Life with the carnivores

WRY BREAD - WRY BREAD By Philip Cu-Unjieng () - October 29, 2006 - 12:00am
Eating out with my boys is always a joy. As soon as they "escaped" their toddler years, we never made them go through the motions of perusing kiddie or children’s menus. The underlying logic was that it would make life much easier if they were used to what we adults/parents would eat, and not perpetually be looking for party spaghetti or chicken lollipops. If portions are big at a particular restaurant, we’d ask for an extra plate or request the kitchen to divide into half the portions. As a result, my youngest (now seven) has been partial to maguro sashimi and escargot since the age of four. They can indulge and enjoy food that are considered kiddie fare, but they seek and choose, on their own, stuff like fava dips and rack of lamb. But you push them against a wall, and ask what their favorite food is, and hands down, they’ll say a good steak. So two recent forays had them extolling the virtues of "eating out with Poppa!"

One of my favorite eating places has always been the Steakhouse at the Tagaytay Highlands. So it was a pleasant surprise to find that the Highlands Steakhouse has found a second home right here in Manila. Go down EDSA, aim for the rear of the Mall of Asia, and with a wonderful view of the Bay, you can now enjoy the fare the Highlands is known for. Like I said, my boys are carnivores at heart, so the preamble I gave them about the fabled Cowboy Steak had them chafing at the bit. Kulang na lang, they’d be walking into the restaurant with steak-knives and fork already in hand!

The appetizer you must order is the Goujon of Chilean Seabass and Scallops on Dijon Mustard Sauce – we ordered another round of Goujon after our steaks! The Cowboy Steak is US Angus Ribeye that’s fresh chilled and brought to your table for tableside cooking. The 30 oz piece is good for four to five people (there is a 15 oz option); and the boys thoroughly enjoyed cooking their own steak pieces and keeping them on the rare side of things. The grilled lamb racks and barbecue bourbon flavored baby back ribs are also tops at this resto. Another excellent starter is the Pan Fried Gooseliver on Sweet and Sour Balsamic Green Apple Chutney. The 30 oz Cowboy goes for P2,500, but factor in that you divide it among a minimum of four persons, and one sees how it can be value for money! This is definitely one place that deserves a "return bout," and my boys are already bugging me about it!

At most HSBC affairs, we’d get a whiff of what chef Roland Laudico would have on his menu, if and when his restaurant would materialize. Well, it’s up and running, and we don’t have to hie to his Urdaneta Village residence anymore. On the ground floor of the Net2 Building at the Fort, chef Laudico’s Bistro Filipino can be found. Call it fusion Filipino/French, call it nouvelle Filipino, call it what you want, but when terms are all exhausted, it’s your taste buds that will do the talking – and on this count, my boys’ buds smiled and gleefully gave their approval. As Roland relates, the concept was to bring Filipino food into a form and presentation that foreigners would readily accept. One only has to observe how after Chinese and Japanese cuisine, Vietnamese and Thai have become globally accepted, with restaurants sprouting all over the world; whereas it hardly does much for the reputation of Filipino cuisine when we serve dinuguan to our foreign guests. Let’s face it, visually, dinuguan doesn’t make the grade.

Surprisingly, my boys’ favorite chef Lau dish was the Ubod Spring Roll – a lumpia cone, fried temaki-style, filled with chorizo, prawn and heart of palm, topped with a spicy sinamak sherbet. Spicy, but super good... and different! True to his vision, Roland has come up with some interesting twists to Filipino cuisine. The lamb dish is a Lamb Shank but served with kaldereta sauce. The Prawns Laing has Dijon Coconut cream on Braised Taro leaf Tempura Cake. The Adobo Overload earns its sobriquet because there’s foie gras in the dish. The Ribeye is Angus done up with a bistek sauce. There’s a Tuna and Tanigue Roll that’s stuffed with peppers, singkamas and chilies, with a calamansi cilantro emulsion. All really inventive stuff, and the interiors of the restaurant are tastefully impressive. Be prepared though for a rather pricey interpretation of Filipino food.
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