Saturday, January 8, 2011

An Opus to The Amazing Republiq

Just when we decided that we were finally putting the brakes on partying all night (one of our 2011 New Year's resolutions), Resortsworld with its amazing entertainment center that never sleeps got in the way. It's 5 AM and we've just staggered home from an all-nighter that began with dinner and drinks at the newly-opened Opus restaurant and lounge, followed by a marathon club session at Republiq.

There goes the Peking duck...

Admittedly, we got off to a late start. It was hitting 9 PM when we walked into Opus, to find our friends and Shawn, an American visiting Manila and the major investor behind Opus and Republiq, waiting for us at the bar. He was the reason we were all there, actually. Having met him earlier that week, one of our friends had decided to shelve our plans for a Saturday night Peking duck dinner in favor of an infinitely more trendy evening at Shawn's Opus and Republiq. The other draw was that Carlos Miguel, former chef of Sala, a favorite restaurant of ours, and Asia's Second Biggest Loser, was now the Opus chef. We wanted to dine on his cooking. Boy, were we glad we did this instead -- although it was a major, major hangover this morning!

"I've gotten you the best table at Opus and the best table at Opus' bar," Shawn said, by way of greeting. "And we've reserved the Directors' Table for you at Republiq so you'll have some private party space instead of squeezing in with everyone else."

With logistics like that already planned out for us, how could we not have a fantastic evening?

A converted Soho warehouse

The entire space of Opus for its restaurant and bar, is a high-ceilinged cavernous space. The dining area is basically made up of booths lined up along both sides of a long corridor leading to the major party place, the lounge. I can imagine it'd be hard to create a usable flow and a sufficiently intimate atmosphere with a space that might have been a factory warehouse in another location; but here, Opus succeeded and quite cleverly as well. The interiors are very eclectic and so different from anything else in Manila. It made me feel like I was at some hot party place in a converted Soho warehouse in Manhattan.

Small menu, great food

Meanwhile, Opus' food and wine menu aren't large at all. We had a single piece of cardboard for an appetizer and main course menu, and there were only three bottles each to choose from for red and white wine. We had an amazing array of unhealthy beverages last night, but for dinner we decided to start with a bottle each of red and white. For this, the waiter brought in three bottles each to choose from, and without prices, so we just chose our bottles at random. If I had to do a wishlist for Opus, I would ask for a slightly more extensive wine menu.

However, the food menu, small as it is, is adequately varied and very good. I had a salad to start and then beef short ribs done sous vide style as a main. Other friends had the ravioli and the salmon. We were all very happy with our orders, and I especially found the beef short ribs incredibly good. I usually don't finish the food on my plate when I order beef at a restaurant, but last night, I finished every single shred of food on my plate.

Dessert too was a small but adequate list. As always, my eyes gravitated towards the chocolate desserts and I ordered a chocolate fondant. Other people at my table, however, had the pavlova and a raspberry dessert, and I had tastes of these -- next time I go to Opus, I'm certainly ordering one of these instead. The chocolate fondant was good, but the fruit-based desserts were so much better and more refreshing. Chef Carlos Miguel also sent over a passion fruit mousse and ice cream dessert as a gift, and everyone actually liked this the best.

Then we went over to Opus' bar, which is a big cavernous white space. It was done in an extremely cool way and when we walked in, the place was already jumping. It had great lounge music, and it was lots of fun just to sit around and people watch.

The joys of an XO cafe

"Have you ever had an XO Cafe?" Shawn asked. None of us had had it before.

"Great," he said. "I've brought some bottles over from New York, and I'm sure you'll like it."

The waiter brought over a very interesting-looking liqueur bottle which he plunked into an ice bucket, and then lined up a row of shot glasses for all of us. We all had a sip -- it was very good -- and then downed it in one gulp. It had quite a hit but it was sweet and nice; and in Republiq, Shawn sent over another bottle so I think that all in all we must have had about seven or eight shots of XO Cafe each.

Planes and bars

Over shots, we talked about his Travel Life.

"I'm on a plane or flying somewhere probably five days in a week," he said. "So I almost don't have a home. Home is probably the airplane."

Parting of the Red Sea

After midnight, Shawn asked: "So -- are you guys ready for Republiq? You literally have the best table in the house." He led us out of Opus, where a burly security guy was waiting to escort us. "We'll need one of them to get us into Republiq," he told me, as I was walking with him.

He basically owned the place, so then and there I didn't actually get why we needed the security escort to get us into Republiq and to our reserved table. However, as we made our way in, I finally got what he meant. There were so many people in the lobby waiting to get in that the security's main task was to clear the way for us so we could walk in a proper space without jostling with other people. Think of the parting of the Red Sea.

"This is certainly the way to get into Republiq," someone joked. We were led into the side entrance, bypassing the crowds, and then through Republiq and up a narrow flight of stairs to a lone table at the back of the room with an unencumbered view of the entire bar, stage and dance floor.

The view from the top of several hundred people dancing to a digital backdrop was quite amazing.

"This is quite something, isn't it?" Shawn asked me. I nodded. My eyes were still taking everything in.

"Out of all the clubs you own or invest in, which is your favorite club?" I asked him. Shawn and his associates own or are major investors in over 200 clubs around the world -- and they're almost always the hottest clubs in a particular city. They don't do second-rate.

"I have a lot of favorites," he answered. "New York, Miami, LA. But Manila definitely has the friendliest people."

When we finally left Republiq, at 430 AM, the party was still going on and about 300 people were still dancing without a care in the world.

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