“People tell me that their impression of this place is like they’re inside the Mad Hatter’s imagination. I can really say that’s it. I can say I’m very crazy,” Ica Sebastian says before laughing heartily. Instead of backing away slowly, you believe her and sit a little closer.
She is referring to Another Story, a disarming blast of color and intricate interior design that opened at the Evia Lifestyle Center in Alabang in May earlier this year. Whereas Sebastian’s first restaurant, Café Voi La in Tagaytay, is inspired by her travels throughout Asia, Another Story is made up of virtually every other place in the world that has made an impression on her. It’s a place that Sebastian acknowledges has no real form or style; anything goes.
There doesn’t seem to be a real front entrance for Another Story; it opens up like an indoor patio, with tables, chairs, and couches of different colors set around a counter that eventually curves into a bar by the other end. For that matter, there doesn’t seem to be a real up or down to Another Story either; wooden panels are suspended from the ceiling — making it seem like customers could choose to dine upside down if the place gets too full. (If Sebastian had more time and money, she probably would have found a way to make that possible.)
On nearly every available surface are quotes from an eclectic selection of books and films, or narration from Sebastian herself—dedicated to those who are about to take part in her story by dining here. Even the mirrors (which are from Sebastian’s personal collection) that adorn the restaurant’s walls are subtly marked with the words, “Who is the fairest of them all?” Every inch of Another Story is designed to come across like you are walking into a storybook, but Sebastian doesn’t make an attempt at linearity. Instead, customers are free to piece together their own story in whichever way they choose as they discover new details. It’s a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, without any of the corny endings.
And there are details galore — teacups, bottles, hints of greenery, wrought iron, honeycomb tiles, Turkish lanterns, statuettes of various animals, and too many others that this writer couldn’t begin to try listing down. But of all the trinkets and ornaments scattered throughout Another Story, Sebastian’s favorites are the very first ones she put in place: several door handles in the shape of a swan and of an elephant. These became the basis of the entire restaurant’s look and feel — beginning a process of free association resulting in something crazier than she would have ever expected.
Reining in all these eccentricities are Another Story’s food selections, which are thankfully not as insane as the Mad Hatter’s meals. Servings in every course are just as varied but all rooted in the warmth of home cooked cuisine, even as they jump across styles and influences: you have the French Onion Gratinée and signature Another Story Salad, which pave the way for totally different main course dishes like the Cheese Sandwich or Vongole Manila Clams. Much larger groups of people can also go for broke and just order an All Meat Platter right off the bat — replete with roast pork belly, beef brisket, roast chicken, and corn gratin. For those who would prefer to relax and feast on the restaurant’s visuals, they can indulge themselves with a slice of Salted Caramel Cheesecake and a cup of Vietnamese Latte.
With all these disparate elements, the common thread all throughout Another Story is still Ica Sebastian. You can feel her presence bringing everything together — from her messages on the walls all the way down to her descriptions in the menu. However, this doesn’t mean that she is the protagonist of Another Story. As much as the restaurant is a product of her imagination and her travels, she still cares about the customer’s journey. “They need not have to travel elsewhere to experience [what I’ve experienced],” Sebastian says. For her, she hopes that Another Story will not only be an escape, but a testament to the idea that the beauty of foreign countries can be seen in the Philippines as well—and you don’t have to be insane to see it.
Photography by Erwin Canlas
ANOTHER STORY IS OPEN EVERY DAY FROM 10AM TO 10PM AND IS LOCATED AT 2/F EVIA LIFESTYLE CENTER, DAANG HARI ROAD, ALMANZA IN LAS PINAS CITY.