How did we get here?
Executive chef Jonathan Villar brings influences from the Philippines and Asia as well as his experience as head chef at Kopapa, where he learned a lot about fusion cooking from Peter Gordon – who he describes as the father of fusion.
Now, he is opening his own restaurant in Soho called Gamma Gamma, which will serve a menu of dishes designed for sharing and include showstoppers featuring exotic meats.
“I decided to open a pan-Asian tapas restaurant because I love the idea of small plates and sharing plates. It’s in our culture as I grew up in the Philippines and there we share everything on the table,” he tells Food Spark.
What’s different about it?
The unique meats like zebra, ostrich and kangaroo, which are sourced from South Africa and Australia. These are offered alongside Asian takes on desserts like banana toffee spring roll with miso ice cream and toasted peanuts.
Villar says that game meats are becoming trendy because of their quality, as well as being lean and rich in flavour. (They are even popping up in ready meals these days.)
“As a chef, I try to evolve my style of cooking and experiment and use different ingredients. That’s why I use these exotic meats,” he explains. “I really love using them because they are lean and healthy, and cooking-wise it’s both exciting and challenging. I needed to find the perfect way of using it and the right spices and flavours that will go with it.”
The menu features everything from meat to seafood and salads. There are dishes like the jungle curry with minced ostrich loin, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime and Thai chillies; tiger prawns and coconut Thai ceviche; and an Asian take on tuna nicoise with seared nori tuna loin, baby gem lettuce, soft-boiled egg, truffle potato, green beans and cherry tomatoes, served with edamame, kalamansi and togarashi (chilli pepper) vinaigrette.
Villar’s favourite, though, is the venison done two ways: one piece of meat cooked for eight hours, wrapped in puff pastry and baked, the other served with a cream sauce and haggis – a Scottish and Asian fusion.
You’ve got to try…
The dish that Villar says he was scared to put on the menu initially but has turned into one of the bestsellers during the Gamma Gamma’s soft launch.
The zebra loin tataki is plated with charred grapes, popcorn, sake-cured egg, sriracha jelly and orange blossom labneh.
“Since we started trading, every table orders it because of the curiosity factor. People can’t find this at the supermarket,” he says.
Tataki is a traditional fish dish in Japan, where Villar first ate it. The memorable flavours inspired his carpaccio-style zebra.
Sparkie also likes…
The kangaroo steak ‘tagalog,’ a Filipino-style steak marinated in soy with kalamansi, garlic and black pepper, served with caramelised onion and garlic chips.
Interestingly, kalamansi seems to be having a bit of a moment. Waitrose just introduced kalamansi juice from South East Asia into its Cooks’ Ingredients range, while new Filipino restaurant Kinilaw & Buko is making its version of ceviche by combining palm vinegar and kalamansi juice to ‘cook’ the raw fish.
Seabass and basil leaf Scotch egg sounds like the right kind of wrong.