When considering what keeps you coming back to a restaurant, food is hardly the deciding factor. It’s one thing to have a dish satisfy you, but to be compelled to happily sit through it, linger afterwards, and come back to do it again is another thing entirely.
The owners of Made Nice Supper Club know this, and they’ve used it as the groundwork of their now three-month-old restaurant. The group is comprised of five friends, their youth–with no one yet in their 30s–belied by their affiliations to a roster of respected institutions in Hong Kong, New York, and Paris, to name a few. Jack Flores is their head chef, Gabbi Ramos Flores does pastries, Raulito Fores leads their pasta courses, and Toby Panlilio and Wren Go run front-of-house.
Perhaps to the distress of old school chefs who take pride in running a tight ship, what’s immediately noticeable about Made Nice is that they prefer things light and easy. In place of stiff chef’s whites are simple t-shirts and aprons. Any sense of showiness is discarded by menu listings that are simple and straight to the point. And challenging the notion that great food must always be paired with self-important dialogue, they can engage you in earnest conversations peppered with words like “dope” and “dude.”
“We try not to make it too serious here,” Panlilio says. “But once things need to get done, you gotta get it done. There’s a sense of urgency, but there’s also a sense of fun, so people don’t get burnt out. We encourage a friendly environment so everyone’s happy.”
That’s not to say Made Nice runs fast and loose. On the contrary, the ability to stay lighthearted in the thick of dinner rush demonstrates that they are more in control, not less.
In the kitchen, their limited offerings are proof of both their attention to detail and their belief in sticking to what they do best. Until their menu shifts to accommodate the summer months, it currently gives diners a choice of no more than five appetizers, five mains, and two desserts. Whereas a 50-item menu will render a fraction of bestsellers, Made Nice would be hard-pressed to tell you what doesn’t do well.
For the front of house and service, they work to provide the level of attentiveness that defines a memorable dining experience. “It’s more on us being able to properly relay the food. No matter how good the food is that’s coming out of the kitchen, if we don’t know how to serve properly, don’t know how to interact with guests, then it ruins the whole dining experience,” Panlilio says.
In operating this way, they hope to not only give diners a worthy meal, but new insight into what the local dining culture could be: Solicitous servers–who not only remember your name but are ready to engage you in discussions about the dishes–seek to cultivate server-diner relationships that aren’t transactional, but warm and personal; a generous communal table serves to break down the walls that groups build around themselves; and thoughtfully prepared dishes attempt to build an appreciation of the food itself. “I would love to see people eat a little bit slower, really enjoy their food,” says Flores. “You know that gap, that wait between your two courses–it’s a little bit faster here than what we’re used to. I’d like to see them take their time, you know, sip some wine, talk to the person they’re dining with. Come in, enjoy the food, don’t think about anything else.”
The food at Made Nice is certainly worth coming back for. But what will get you is everything else, from service that’s both personal and alert to energy that’s both easy-going and conscientious. – Arianna Lim
Made Nice Supper Club is located on G/F, PPI Building, 109 Esteban Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City
Photos by Patrick Diokno