Comfort doesn’t always go well with change, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at The Girl and The Bull. In the restaurant’s former home in Parañaque, The Girl and the Bull drew in hungry patrons for its fresh take on comfort food. Think buttermilk fried chicken and faux Twix for dessert.
When the restaurant immigrated to Makati, owners Gab Bustos and Thea de Rivera felt the need for reinvention. After spending a few months in the restaurant’s new home, they realized that they wanted to do something different; what they wanted to do exactly was what they had to figure out.
“It was something we had to go through,” says Gab, who commandeers the kitchen as chef. He shares that they wanted to maintain the difference between The Girl and the Bull and their other restaurant 12/10. “[But] it was essential to see how they’re connected to each other. It’s made by the same set of hands.”
It finally dawned on Gab and Thea that they wanted to maintain the same Japanese technique that had made 12/10 so successful, but also stay true to what The Girl and the Bull was known for: comforting, hearty meals. The compromise ended up being a fusion of Japanese and Korean, in which the meal and presentation is Korean, but the dishes are tweaked with Japanese technique.
The result is a lush banchan spread, meant to be ordered en masse. (Ordering a la carte is also an option.) Each order includes bowls of kimchi, baby corn, blanched spinach, and shiitake mushrooms—among others. Partnered with them are two mains: mackarel with kombu buttermilk and herbs and fried chicken with ginger, honey, and burnt onions, along with two bowls of rice.
“The thing with banchan is that people think they’re appetizers, but they’re actually some sort of seasoning for your mains,” explains Thea. “Each banchan represents a different flavor profile. If you want something spicy, you go for the red kimchi. If you want to add texture to your main, you have the anchovies.”
The result of The Girl and the Bull’s renaissance reveals that very little has changed in the spirit of the place—its beloved elements are all there, simply rearranged into nifty little bowls. Perhaps the greatest addition are some new flavors introduced and the sense of democracy that each meal will allow. How your food will taste depends entirely on how you eat your banchan and mains in tandem.
The Girl and the Bull may have gone through a bit of change, but it remains to be one of the most exciting places to eat in the city, simply because it has maintained its sense of fun. Apart from the food, the space itself has allowed a bit of novelty: a new logo, a scene-stealing mural, and the perfect soundtrack to a good meal. Change and comfort may not always go hand in hand, but at The Girl and the Bull, they seem to have formed the right combination. —Marga Buenaventura
Photos by Patrick Diokno
The Girl + The Bull is located at Grand Midori, Bolanos Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City.