Continuing a father's steak dining legacy

THE PEPPER MILL - Pepper Teehankee - The Philippine Star
Continuing a father's steak dining legacy
Chef Cristina Santiago.
STAR/ File

Chef Cristina Santiago relaunched her standalone restaurant concept, Carmelo’s Steakhouse. She earned her culinary degree at San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy and is honoring a well-established legacy with the newly opened Carmelo’s Steakhouse at The Proscenium Retail Row in Makati. This is her homage to her late father, Carmelo Santiago — popularly known as Melo — who was a prominent figure in Manila’s restaurant scene. Melo had the vision back in 1987 to open the first steakhouse that offered Certified Angus Beef at his restaurant Melo’s, which was the first in the Philippines to do so.

Cristina saw the new retail development at Proscenium during its earlier phase and thought it was the perfect location to reopen Carmelo’s. She already had a vision of how she wanted Carmelo’s to look from the moment she saw the spot, saying, “Everything you see here is my vision, making sure that the design to execution was my stamp of approval.” She adds, “There’s this allure when you enter that’s very different from what has already been seen in Manila. I wanted to have this warm and inviting glow while dining with the gold mesh curtains reflecting the warm lights. To me, it’s pure magic!”

Tuna tataki.

Creating the menu excited her: “Let’s just say I have a little black book from all my travels where I take note of what I and my family love because I know one day I’ll create those dishes.”

The Moules Marinieres is her own recipe, bringing back fond memories of her travels with her dad and how they both love the mussels in Paris. Her other notable starters are the Tuna Tataki and the Octopus a la Plancha. Tuna is lightly seared then sliced for the tataki served with homemade white miso while tender, grilled octopus rests on cauliflower puree and gremolata (a green sauce of parsley, garlic, and lemon) make up the a la plancha dish.

Her favorite pasta dishes inspired the menu’s offerings, such as the Spinach Spaghetti Vongole with clams served with spinach spaghetti infused in butter sauce and crisp white wine. Another signature pasta dish is the Truffle Burrata Pasta. The pasta is complemented by the earthy undertones of truffles topped with burrata (an Italian cow’s milk cheese made from mozzarella and cream).

Truffle burrata pasta.

The highlight is of course the steak selection. Learning from her late father who opened his first steakhouse 37 years ago, Cristina checks the quality to offer only the best texture and taste and assures diners that they have options for a solo slice or bigger sharing portions. The different (and extremely tender) Certified Angus Beef and Australian Wagyu cuts can be served on a more personal plate, while the Tomahawk, Steak Frites Ribeye, or Steak Diane Ribeye are best for family and friends dining together.

Cristina offers her award-winning dessert line, Sweet Bella. The Pearl is a signature creation with its combination of guava mousse layered with fresh mango coulis. Angelina (my favorite dessert) has luxurious layers of hazelnut mousse nestled atop a delicate hazelnut praline almond crust, adorned with vibrant raspberry coulis and edible red magnolia flowers.

Carmelo Santiago’s vision and rules are still the constant guides that Cristina adheres to, starting with providing the best quality food and by establishing consistency in taste. She keeps in mind her father’s approach of always giving guests the best personalized service as she recalls that “He was very passionate in teaching that the key to being different is doing your assignment: remembering what the guests liked the last time they ate; surprising guests when they return by simply knowing their names; and, at the very least, remembering their favorite drink.”

Carmelo’s Steakhouse is the legacy that chef Cristina wants to continue. She upgrades the dining with her own menu and updates the experience with her personal touch.

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Carmelo’s Steakhouse is located on the 2nd Floor, The Proscenium Retail Row, Rockwell, Makati. For reservations, contact (0915) 9038005

US Economic counselor Phil Nervig and Citi Philippines CEO Paul Favila.

A trade investment mission lunch

Delegates of the Presidential Trade and Investment Mission from the United States recently gathered for a luncheon hosted by Citi Philippines. Delegates from 14 American companies and organizations, as well as participants from various Philippine government agencies, attended the event organized as part of the visit of US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. She led a delegation of senior executives from US businesses and non-profit organizations on a first-of-its-kind Presidential Trade and Investment Mission to the Philippines.

The mission delivers on US President Joseph Biden’s commitment during Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s May 2023 visit to Washington, D.C. to work together to advance US-Philippines economic ties.

Speaking at the event was Citi Philippines CEO Paul Favila. This was followed by an economic briefing by Citi Economist for Thailand and the Philippines Nalin Chutchotitham. The event was capped by remarks from Citi Philippines Global Network Banking head Ajay Paul.

Citi Philippines global network banking head Ajay Paul.

The event was organized jointly with the US Commercial Service of the US Department of Commerce and the US Embassy of the Philippines. It was participated in by representatives from various local government agencies, including the Department of Trade and Industry, Board of Investments, Philippines Economic Zone Authority, Bases Conversion Development Authority, Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan, Cagayan Economic Zone Authority, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Subic-Clark Alliance for Development, Clark International Airport Corporation, IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines, and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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Follow me on Instagram @pepperteehankee.

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