Signature Potatoe Fries and a Multi-Awarded Cheesecake Bookend Fernando Alcalá’s Colorful Dining Adventure at Bolero

Ricotta, Green Onion Waffle; and Beef Empanadas. Photo by Kreatives 38. Courtesy of Bolero

Here are other equally delicious dishes from Bolero’s executive chef.

Conversations are commonplace at any meal, especially at ones that encourage it, but at the chef’s presentation in Bolero, Chef Fernando Alcalá ensures that the food commands a place in the discussion. 

Alcalá himself initiates, generously explaining and presenting each course to every table. Every dish piques the interest of both the casual diner and the connoisseur: the appetizers include a crumbly parmesan cookie, followed by waffles which are Alcalá’s take on Chinese scallion pancakes served with a whipped ricotta dip reminiscent of the garlic-yogurt Naan bread dip from Indian cuisine. Upon serving, guests are requested to forego utensils and use their hands. The amuse-bouche accurately teased what was to follow, as Alcalá takes customers on a trip across the world, through dishes teetering between international and local cuisines. Alcalá illustrates his vision as a chef to Vogue Philippines, saying, “I am an adventurer.” 

Chef Fernando Alcalá introduces dishes to the Vogue Philippines team. Photo by Kreatives 38. Courtesy of Bolero
The Bolero restaurant front. Photo by Kreatives 38. Courtesy of Bolero

Alcalá’s journey to becoming a chef was nothing short of an adventure. Prior to receiving his laurels as Chef Revelacion in 2019 at the Madrid Fusion and his restaurant in Spain, Kava, receiving a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide, Alcalá was once a lawyer in Switzerland. After realizing his passion for cooking, Alcalá decided to take the leap to pursue his culinary dreams full-time, first in Spain, and then in Manila. 

Bolero barside interior. Photo by Kreatives 38. Courtesy of Bolero

Embarking on this career change was destiny for Alcalá, who yearned for an avenue to explore his creativity outside the legal profession. “I was so bored with my life, and I wanted a change. So I started to do something completely different. I’m used to doing crazy things.” Alcalá says. “People say, ‘You crossed 50,000 kilometers just to start a restaurant?’ and I say, ‘Why not?’ I’m still young.”

When asked about his creative process in preparing his distinctive cuisine, Alcalá tells Vogue Philippines his culinary secret: it all just comes spontaneously. “I don’t sit down and say, ‘I’m going to make something creative’.” Alcalá says. The chef takes inspiration from everywhere and everything: from his experiences at other restaurants, from books he reads, to scrolling on social media. “I have a pretty good sense of flavors in my head, so when an idea pops out, I just have to write it down and then cook it.”

Duck, gnocchi, satay sauce. Photo by Kreatives 38. Courtesy of Bolero
Skipjack tuna, ajoblanco, grapes. Photo by Kreatives 38. Courtesy of Bolero

Alcalá communicates his unique culinary vision to the world through imaginative, creative dishes. “There are no flavor combinations that are taboo for me. It’s just tasty food, no fuss, but from my point of view.” Alcalá says. His take on the gazpacho is an explosion of texture. The dish, a deconstructed version of the cold soup infused with flavors familiar to the Filipino palate, is made with fresh tomatoes which, according to Alcalá, were sourced from farm to table. “Almost 90% of the menu is Filipino-sourced. Our vegetables are all from an organic farm, so we ensure that everything is super fresh and the flavors are kept intact.” Alcalá says, adding that their meat and fish are also bought fresh.

Black creamy rice, squid, charred greens. Photo by Kreatives 38. Courtesy of Bolero
Iberian pluma. Photo by Kreatives 38. Courtesy of Bolero

One of the other standout dishes is a vegetarian roasted cabbage dish intensely packed with flavor, which the chef notes that he occasionally serves to patrons even just to try. Alcalá expressed his disdain for usual vegetarian options at restaurants, asserting that vegetarians also need to be served dishes that are as flavorful and satisfying as their non-vegan equivalents. “What I hate about [the usual] vegan or vegetarian food are the fake meat substitutes.” Alcalá’s answer to the supposed blandness of these options is to explore creative ways to prepare vegetables. “Just put flavors on them by fermenting ingredients and understanding vegetables the way they should be cooked.” 

Ricotta, Green Onion Waffle. Photo by Kreatives 38. Courtesy of Bolero
Aperol Spritz. Photo by Kreatives 38. Courtesy of Bolero

Throughout his menu, Alcalá subverts expectations of each dish and how their ingredients are supposed to be prepared. A notable highlight is Bolero’s signature french fries: a batch of conceptually pastry-like, melt-in-your mouth potato cubes with a golden brown crunchy exterior. “People who know me in Spain, when they try this kind of food, they know that it’s my kind of stamp.” Alcalá explains the variety of notes that he explores in his dishes. Perhaps the most anticipated dish of the night was the dessert: Alcalá’s signature Spanish cheesecake, which won the award for Best Cheesecake in Spain for two years in a row. What sets this cheesecake apart is its uniquely creamy and runny texture, a departure from its counterparts like the solid New York Cheesecake.

Spain’s Best Cheesecake. Photo by Kreatives 38. Courtesy of Bolero

Bolero’s Spanish Cheesecake was a family recipe that Alcalá soon developed and made his own. “I have been cooking since I was little, and a lot of people in my family are good at cooking, and we enjoy food so much at home. When we gather together, it’s crazy how much we eat.” Alcalá says, noting that his family inspires him in his culinary endeavors. “I’m family-driven, and that’s something good that I like about the Philippines: it’s a very communal, family-driven country. I feel very at home here.”

Coal Roasted Umami Cabbage. Photo by Kreatives 38. Courtesy of Bolero
Signature Potatoe Fries. Photo by Anz Hizon

Starting a restaurant miles away from one’s home could be a challenge, but Alcalá is inspired by the warm reception of patrons at Bolero, and he is determined to keep his menu evolving. “That’s what’s great about [Bolero] because it is developing. Other restaurants will have a menu and retain it for years.” Alcalá says. “I see it as a newborn guy, who recently went to school, who will be sent to high school and then university. It’s a living restaurant. There’s always new things happening.” Alcalá credits his passion for food and service in pushing forward. “I just want to see people having fun,” Alcalá says. “And tonight, you can tell.” 

Left to right: Bolero co-founder Felipe Diaz de Miranda, executive chef Fernando Alcalá, co-founder Luis de Isasa Muñoz. Photo by Kreatives 38. Courtesy of Bolero

If the red dash across the signage of the restaurant is saying anything, it’s that when it comes to food, chef Alcalá is no bolero. With a master at his craft at the helm, everything on the menu is worth trying, if just for the experience itself and the conversations it inspires.

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