Before its name was changed, Jorge Bocobo St. was known as Nebraska St. The street, much like most streets in the charming district of Malate before the 2nd World War ravaged Manila, was lined with splendid turn-of-the-century homes and early American colonial abodes surrounded by expansive lawns and gardens. Stately acacia and narra trees stood in rows along the pavement. On Sunday mornings, families drove in automobiles, or walked in their best garments to hear mass at the magnificent Malate Church. Back then, life was leisurely and pleasurable.

Derived from the old street Nebraska, BRASKA restaurant is a paean of sorts to the lost charm and elegance of Manila’s famed district. Located along Jorge Bocobo St., BRASKA Restaurant aims to bring back the warmth and cordiality of the old Malate through the comforting flavors of familiar favorites in an ambience that has a relaxing, loungey vibe.

“We felt that there was something missing in the market, not necessarily in terms of Filipino food, but more options that expressed the spirit of Malate as it was,” says BRASKA restaurant brand director Mark Abellon. Although a number of restaurants continue to serve loyal customers, Mark feels that a large market of those who live and work in Malate long for the flavors of Filipino comfort food.

He adds, “Comfort food is food that is familiar. It satisfies not just a longing for flavors people grew up with, but also the desire for the comfort and warmth of family, of home, and of friendships. And that’s what we hope to encourage in our customers—a feeling of ease, well-being and happiness. That was the appeal of Malate before.”

BRASKA restaurant’s menu is list of popular treats that will take one on a nostalgic trip to the familiar flavors and aromas of home, a favorite café or restaurant, or the kitchen of a well-loved grandmother or aunt.

The menu includes classic dishes such as Roast Chicken, Baby Back Ribs and Paella. Those with a truly hearty appetite and a hankering for traditional Filipino food will get their cravings satisfied with generous servings of Pinakbet, Laing, Caldereta and Crispy Pata.

Pasta lovers can choose from an array of sauces such as Pesto, Creamy Pesto, Wild Mushroom, Carbonara, Bolognese and Bangus Sardines, Sandwich choices, served with Camote Fries, include the classic Clubhouse, Grilled Cheese, Chicken Salad and Tuna. Rice Bowl choices include such popular toppings as Tinapa, Chicken & Pork Adobo, Lechon Kawali, and Chinese Sausage.

Creativity, being one of BRASKA’s guiding principles, means the menu incorporates traditional dishes presented in wonderfully novel ways. Many Filipinos know the sweet and tart flavor of guava jelly on warm bread, so Executive Sous Chef Poch Hogar decided to put it in the menu to stir the memory and inspire the taste buds. “One of the specialties of the restaurant is the Guava Jelly French Toast. It’s something that you won’t find in other restaurants,” she says. What it is is French Toast filled with sweet-tangy guava jelly and served with cream cheese and bacon. “There are certain foods that you want to eat if you’re sad and feeling down. For me guava jelly has the ability to brighten up the day.”

Another one of BRASKA’s unique offerings is the Bangus Sardine Pasta: house-made milkfish sardines prepared aglio olio (garlic olive oil) and scooped over pasta. “Bangus sardines are so typically Filipino that you can find it just about anywhere—in grocery stores and supermarket shelves. But it’s not something Filipinos would normally put in a pasta dish. That can only be found and enjoyed here at Braska,” notes Chef Hogar. The delicate flavor of bangus and the aromatic sauce makes this a heartwarming treat.

While avocado is a staple in many Filipino homes when it’s in season, the fruit is often served as a dessert—mashed with milk and sugar, and frozen inside the freezer. Chef Hogar puts a twist on this old favorite by turning it into the refreshing Shrimp Avocado Salad drizzled with the piquant Cilantro Lime Dressing. She also tweaked the much-loved waffle by using chocolate made of tablea. The result is waffles made more sinful with the full-bodied flavor of choice cacao.

Abellon is particularly pleased with BRASKA’s Calamansi Tart. For this, the calamansi custard is smoothed over golden crust, then dusted with confectioner’s sugar and topped with ripe mango slivers. Its tangy taste soothes the taste buds and refreshes the appetite. “I don’t really know of any restaurant that serves calamansi tart. The main ingredient is something very usual but we present it in a different way,” he says.

Indeed, BRASKA restaurant’s menu communicates an initiative to create a balance between the old and the new. With a few and subtle innovations on traditional and popular Filipino food, BRASKA is able to come up with dishes that have a nostalgic flavor yet still presents a spirit of freshness and novelty.

Notes Abellon: “We wanted to introduce something that’s still Pinoy but with little tweaks here and there so that it’s also appealing to foreign guests. We thought of the two different markets—the Filipino foodie who finds comfort in familiar Filipino flavors and foreigners raring to sample the local cuisine—and find a comfortable compromise in between.”

Not surprisingly, the restaurant’s ambience evokes a casual air. The color of stone, punctuated by a few decorative wall installations makes for a relaxing ambience perfect for a slow and relaxing family lunch or dinner. In the afternoon, it offers a cool and quiet space for coffee and cake. At night, the low lights invite intimate dinners, or an unhurried drink at the bar, or cocktails with friends.

“BRASKA is a comfortable space that inspires conversation and a good time—whether one is with the family, a few friends, a business associate, or with someone special.

The neutral color scheme and streamlined furnishings represent BRASKA’s modern but relaxing essence. It’s a space that also expresses the spirit of the food we serve: flavors that allow one to be relaxed and feel delightfully at home,” says Abellon

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