Your Local certainly isn’t obscure anymore.
It’s been almost a year since Chefs Denny Antonino and Nicco Santos opened shop in a quiet street in Legaspi Village, serving creative Asian fare. Located in an unassuming building, the restaurant’s facade manifests a speakeasy vibe, like a hidden hangout meant to be found only by those who know of its existence. But in the months since then, the restaurant’s popularity has steadily increased, though somehow the place manages to keep itself subdued.
Your Local is located a few streets away from where I worked last year, but I never got around to visiting it. Determined to end a longstanding bout with such irresoluteness, Johann, Erie and I drop in on a weekend evening to have my early birthday celebration.
Inside, the layout resembles a New York diner. White tiles fill one side of the walls to resemble a subway, and the dim lights hanging above the tables provide just enough light to keep a soft and restrained atmosphere. A steady drone of the diners’ conversations fill the air along with the soft music and the kitchen sounds – oil sizzling, pans clanking and chefs hurling instructions to each other.
The open kitchen not only allows diners to view their orders being prepared, but also keeps in theme of Your Local as a place of interaction, where conversations are organic – even encouraged. Antonino and Santos, as well as the friendly staff, are always ready to answer questions and provide assistance in navigating the menu. Speaking of the menu, it consists of artfully composed small plates of Southeast Asian comfort food, displaying creativity while retaining universal appeal.
Take the soft and filling Beef Rendang Buns, a pair of fried mantous crammed with a sloppy mix of the Indonesian favorite. The spiciness is toned down but the beef is still tender and delicious.
The Chorizo Sandwich is a more filling (and more curious-looking) item, with squid ink bun filled with chorizo patty, fried egg, wild rocket, and pepperoncini cream cheese. The chorizo patty has a bit of a spicy kick, but it’s the generous serving of fries that are unexpectedly addictive.
Tin, our server, recommends the Hebi Hiam as a counterpoint to the burger. The dish takes inspiration from a popular Singaporean condiment, resembling a cross between an Italian seafood pasta and pad thai. I’m not really a fan of seafood, though I appreciate the rich flavor, with prawns, chili, quail eggs, fish cake, and cilantro mixed with the shrimp-based sauce.
The best dishes, however, stick close to the Far East, like the much-hailed Torched Salmon Donburi. This is widely considered as Your Local’s pièce de résistance – roast corn and shiitake black rice topped with crispy salmon skin, mentaiko (marinated roe of pollock and cod) and ebiko (prawn roe). It’s umami goodness in a bowl.
A few dishes stumble, like the Chicken Rice. This Hainanese chicken-inspired dish is actually good taken on its own, but in the midst all the wonderful flavors on the table, it fails to make its mark.
Surprisingly, we still have room for a sweet ending, and we have the Dark Chocolate Earl Grey Cheesecake Ice Cream with Milk Crumbs. It’s actually the only dessert available for the evening, but with chocolate and ice cream to conclude the meal, there’s no point in quibbling.
Your Local was conceived as a hangout place for the people living and working in the area, hence the name. It’s meant to feel like home.
During the meal, Santos approaches. “Enjoy the food,” he says, pouring champagne on our glasses.
We do. And the night as well.