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Rediscovering MOA's Highlands Steakhouse

- Rey Gamboa () - May 5, 2012 - 12:00am

Sometimes, the hankering for a thick slab of juicy steak, generously marbled and done medium-rare, grilled over live coals so that it is seared on the outside and pink and warm on the inside, with the juices running out slightly as you cut into it, comes stronger than your doctor’s warning to ease up on the red meat. There are just days when nothing but a good steak can still the pangs. Begging your pardon, Doc.

Anyway, after one back-breaking project after another, I felt that I deserved a bit of an indulgence and what better way to indulge for a certified meat lover than a generous piece of red meat, so off we went to the second floor of the MOA (SM Mall of Asia) where the Highlands Steakhouse is located. This is a familiar place for my family where we’ve spent some Sundays of “furious eating”, coming from home starving and ready for a great meal. The food servers are also old familiar faces.

I came with a group composed of Klink Ang, president and ceo of the Manila Times, Carlos Gono, the name synonymous to Motul high quality motor oil and Sunshine TV production manager Jenny Bleza with our ace cameraman Matt Mallari upon the invitation of fellow journalist, Dino Directo who insisted that I must try out the “new” place. New? It turns out that Highlands is now under new management, and at the helm is Chris Sy who owns and manages the resto now. Chris is young, eager, bold and hardworking. I was surprised that such a profitable venture as Highlands Steakhouse would come under new management, but Chris purchased the whole restaurant, lock, stock and barrel and decided to have a one-up on the old place. Of course, the veritable Highlands steak is still its stellar offering, but they have reconstituted the menu. “Expanding the food we serve is a prelude to the makeover which includes redesigning the interiors and exteriors”, said Chris.

Yes, the log cabin ambience is still there, with large glass windows, pine wood ceiling and walls and a heartwarming fireplace. And the old familiar faces too, all dressed in white tops and dark pants as befitting a fine dining place like Highlands as they hover solicitously, but the menu is something else.

We started out with scallops, fresh and rightly seasoned and grilled, plus Norwegian salmon with freshly baked butter pesto baguette slices and crunchy Nachos with a cheese sauce served with angus ground beef, tomatoes and onions. We also had Buffalo Wings served with blue cheese sauce. The servings here are huge, and Chris says one serving of buffalo wings is a hefty half kilo.

Then came the Black Ink Pasta that came with calamari slices and oven-dried tomatoes before they rolled in the glorious steaks. Needless to say, most of us in the group opted for the juicy steaks, but some surprisingly wanted to try out the other meat offerings like the Highlands Chops, choice pork cuts marinated and grilled French style and served with garlic rice, grilled pineapple and a cream sauce. Hmmm. Perhaps next time. For this special day, I have allocated the house’s specialty, the Jesse James rib eye, my idea of heaven on a sizzling plate. It didn’t disappoint — it even went beyond my expectations as I took my sweet time savoring the tender, smoke-flavored steak, with charred bits of fat melting in the mouth. Before Highlands Steakhouse opened at MOA, we used to travel all the way to Tagaytay for a very late Sunday lunch. Chewing on tender, red juicy meat just off the grill makes it all worthwhile. The MOA store gave us a kind reprieve from the 2-hour drive just for the steaks.

I did not have enough space in me left for the other house specialties, but Chris filled me in on their other delectable offerings. We should try their baked scallops, he says, served with a healthy garden salad, their Western Style Salpicao which is US prime ribs sauteed in a Fundador-based sauce with olives, their Smoked Salmon Dip made of soup cream fresh dill and Norwegian smoked salmon. This is a great way to start an evening.

For oyster lovers, they have the Rockefeller Oyster, and for another House specialty, they have the Sweet Chili Beans sautéed with bacon and US prime rib cubes in a hickory sauce and served with freshly baked baguette. Likewise, they have Vodka Glazed Mussels sautéed in chili, mushrooms, tomato and basil and glazed with vodka. Sounds intriguing. Chris says it is a must-try.

They have a whole array of salads, from the ubiquitous Caesar’s to the Arizona Summer salad which has a citrus strawberry dressing, Tomato Salad with cashew and dried tomato dressing, and a Roast Beef salad with slices of roast angus beef, mandarin orange, almonds and parmesan in honey balsamic vinaigrette. This one seems to be a full meal for the healthy diet-conscious diner.

They also have a whole slew of pizza offerings, from Sausage to Garden Fresh to Mixed Seafood.

For meat lovers who do not fancy a steak dinner, Chris says they must try the Highlands Burger which is their home-mixed beef patty or their Roast Beef Sandwich, also proudly angus. For the less hefty eater, there is the Highlands Chicken Caesar which is marinated grilled chicken with tomato, arugula and Caesar’s dressing, or their triple- decker club sandwich.

For pasta lovers like my wife, there is the Seafood Aglio Olio in extra virgin olive oil, garlic and parsley which I am partial to; the Carbonara in creamy parmesan truffle; the Penne Arabiata with mushroom and olives; the Bucatini Putanesca with anchovy, garlic, olives and capers; the Roast Beef Pasta; the Bucatini Pesto and the Truffle Mushroom.

If you don’t fancy meat, there is a whole selection of seafood as well: Pan-seared scallops, Prawns grilled served on a bed of garlic mashed potato with white wine sauce, Salmon Tornado, Seared Chilean Sea Bass and Baked Tilapia with Mango Salsa.

The list doesn’t end there. For their main courses, aside of course from the angus rib eye and prime ribs, they have Espresso Roast Chicken marinated in espresso coffee; BBQ Baby Back Ribs with a special hickory sauce; and the very tender Grilled Lamb Rack, 6-month old baby lamb marinated then grilled.

Of course, their signature steaks: John Wayne’s Prime Rib which is herb-marinated, slow-cooked in the oven before grilling; and the Jesse James Rib Eye Steak which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Bon appetit! It’s a great Sunday treat for the family.

Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.

For comments: (e-mail) businessleisure-star@stv.com.ph

ARIZONA SUMMER BABY BACK RIBS BEFORE HIGHLANDS STEAKHOUSE BLACK INK PASTA BUCATINI PESTO AND THE TRUFFLE MUSHROOM BUCATINI PUTANESCA CHRIS GRILLED HIGHLANDS HIGHLANDS STEAKHOUSE
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