Mention the name Jose Luis ‘Chele’ Gonzalez and, chances are, the first thing that will come to mind is the wonderfully curated and prepared anthropological cuisine that has become his stock in trade at Gallery VASK in Bonifacio Global City.
Gonzalez’s dishes combine local ingredients with impeccable technique—a quality that reflects the chef’s training with some of the world’s masters of gastronomy, an elite roster that includes the legendary father-daughter team of Juan Mari Arzak and Elena Arzak Espina. It is, thus, not surprising that Gallery VASK was hailed among Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants for two years in a row, placing 39th in 2016 and 35th in 2017. But this also begs the question: where does a genius of Gonzalez’s calibre go from here? For that, you have to look towards the Queen City of the South where Enye by Chele Gonzalez serves up exquisite Spanish flavours as the sun goes down.
Located at the Crimson Resort and Spa-Mactan in Cebu, Enye takes its name from the letter ‘ñ’ which appears in both the Spanish and Filipino alphabets—a lingering symbol of the impact Spanish colonisation has had on local culture and tradition. Here, diners can see a different side of Gonzalez: one that plays up his own culinary heritage from Spain.
“[At Enye], I want to feature honest, authentic flavours,” he says. “The food here is not fancy, nor is it fine dining. It’s just good food you can enjoy with family and friends.”
Indeed, the space occupied by the restaurant can best be described as comfortable and convivial. The main dining area is wide and spacious with magnificent views of the resort down below; it doubles as an excellent observation deck for lovely coastal sunsets and, on special occasions, glittering fireworks lighting up the night sky.
The interiors have a pronounced masculine feel: wood and stone are the dominant materials, while the exposed beams of the high ceiling call to mind a hunter’s cabin. But it is far from being intimidating thanks to numerous design accents that add a merry, whimsical touch: there are black pigs—possibly a visual play on the famed, black-skinned Ibérico pigs that are turned into jamón Ibérico—in the décor: heavy paperweights at each table, cast-iron doorstops out front, and a ceramic sculpture that greets guests at the door. Star-like lighting installations on the walls as well as soft, ambient lighting also add cosy warmth. The in-house wine storage and charcuterie rooms are glass-walled, giving diners a clear look at what goes into their meals; likewise, the open kitchen where Gonzalez’s chef de cuisine Ivan Saiz Sordo holds sway adds further visual interest.