Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Soul of Spanish and Mediterranean Cuisine Shines at Alma Restaurant Poblacion

Modern and inventive yet familiar and even nostalgic, Chef Luis Martinez shares the rich flavors of his heritage and childhood in a quiet spot of Makati's eclectic Poblacion neighborhood. Originally based in Siargao, the island's emerging and fast-rising culinary star was temporarily dimmed by typhoon Odette. But that's just the beginning of the story, as Chef Luis Martinez transports you to his sun-soaked memories of Spain and Siargao once more served in each small plate of tapas, sumptuous paellas and cocktails at the Makati neighborhood's newest dining destination. 

From Siargao to Manila, Chef Luis Martinez shares his inspired and deeply personal take on hearty Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine at Alma Poblacion with an extensive menu of tapas frias, tapas calientes, savory mains, paella, pasta and desserts alongside handcrafted cocktails. Just like his original restaurant in Siargao, Alma Poblacion is neatly tucked away in a quieter and secluded part of the busy neighborhood exuding the very same feel and vibe. It's here where Chef Luis invites you to go deeper into the intricate and flavorful layers of Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine revealing both the heart and soul of one of the world's enduring culinary traditions. 

Deep inside Poblacion along Fermina and Enriquez Streets, a flight of steps leads you Alma Poblacion. Finding it is part of the charm for Poblacion's newest restaurant...

The name of the restaurant is inspired by the Spanish word for "soul" which defines the culinary style and approach of Chef Luis Martinez with the freshest ingredients and masterful execution for real and honest flavors from his Spanish hometown of Valencia. It's the same philosophy that made his restaurant a top dining destination in Siargao and loyal customers will be glad to know they can now enjoy the same flavorful richness right here at Poblacion.

Inside Alma Poblacion, the warm earthy tones of the original Siargao location are faithfully recreated in an elegant and modern space...

...highlighted by the bar. The neutral and calming warmth of wood tones, stone, tile and woven materials combine for that distinctive island flair elevated with a clean and contemporary look. Natural light from the wide window panels drape the interiors with a lingering glow setting the mood for a sumptuous Spanish and Mediterranean feast. 

Simply pick your spot...

...and let Chef Luis and his culinary team whisk you off to the sun-kissed beaches of Siargao and the sunny countryside of Valencia. 

Fresh from the success of Terraza Martinez in BGC, Chef Luis embarks on yet another chapter in his culinary journey with Alma Poblacion offering another glimpse of his creative culinary repertoire of Spanish and Mediterranean dishes. 

Fresh baked ciabatta and a tart tomato salsa opens up the palate for the savory tapas and entrĂ©es from Alma Poblacion's menu. 

Alma Poblacion opens at 5pm, and it's always a good idea to come early to beat the traffic. It's also a good time to enjoy a freshly brewed hot Cafe Mocha (P 220) as you slowly take in the neighborhood vibe. Poblacion has always been at the top of any list with its diverse array of dining options. The addition of Alma Poblacion to its colorful tapestry of flavors is a welcome development to the neighborhood solidifying its position as one of the metro's top destinations. 

From the Tapas Frias or Cold Small Plates Menu, Alma Poblacion teases first your eyes before the palate with an intricately plated starter...

The ornately plated Roasted Smoked Duck Breast (P 520) with thinly sliced cold cuts of smoked duck breast, capers, infused cherry tomatoes, EVOO demi sauce and silky smooth tuna mayonnaise is an impressive start to your Alma Poblacion dining experience. The thin slices of roasted duck breast are intricately arranged on the plate with the cherry tomatoes and capers adding even more color and flavor to the dish. 

The decadent savory richness of the duck breast lingers long on the palate followed by gentle hints of smoky notes and the subtle nutty richness of the EVOO demi sauce smoothened by the tuna mayo for a flavorful depth. The cherry tomatoes and capers brings a contrasting sharpness to the medley of flavors tempering the richness of the roasted duck for an elegantly balanced finish. This has to be one of the most creative renditions of duck breast yet. The dish clearly reflects the harmonious blend of flavors with each distinct note complementing the other in a style that made Chef Luis and his restaurant a top destination in Siargao. Now you can enjoy it here at Poblacion. And that's just one of many delightful surprises from the kitchen of Alma Poblacion

Other must-try Cold Small Plates include the Angus Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio (P 520), Yellowfin Tuna Carpaccio (P 650), Roasted Tomato Tartare & White Anchovies (P 360), Alma Chicken Mango Salad (P 420) and Hamachi Crudo (P 560). 

The Wild Mushrooms Confit & Gruyere Cheese (P 380) with mery sauce and fried peanuts is another tasty number, this time from the Tapas Calientes or Hot Small Plates menu selection of Alma Poblacion. The deep earthy and clean notes of mushrooms are enhanced by the richness of the Gruyere with the fresh buttery, garlicky and bright lemon hints with parsley of the classic Spanish mery sauce completing the flavors. 

This dish is driven by pure flavors from each of the different ingredients, and Chef Luis is deliberate when it comes to maintaining the purity of each ingredient's flavors in another well executed dish. 

Alma Poblacion offers a variety of hot savory tapas from the traditional "Old SchoolGambas Al Ajillo (P 695), Gorgonzola & Spinach Croquetas (P 220), Roasted Charcoal Octopus (P 685), Boquerones Fritos (P 220) and Stuffed Meat Piquillo Peppers (P 550) to modern renditions like the Black Tempura Barramundi (P 350), Camembert & Smoked Bacon Bombs (P 550) and inventive taco creations like the Black Bass Taco (P 385) and Grilled Pork Belly Taco (P 220). 

For the main course, the Black Seafood Paella & Fried Baby Squid (P 720 good for two) topped with fresh spring onions and a side of aioli was presented and served. It's a dish Chef Luis knows by heart and part of his childhood in Valencia. At the young age of thirteen, Chef Luis was encouraged by his father to sell paella in the neighborhood lighting up an entrepreneurial spirit. 

At first glance, you may think it's a minimalist approach to the classic paella with squid ink rice, fried baby squid, spring onions and aioli. But one bite followed by another spoonful are all you need to know this paella has more than enough components in the mix without the need for additional and often superfluous ingredients. A fresh squeeze of lemon and a dab of creamy aioli are all you need. 

The play on contrasting textures and deep, intense notes tease the palate yet it all comes together seamlessly with each bite. The fried baby squid brings a delectable crunch followed by a fresh burst of briny sweetness while the spring onions and lemon tempers the richness of the squid ink. 

In between bites, the Triple Berry Iced Tea (P 150) with subtle hints of ginger cleanses the palate with its mild and tart sweetness preparing your palate for more round of tasty bites. 

From the soft and moist Bomba rice with squid ink down to the delicately crisp and scorched socarrat at the bottom of the paellera, the Black Seafood Paella & Fried Baby Squid is spot on with its richness and textural contrasts. 

Other paella options at Alma Poblacion include the Prawns Carpaccio Seafood Paella (P 850), Paella Valenciana Con Alcachofas (P 995), Presa Iberico Sobrasada Paella (P 1,380) and the Beef Ribs & Wild Mushroom Paella (P 2,690). Each order takes roughly 35 minutes, just enough time to enjoy a couple of savory Tapas Frias (cold small plates) or Tapas Caliente (hot small plates). The specialty paellas at Alma Poblacion are available in a noodle base or Fideua and the traditional Bomba rice base. 

For dessert, Chef Luis Martinez draws inspiration from nostalgic childhood flavors with the Roasted Caramelized Pumpkin (P 220) drizzled with wild honey and served with cinnamon ice cream. It's a deceptively simple indulgence with a whole slice of pumpkin drizzled with wild honey and then baked for that caramelized finish. I'm told that Chef Luis pulled out a page from his childhood to recreate this old nostalgic favorite. One bite and I can see why Chef Luis added this to the menu adding a much more personal touch to his offerings at Alma Poblacion

Not too sweet, the comforting flavors of pumpkin just warms the palate with its rustic and even nostalgic goodness. Nothing complicated but pure decadent flavors. The sheer elegance in its deceptive simplicity makes this the perfect sweet ending at Alma Poblacion

Other must-try desserts at Alma Poblacion include the tempting Citrus and Meringue Millefeuille (P 220), the Classic Chocolate Profiteroles (P 250) and Cheesecake (P 220) topped with red berry chutney, matcha powder and freeze-dried strawberries. 

The perfect nightcap at Alma Poblacion is just a few steps away at the bar...

The Alma Old Fashioned (P 650) with Glenmorangie 10, Luxardo, Maraschino syrup, soda water and Scrappy's chocolate bitters is a fresh spin on a classic cocktail with the deep bitter hints of chocolate giving it a luxuriously smooth finish. 

The soul of Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine comes through with an elevated and refined dining experience masterfully woven by Chef Luis Martinez at Alma Poblacion. Soon, Chef Luis will reopen Alma in Siargao but in the meantime all eyes are on his new Poblacion location making it his own sunny spot of both Siargao and Spain in the vibrant and ever-changing Makati neighborhood. And from the dishes served that day, things are looking sunny in Poblacion. 

Alma Poblacion is located at 5887 Fermina corner Enriquez Streets, Poblacion, 1210 Makati. You can visit their FB Page or IG Feed at and for more information and updates. 

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