From the heart of Corazon
(The Philippine Star) - September 5, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Florabel Co-Yatco is the modern King Midas of the Philippine restaurant scene. Whatever she touches turns into a golden opportunity of sorts. Her 17 restaurants — which include Florabel, Elias, Crisostomo, Felix and Florings all over Metro Manila and its neighboring cities — prove that her touch is lasting and, of course, appetizing.

Corazon, her latest “baby” on the fourth level of the newly opened East Wing of Shangri-La Plaza Mall in Mandaluyong City, is another confirmation of Florabel’s prowess as a kitchen goddess. The king of her heart, businessman Chris Yatco, is Florabel’s conduit in splaying magic at Corazon, which can sit 130 diners. Florabel is in charge of the mouthwatering concoctions in the kitchen. Chris, on the other hand, takes to his heart the very tasteful overall look of the restaurant—from the vaulted ceiling to the colorful paintings, even down to the candy-colored red and white chairs that are heart-shaped in the back. Together, the couple shares some magical moments to those who find their way to Corazon.

In my experience, magic begins the minute a small plate of pulpo lands on my table. It’s an appetizer of sautéed octopus drizzled in olive oil. I dare say, Corazon’s pulpo makes my mind joyfully meander back to this quaint restaurant in Santiago de Compostela in Spain where I first tasted this unforgettable treat.

It’s inevitable to find Spanish dishes on the menu of Corazon. Florabel’s kitchen wizardry is attuned to Spanish fare because of her influences when she was growing up. So, at the restaurant, she serves palate-titillating tapas like gambas and croquetas and enticing entrees like callos and bacalao. Her delectable chicken galantina is served cold the way one eats it in Seville or in Granada.

Her Rabo de Toro or oxtail stew, said to be a favorite of Manila Mayor Erap Estrada, is so authentic that in it are subtle hints of brandy and sherry. Its taste brings me back to this famed restaurant a few blocks away from the Mezquita in Cordoba. Many Spanish people believe this dish originated from Cordoba. And I believe, Corazon’s Rabo de Toro — rich and sinful — is the taste of Cordoba in Manila.

Corazon’s Paella Negra (a special Spanish rice dish cooked in a paellera with squid, squid ink, fish fillet and topped with garlic aioli) is to die for. Florabel knows how to make her paella an appetizing work of art.  Even her Paella Valenciana (with prawns, squid, mussels, fish fillet, chicken, pork, chorizo, egg and vegetable) leaves an enchanting taste in the mouth you would think it was cooked in some fairyland.

But Corazon is also very much Pinoy. After all, Florabel named her restaurant after the late former President Corazon Aquino. “A restaurant after her name is my ode of gratitude to Cory Aquino,” Florabel says of the first impulse that entered her mind when she and husband Chris were conceptualizing the restaurant.

 â€œCorazon also means heart,” Florabel adds. “So Chris and I put our hearts into this restaurant so we can serve hearty meals.” And if it’s any gauge that the restaurant starts to get full even before it opens at 10 a.m. every day, Corazon indeed has won the hearts of the discriminating palate of Pinoys.

If you hear some slurping in the restaurant, chances are diners are partaking of Caracoles or spicy ginataang kuhol. Also on the appetizer’s list is the San Bartolo or sizzling garlic balut. Well, this aphrodisiac is not for the fainthearted. But those who dare to take the challenge vow to enter nirvana after a serving or two of this duck egg dish.

Included in the bestsellers list are Toledo (tuna ceviche) and Magellan (baked scallops).  Florabel and Chris are proud to say that they source their fresh ingredients from all over the country: apahap from Bohol, tuna from GenSan, scallops and oysters from Roxas City and lobsters from Palawan.

Lentehas is Corazon’s delightful version of mongo soup with chorizo, malungay and sili leaves. Another must-have in the soup menu is the tahong soup with saffron. Or sinigang na apahap. Or tinolang manok.

Also quickly flying off the kitchen of Corazon are the following: Avila (adobong pusit), Bartolome (bangus belly cooked bistek style), Huelva (crispy catfish with mango sweet chili sauce), Lopez (grilled Palawan lobster), Paloma (grilled pompano), Camarones de Coco (shrimps in coconut oil with squash and string beans) among other yummy treats.

Since the Pinoy palate is celebrated highly at Corazon, get ready for the crunchy-on-the-outside and tender-in-the-inside crispy pata. Others eat it with the suka-and-toyo sauce. But if you try eating your crispy pata with burong hipon, just like what I sometimes do, you get ecstatic. (Corazon also offers delights-in-jars like tinapa fillet, tuyo fillet, burong hipon, Pinoy caviar, macapuno balls and even cornicks.)

Florabel also serves Lechon de Mora or baby pritchon. On the menu, you will surprisingly find that this dish is also a favorite of kids who dine at Corazon.

Crabs at Corazon are served with the desire to please the diner’s palate. Take for example the Almeria, an alimango dish swimming in Davao Alavar sauce. It has that opulent taste that makes you crave for more. When nothing is left of the dish but shells, you find extra comfort wiping the sauce on the plate with the soft roll.

Florabel and Chris Yatco promise nothing but enjoyable dining experience at Corazon. The restaurant is your best bet where you can find hearty comfort food next to your own home.

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E-mail the author at For more information, call Corazon at 687-1955 or 0917-8178298.)


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