Orosa is the highly awarded restaurant’s summer pop-up.
While Toyo Eatery is closed for renovations, you still have until May 14 to visit Orosa, the restaurant’s summer pop-up at the Balmori Suites in Power Plant Mall, Rockwell. Toyo has been trying something different with Orosa, serving an a la carte menu inspired by clubhouse cuisine—think baked oysters, cheese sandwiches and Wellingtons—done Toyo style, highlighting Filipino ingredients in innovative and sustainable ways.
If soy sauce is the Toyo team’s spirit condiment, banana ketchup is their muse. “When we said yes to opening here, we looked into how Rockwell names their buildings, and it’s usually national artists,” says Miguel Ortega, communications head. “So we thought of someone significant for us in the industry, which is Maria Orosa.”
Orosa was a Filipino food scientist who died in the Battle of Manila in 1945 and whose numerous achievements have long been overlooked. Her life has been celebrated only recently in international media as a result of the diaspora’s renewed interest in banana ketchup, Orosa’s most ubiquitous invention and her answer to the problem of importing the more expensive tomato variant. After studying in the United States, Orosa turned down a job offer to return to the Philippines to help her own country become more self-sufficient in food production. The scientific techniques she learned in the US were applied to Philippine ingredients and adapted to the local context.
The pop-up menu similarly takes merienda-friendly clubhouse dishes and gives it a Filipino spin. The kesong puti sandwich, for instance, is made up of deep-fried slabs of kesong puti placed between heavily buttered slices of bread, served with a side of kamote chips dusted with malunggay powder. Accompanied by a dollop of banana ketchup aioli, with the ketchup mashed from Tarlac-grown bulkan bananas.
For devoted fans of the Asia’s 50 Best restaurants, the Toyo DNA is thoroughly embedded in the dishes and in the way they approach making food. The Orosa pop-up makes a Toyo dining experience more accessible to casual diners who don’t want to commit to a lengthy degustation menu.
It’s also new experience for Team Toyo, who have been used to running dinner services for years. “It’s fun, in the sense of it’s something we’ve never done before,” says Miguel. “When you’re in the Toyo kitchen, pretty much everything is controlled. You get a set menu, you know what’s coming. Here, it’s more, I wouldn’t say chaotic, but since it’s a la carte, people are doing different things. So it’s great practice for the kitchen and for the house.”
Even as the pop-up winds down, Toyo hopes for the story of Maria Orosa to remain alive in our minds. A freedom fighter to the end, she was twice a victim of American shelling. She died in obscurity but left behind a trove of recipes and inventions and a legacy of patriotism, ingenuity, and the enduring Filipino love for sweet spaghetti.