Ignite the palates at Kubô’s woodfired kitchen
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Filipino food is, at best, lumped in with sisigs, lechons and Jollibee—great meals, by the by, but those were my overview of what the Philippines has to offer. How incredibly myopic of me to think that a country with 7,000-plus islands would have this narrow of a food language.
Kubô illuminates the world of Filipino cuisine. Named after the thatched huts that litter the Philippine countryside, the restaurant is the brainchild of chef Kurt Sombero—formerly from Impressions Restaurant; Restaurant André; Burnt Ends. With a menu that’s inspired by his Filipino upbringing, Sombero started on the right foot by outfitting the beating heart of Kubô—the kitchen—with a pugon.
The pugon is the traditional brick oven reminiscent of his grandmother’s kitchen. Chef Sombero’s pugon is custom-made and utilises the energy of the fire. There’s a cast iron on top; an elevation grill that controls the heat applied to the meats; the smoke emitted is funnelled to a smoker. Seat yourself by the open kitchen and you’re privy to the artistry of wood-fired cooking as each evening, a tonne of ironbark is set aflame to smoke, steam and grill your meals.
We start with the Homemade Cassava Chips served with tobiko, smoked eggplant and miso dip, before moving on to the Honeycomb Tripe—crunchy braised beef tripe that’s seasoned with paprika and a spicy chickpea purée for dipping—and the Inasal Mid-Wings, smoked and grilled chicken mid-wings with atchara and annatto sauce. With the wings, the smokiness of the pugon comes to the fore.
Sisig came next. Instead of pig ears, as the traditional dish calls for, smoked pork cheek was used. One that’s hand-chopped, caramelised and seasoned in salted egg sauce and pepper. Because there isn’t the crunch from the lack of cartilage that pig ears would have, each bite goes down easy with the house-made flatbread.
For a delightful kick, we had the Prawns that are butterflied, bathed in a coconut sauce and heightened with bird’s eye chilli and kaffir lime. Then, the Pork Longganissa, which is based on a beloved Filipino breakfast classic of sweet sausages. Sombero’s version is a grilled hamonado (you marinate and cook the meat in pineapple juice); naked pork patty that’s marinated in soy and served with ikura, cured egg and toasted bread. It’s packed with flavour and very rich. We could have stopped right there but greed dragged us into the next dish which is the House-Aged Duck, which comes with aged duck breast that’s grilled and duck leg confit. Carrot purée and broccoli break up the brownness of the plating.
The evening ends with Kubô’s contemporary take on traditional Filipino desserts. The signature Halo Halo boasts ube ice cream, creamy coconut and light meringue. Served in a coconut husk, it is set alight—the coconut fibres catch fire and sizzle into a wisp. We also had the Leche Flan Bon Bon, which gives you white chocolate that’s vanilla-filled and topped with a smoked blueberry. There’s a liquorice aftertaste with the smoked blueberry, which gave another interesting profile to it. We had the bon bon sans blueberry and it tasted like… well, what a bon bon would taste. Stick with bon bon with the smoked blueberry; best to have the totality of the experience, if you ask me.
It is said that ‘home is where there is food on the hearth’ and you feel the hospitality at Kubô through each mouthful, with the warming of the gut.
Or maybe that’s just the fire from the pugon.
80 Mohamed Sultan Road,
01-12 The Pier at Robertson,
Tel.: +65 9645 8436