Tagaytay is a haven for any foodie. Its restaurant scene is considered a mixed bag, with some great options and some not-so-great ones. But this restaurant differs itself by offering delectable dishes that are rich in flavor and in meaning.
The Fatted Calf started as a humble farmhouse kitchen in July 2019 in Silang, Cavite. Previously designed as a home, it was considered an “if you know, you know” restaurant that drew in customers by word of mouth.
During the exclusive media launch, Chefs Jayjay and Rhea SyCip shared with PhilSTAR L!fe the story of how they established their restaurant, why they had to pause, and how it got back to its feet with the help of their patrons.
As a restaurant “built on faith,” the couple took inspiration from a biblical parable of The Prodigal Son, a story of forgiveness, redemption, and love—where it used the fatted calf as a metaphor for celebration. Anchoring on this, the farmhouse kitchen aims to bring people together with every delectable dish, serving both their consumers and local farmers and suppliers.
Upon entering their place, visitors can expect a “homey atmosphere” of their al fresco dining, they also have an open kitchen—which was donated by their loyal patrons—allowing you to see how your food is made.
The early days of the pandemic were indeed a challenge to everyone, especially to those who run a business. Despite being affected as well, Chefs Jayjay and Rhea took this as a chance to build strong relationships with farmers and local suppliers where they source their ingredients.
With a sustainable mindset, the couple chefs shared that they have a greenhouse where they grow their ingredients. In fact, you will find the coffee tree present in the area, which is sometimes used for some of their drinks.
“Whatever is around us, we use,” Rhea quips.
The restaurant offers a wide array of foods—from vegan foods, seafood, and meat lovers—and the menu was curated mostly by Chef Jayjay.
Sharing their process of brainstorming, Chef Rhea told L!fe that they allow the team to be involved in the curating process.
“The team gives their feedback, we allow them to create dishes and then we enhance it,” she said.
For his part, Chef Jayjay shared that they tweak the menu twice a year, considering the seasonal ingredients that they use and replacing them with almost the same taste to ensure that it will still deliver its intended flavor.
Chef Jayjay said that the process to create a menu usually takes a while, especially since they give utmost importance to the ingredients they use.
“Actually, it takes a long time. We come up with it minsan overnight lang, but the longest is ten years, kasi hindi ko makuha ‘yung gusto ko. Because at the end of the day, we create dishes based on the ingredient, ano ba ‘yung capabilities niya, ano ‘yung pwede niya ma-achieve. It’s [like] giving respect to the ingredient, kumbaga [para] hindi ma “baboy,” yung ganun. So, we consider many things—balance, the right flavor, at the same time, giving honor to the ingredient,” he said.
For seafood, my personal pick is the Vietnamese Shrimp balls. For a non-sophisticated palate, it is reminiscent of the all-time crowd favorite meryenda, fishballs—but better. It is topped by homemade fish floss and creamy mayonnaise and the tangy taste of tonkatsu sauce, perfectly curating a literal “ball of sunshine” for the tummy.
If you opt for a quick food run, avail the Galbi Bao and enjoy the soft, savory treat of Ranger's Valley Australian Wagyu filling, it also has shreds of carrots and onion topped with Ssam sauce that completes the savory goodness.
For meat lovers, the Red Curry Beef Pot Roast is a must-try if you want something new. Boasting the goodness of the Batangas beef, the chefs curated it with homemade red spice, flavorful coconut milk, and Benguet potatoes and eggplants among others, giving a varying but complimenting taste and texture.
If you're still looking for Bulalo, The Fatted Calf has its version of it. The Signature Roasted Leg of Beef is made through a slow 10-hour roast, topped with longganisa from Imus, Cavite, with bone marrow for a "surprise" treat. It is accompanied by roasted vegetables that complement beef's rich and savory flavor.
You can conclude the series of delectable dishes with hearty treats to satisfy your sweet tooth. Two cakes that took the spotlight were the Mazapan de Pili Cheesecake which is made with Pili from Naga with creamy cream cheese and caramel that just melts into your mouth. Giving a different taste and texture is Anzac cookies as its crust.
Another is the seasonal treat of Ubi Kinampay which is made with yams from Panglao, layered with fluffy sponge cake and yams. With its simple presentation, the chefs just really let the fresh yam do its magic.
Restarting their humble farmhouse kitchen in a better place and enhanced foods, Chefs Rhea and Jayjay know how they stand out from many restaurants in Tagaytay.
“We [know how to] manipulate it [the ingredients]," Chef Rhea told L!fe, as they select ingredients that are in their prime state every season. "I think that’s what sets us apart because we know how to handle and how to use the ingredients."
Meanwhile, Chef Jayjay said: "Most of the dishes that we have are not common, [it's like] ito ‘yung personality namin, ito ‘yung gusto namin kainin and we just want to share it to other people na ‘this is who we are.'"
He also takes pride in how they were able to develop good relationships with their customers, which they meet out of the latter's curiosity.
"Once they’ve tried it, awa ng Diyos they keep coming back naman, and we’ve developed good relationships with most of our customers as far back as 2019," he said.
Putting back the spotlight on their dishes, the couple chef, along with their team assure you a trip worth taking to Tagaytay with their delectable foods.
"Our ingredients are clean, wholesome, [and] fair," he said.
The Fatted Calf is now located in Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, Barangay Neogan, Tagaytay City. Reservations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner starting June 1, 2023 are now accepted. Call +63 977 6437477 or +63 917 7892352 to reserve or send a direct message on Instagram @thefattedcalf_ph.