Thursday, June 26, 2008

G.U.S. NITPICKS!! (v. 18)


Talk about deja vu yet again. My good friend, fresh-as-a-daisy-looking G., and i were meeting up after not having seen each other for more than half a year (during which i conveniently "forgot" to give her Christmas and birthday presents. . .hehe :D)

We had previously dined at Sala in Malate last year. Since it had transferred to Makati (the new Sala at the PLDT building, where Lumiere used to be; and a new more reasonably-priced version, Sala Bistro, in Greenbelt 3), we decided on the latter resto.

Check out Sala Bistro's interiors below, predominantly full-length glass windows interpersed with dark brown columns, with a high rather drab grey ceiling and bits of chrome and lots of mirrors thrown in.

From what my sister tells me, this place is packed even during weekday evenings. So i guess that's the whole idea behind the glass walls - this resto is 'in', and the place to be seen dining in when you're in Greenbelt.

To me, it certainly isn't the type of place one would go to, if one wanted to have a nice, quiet, intimate dinner.

But anyway, we didn't come here to gawk at celebrities (although G. discreetly pointed out this fashionista couple who walked by), or play amateur interior designer.

Onwards to the food! The original Sala has a well-deserved reputation for excellent food and superior service, albeit at a price that severely dents your wallet.

Let's see how this present incarnation fares.

Garlicky Portabella Mushrooms on Toast with Goat's Cheese (PHP490.00)

This was the most expensive starter, but expense be damned, this was quite a fantastic dish! The mushrooms had real nice chewy texture, and the garlic cream wasn't overpowering.

We overheard the lady dining beside our table tell the waiter that she had preferred their old style of serving this dish, with the portabella mushroom in one whole piece. Either way, it was yummy throughout.

Confit of Lamb Shoulder with Roasted Pumpkin and Crushed Green Peas (PHP620.00)

Being more used to eating lamb ribs, i wasn't totally thrilled with my entree. The meat was tender and flavorful, but for some strange reason, i had to double-check that i was eating lamb, as it felt more like beef. The crushed peas were terrible, though.

Fillet of today's fish cooked in paper (PHP620.00)

The day's fish was grouper, and fresh-faced G. was happy with her choice, although she didn't like the onions. I tasted a bit of this dish, and the fish was indeed soft, yet firm and tasty.

Upon our waiter's prompting, G. had ordered mashed potato as a side dish. Here it is below:

Truffle Oil Mashed Potato (PHP200.00)

As you can see, we had eaten more than half of it already before i remembered to take a pic. Yes, it was THAT good. Not too heavy on the cream, and not too bland, either; just right in taste and texture.

Unfortunately, we both didn't realize how much it cost, until we saw the bill. Talk about sticker shock! :d Yes, this was one incredibly nice-tasting mashed potato (i'd even go as far to say it's one of the best ever i've tasted), but it was flat-out the most expensive one as well!!

For desserts, our waiter was pushing for the Valrhona chocolate tart with vanilla seed ice cream (PHP290.00), and i was sorely tempted to try the Dulche de leche rice pudding with caramel oranges (PHP280.00); but in the end, we both felt so full that we just settled for one scoop homemade Strawberry ice cream (PHP100.00).

So, let's sum up Sala Bistro. Come here, and you'll get a very good meal coupled with unobtrusive service. Just make sure to bring your credit card, since the average bill would likely be PHP1,100.00 to PHP1,500.00 per person.

I can only shudder, though, when i speculate on what type of prices they are charging at the new Sala. Yikes!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

G.U.S. NITPICKS!! (v. 17)


I had a lunch out today with my good friend Jk., who is one of the most good-natured and sweetest souls in the whole world, although i must say she has a habit of throwing a tantrum once every ten years!!

Venue was Robinson's Place Ermita, not a mall i normally go to [i abhor Robinson's Malls in general, since they tend to be crowded and haphazardly laid-out], and we chose this resto, since the reviews i've read about it in local blogs were generally positive.

Mind you, i did have doubts about Chefs' Quarter, having read that its owners / chef / etc. were the same as Duo at Serendra. Well, i ate at Duo once, and it wasn't any great shakes. Below average even, especially considering the prices they were charging.

But anyway, onwards to our lunch.

The interiors give off a classy, fairly high-end, yet relaxed ambiance. Nothing that would intimidate you. I would describe the place as comfy, or fun. . .i liked the colorful paintings on the walls.

But i think this resto is rather too big, or maybe its just because during our lunch, only one or two other tables were occupied? I don't think RP really has much of a lunch crowd, beyond the fastfood joints.

Chefs' Quarters' blurb on its menu cover mentions that it is "a total innovation in fine continental cuisine. Here, we give you an alternative to fine dining, where the food and service is always exceptional that can be enjoyed in a very relaxed atmosphere. What's even more interesting are our reasonably priced menus."

Let's see how it lives up to these lofty words.

Jk. ordered this French Onion Soup (PHP195.00), which looks a bit terrifying, no? Like the overflowing cauldron of the wicked witch? :D But she liked it very much, finding the cheese portion substantial and something "you could really chew into". Overall, tasty and above-average.

I ordered the Crayfish Tomato soup (PHP150.00) [not pictured], which proved to be tasty, yet without being cloying, the way some tomato soups can be once you're half-way through the cup.

For the main course, i ordered this Almond-crusted Cream Dory, topped with tomato concasse and vegetable risotto (PHP495.00), with mixed results. The fish itself was tender and perfectly cooked, but the chef must have had a heavy hand that day, as it was way too salty. The risotto? Flat out the most bland i've ever tasted!

Meanwhile, Jk. ordered the Fish & Chips (PHP295.00), having fallen in love with this dish during her stint last year in London. I felt it looked kinda dry and plain and the portion seemed puny, but she loved it as well, esp. the dip.

Finally, dessert! [i think anyone who reads this blog with some regularity knows i can't wait to get to desserts every time i eat out, haha :d]

We were supposed to share one dessert, but couldn't resist and ended up sharing two! The Blueberry Cheesecake (PHP120.00) was pretty good, with firm texture albeit lacking a bit of that 'tangy' taste i like in cheesecakes.

Now, the Lemon-Ginger Creme Brulee' (PHP95.00) was a flat-out winner!!! As in!! It had a refreshing light tangy taste, balanced by the burnt sugar on top! It was only sheer politeness that prevented me from gobbling the whole thing in one go and leaving some for Jk., and from licking the bowl clean! I think i could eat 4 or 5 of this creme brulee' in one sitting, actually!

So, would i go back? Hmmm. . . .yeah, much as i hate RP, i'd go back, if only for the . . . you guessed it, creme brulee'. Chefs' Quarter also has an extensive selection of salads and steaks, which look interesting and which probably deserve a try.

Oh, damage per person was above PHP800.00, so i'm not quite sure this can be defined "reasonably priced".

But hey, that creme brulee' was reasonably priced at PHP95.00; and in my stomach's humble opinion, that's all that matters!