BY IDGE D. MENDIOLA
PHOTOGRAPHS BY KAI HUANG
There’s a wall of moth illustrations inside Polilya.
While it goes well with the interiors, it may appear an odd choice to a casual observer. “Polilya actually means ‘moth’ in Tagalog,” owner Ian R. Paradies explains. Then it suddenly makes sense.
Googling common behaviors of moths reveals that they are mostly nocturnal and that they’re closely related to butterflies, except their wings are less flashy and intimidating. That happens to capture quite perfectly what Paradies had in mind for Polilya: “We wanted a place that’s cozy and intimate, where anyone can enter. You can be in shorts and tsinelas or in a suit or dress. You can be a college student, or be in your 60s or 70s,” he says. “And it turned out to be a great conversation starter because a lot of Filipinos did not know what polilya meant.”
Setting up shop in this part of Makati was an easy choice for Paradies, who says he’s been enamored with Poblacion for a while. The slow but sure gentrification of the area has made it arguably the hippest place to be these days, and not just for the millenial set. “It’s the only neighborhood in Manila where you can walk from one venue to another. I love the grittiness of the place, that it’s not perfect. Here, you have the best of both worlds. It’s a neighborhood for everybody. It’s a neighborhood that’s united.”
“A big part of our purpose is to showcase Filipino quality, ingenuity, and products,” says Paradies.
Originally, Paradies’ plan was to open a tasting room (patterned after traditional beer halls in Western countries) for Engkanto Brewery, his beer label. But when his wife Sandra, sister Nina Paradies, and cousin Alex Colombo came onboard, the idea evolved into a fuller concept. “We wanted to offer an experience,” he says. That meant offering not just Engkanto’s craft beer selection but also a bevy of well-crafted drinks. “Our [drinks] menu is divided into four [parts]: classic cocktails, wines, eight beers on tap, and the Enchanted Six.” The Enchanted Six is comprised of various cocktails mixed with beer, specially developed for Polilya by U.S.-based mixologist Priscilla Young.
Gambas Engkantadas (P440) and Ultimate Nachos (P275)
Polilya Burger (P390)
But beyond its mastery of beverages, Polilya also wants to be known for its food. “Our menu allows you to have a full meal,” Paradies says. The menu developed by chef Luis de Terry boasts a well-executed trove of international flavors, with half the dishes infused with beer. The Gambas Engkantadas is a must, with the addition of beer and cilantro transforming the classic Spanish dish into a pleasant surprise. The French onion beer dip makes for a nice starter that can easily be wiped out. And then there’s the hearty Polilya Burger, beef-bacon-beer Bolognese, and fish & chips. It’s the Zen Chicken Nuggets, however, that’s a runaway winner: Imagine morsels of succulent Hainanese chicken coated then deep-fried until crisp. Dunk them in chili, ginger-scallion sauce, and kecap manis, and you’re bound to utter expletives.
Admirable, too, is Polilya’s pursuit to champion all things Filipino. “A big part of our purpose is to showcase Filipino quality, ingenuity, and products,” says Paradies. And this is evident in every corner of the well-outfitted space, from its furniture and artwork to dishes like the Caprese salad that uses kesong puti instead of mozzarella and is drizzled with a balsamic-bagoong reduction.
At a time when dining and drinking options abound, Polilya offers an experience to a market yearning for a good time in a relaxed, welcoming space. “We’re not a bar. We want our clients to come in and feel comfortable,” Paradies says.“We want to make people feel like they’re at someone’s home, rather than another bar or restaurant. You [already] spend the whole day working. When you go out, you just want to relax and have a good time.” Good food and well-made drinks in a laid-back but convivial space—Polilya offers nothing less.
Polilya is located at 5658 Jacobo Street corner Don Pedro Street, Poblacion, Makati.