example. Since the ’90s kid-haven-slash-dive-bar co-owned by Erwan Heussaff opened in 2017, it has charmed its regulars with its kitschy-meets-classy decor and cozier atmosphere compared to its more boisterous neighbors at The Palace. Its French ceilings paired with graffitied walls, neon lights and shelves stacked with VHS tapes make it look like a cross between a speakeasy and the basement rec room of your dreams.
While it retained its character, it also added safety measures such as protective barriers and an al fresco dining option on the terrace overlooking The Island Outdoor Bistro (Yup, you read that right. It’s a bistro now). Guests are required to wear PPE like medical face masks and constantly monitored to adhere to social distancing protocols both inside and out on the terrace. Another thing that’s out? The days of table-hopping. But since each table comfortably seats four, you probably wouldn’t need to. They also have two waitstaff teams that regularly undergo swab tests for added measure.
However, the biggest change that accompanies the bar’s re-opening is its amped-up menu. Even before sprucing it up for a heartier dine-and-drink experience, the ever-changing and reference-filled menu already featured dishes conceptualized by The Palace Manila’s head chef Mikko Reyes who has also lent his talents to Hungry Hound. “The dishes I created with the help of my sous chef, Ron Cruz, are based on food that we both like to eat and have tried and tasted from other countries but just adding our own personal takes on them,” says chef Mikko. The transition into a restaurant feels less like a loss and more like a natural progression. Now, the menu features new additions that add to its already varied flavors.
From their main dishes, you can now try the Wagyu Smashburger if you want a pub classic with a twist. The burger (which you can ask to be cut into portions since every dish is big enough for sharing) combines a Wagyu beef patty with cheddar, white onion, burger sauce, brioche bun and fries. But for those in the mood for a more traditional Asian dish, the Pares Pancit is a good choice that pairs tender beef shank with egg noodles, anise soy, bokchoy, pickled onion and chili garlic. You also can’t go wrong with their signatures such as the savory Menchi Katsu Curry made with minced meat katsu, cheddar, black mussels and white rice.
A number of dishes are rich and are best complemented with the bar’s array of playful cocktails. The drink menu is made up of light and heavy delights. Jurassic Park is a tropical and refreshing drink that might be the closest some of us can get to the beach right now. It mixes Hennessy VS with Becherovka, basil, pineapple juice, lemon juice, burnt coconut syrup and egg. If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, Home Alone is a must-try that’s made up of Suntory Kakubin, Kahlúa, espresso and salted caramel syrup. You can probably tell from its name that it tastes like Christmas and, really, when is that ever a bad thing?
Chef Mikko tells us that the bar is also working on a separate bar chow menu so you can expect more exciting additions soon. It seems a plan to revert into a bar isn’t in the pipeline, at least for now. If other bars and clubs have undergone similar transitions, we might have to get used to this version of the nightlife in years to come—a more subdued, sit-down affair.