June 24, 2014

Todd English Food Hall

“Never trust a round pizza.”
- Todd English

In making a perfect pizza, New York-based celebrity chef Todd English believes in three simple principles: 1. "Never too thin and never too rich," 2. "Less is more," and 3. "Never trust a round pizza."

I don’t easily trust words, I trust the real thing. And the only way for me to be swayed by Chef Todd’s third warning is to actually taste his pizza creation, which is never (and will never be) round. So out of curiosity, I found myself one weekend morning amidst the crowd of families and friends in the famed Food Hall in Manila, to taste his pizza, and find out if I should forever turn my back on Shakey’s or Pizza Hut. And my verdict? Later, I’ll get back to that.

One of the exciting things that spiced up this year’s Manila dining scene was the opening of Todd English Food Hall, the first restaurant owned by an international celebrity chef. Chef Todd is the man behind the famed restaurants - Figs in Charlestown, Olives in Las Vegas, and Todd English Food Hall at Plaza Hotel in New York. The Food Hall in Manila is Chef Todd’s first venture outside the US.

The cupcake Ferris wheel is the Food Hall’s center of attraction

Patterned after a posh European food court, the 800-square-meter Manila Food Hall is a replica of the original New York establishment. It has nine food stations (Pasta, Pizza, Grill, Asian, Raw Bar, Carving, Salad, Charcuterie, and Dessert) featuring a mix of European, American and Asian dishes. The dishes are made with only the freshest ingredients, and are prepared right before your very eyes. Despite having live cooking stations, the set-up of the restaurant is sit-down, not buffet, and casual, not strictly formal. It is also not as intimidating as it looks, although you might spot a celebrity dining if you look left and right.

The colorful Pasta Station

An intimate corner for group dining

The wide array of food selection at the Food Hall makes it an ideal destination for families and big groups. Everybody gets the chance to have an exquisite mix of food from around the world on their table.

Fresh bread on display

Tuna tartar

The marinated sushi grade tuna (with some crispy marmalade shrimp) wrapped in fresh, thinly sliced cucumber with scallion cream is a healthy and refreshing start.

Goat cheese ravioli topped with baby beets

I love the symphony of flavors this pasta gives with just the right amount of sweetness and saltiness. It is as appetizing as it looks.

Fig and Prosciutto flat bread pizza

The Todd English experience will never be complete without trying their pizza. Remember, Chef Todd dislikes round pizza. Why? Because he thinks that if the dough is made right, the pizza will never be perfectly round; it should be free-form. Among the eight flat bread pizzas in the menu, it would be best to try the Fig and Prosciutto. The two main ingredients have chemistry. And the fig seeds which are hiding underneath the prosciutto, are personal favorite of Chef Todd, that he even named his high-end pizzeria after this fruit. I only hope that they make a softer crust so that grandmothers could also enjoy the pizza up to the very last bite.

T.E. Pork Chop

The two-day brined double bone Frenched chops served with wilted greens and potato gratin and demi glaze sauce is humongous and sinfully delicious.

T.E. Two Way Duck

I may not be a duck fan but this home-made duck leg confit and sousvide duck breast with sweet potato puree also tastes good. But the pickled red cabbage it is sitting on, I enjoyed much better.

Home made cured Bacon

The lightly smoked cured bacon is soft and tastes sweet. Among the main entrees, children will probably love this, but maybe not as much as they would love the thin crispy bacon from the supermarket.    


There is limited selection of dessert but I assure you, they will make an indelible mark in your palate. S’mores, the freshly-baked chocolate covered Graham crackers with Tahitian vanilla gelato filling, roasted marshmallow and dollops of chocolates tastes wickedly good.

OMG dessert

There are some things in this world you will never believe or enjoy until you tried it first-hand or tasted it for real. Such is the OMG dessert, a molten lava cake topped with chocolate ice cream and chocolate syrup sprinkled with chocolate powdery bits and cocoa balls and embellished with Hershey-shaped chocolate mouse on a chocolate bed artistically brushed on the plate. Six heavenly chocolate flavors exploding in your mouth. A chocolate masterpiece, the OMG is divine!

French macaroons

The Food Hall isn’t only for communal dining; it’s also a party place.

Some of the wine selection of the island bar includes "138 slm" Tenuta Masselina, Barolo, Ductor Merlot, Castellare, Peppoli, and Campedel.

The Food Hall has a corner boutique that sells an eclectic mix of items imported from New York – T.E. cookbooks, home beer brewery set, herbs and spices, coffee beans, and dried candies.

As I leave the Food Hall, the queue of diners waiting to be seated never seem to wane. And even as I roam around Aura, I still can’t easily shake off the T.E. experience. It is unforgettable, maybe epic. Chef Todd really upped the ante on food hall concept in Manila.

Now back to the question. After tasting Chef Todd’s pizza, is it time for me to say goodbye to round pizzas? Um maybe not. But I’m willing to ditch all the chocolate desserts for the OMG. Just maybe.

Todd English Food Hall
5/F Sky Park, SM Aura Premier
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
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