Sunday, November 20, 2011

eating tagaytay

Why do people go to Tagaytay? I suppose some go in search of cooler climes, and it's much closer to Manila than Baguio. Sadly, nowadays I find that the temperature is much more comfortable inside the shopping malls. Because of global warming, there's no place cool enough anymore in our part of the tropics.

Others go for the scenery, I guess. As volcanoes go, Taal Volcano is pretty unique and eenteresting. It's the smallest in the world, it's in the middle of a lake that still has fish in it, and yez, it is active.

View from Buon Giorno. Looks a little like a belly button. Or a weird nipple.

But, me? I go to Tagaytay to eat at Antonio's.

Ah, but this is not about Antonio's. I decided to give the other restaurants a fighting chance last month by pretending for a couple of days that Antonio's did not exist. That was tough, no kidding. I could easily eat at Antonio's two days in a row, but then I wouldn't have discovered these.

At Buon Giorno at Cliff House, the food was above average, the service was as good as it gets in this country, the view of the volcano was unparalleled, and on the day that we had lunch there, 6 October 2011, the light was fabulous. Everything just glowed.

Green goddess salad. Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, feta cheese, sesame seeds and fried calamari.

One of the best salads I've had in a while. The freshness of the veggies made the dressing almost superfluous.

Spaghetti bolognese. Just the way I like it: tangy, herby, robust and not swimming in tomato sauce.

That evening, we decided to check out Verbena at Discovery Country Suites. It's supposed to be the second best restaurant in the Philippines and as expected, the food was top-notch and I had no complaints about the service. They don't have a view of the volcano, but I wasn't bothered by that. What did bother me was the karaoke bar next door. Kind of ruined the ambience.

Roasted bone marrow, served with caramelised onions and crostini. Utterly sinful.

It looks positively obscene, doesn't it?

Roasted prawns and scallops with carrot risotto, cumin cream and sweet sherry vinegar drizzle. Baby carrots!

Chef David Pardo de Ayala's deconstructed chicken cacciatore. I love that the leg was made into a confit.

One of Tagaytay's specialties is the bulalo, so I figured that it would be wrong to skip it. We went to Leslie's, a ginormous restaurant that has perfected the art of feeding hordes of near-starving people. Actually, we felt a bit out of place sitting at our puny table for two, with just a bowl of beef shank soup and a plate of rice.

I don't know why I ate so much bone marrow in October. It's a miracle I'm still standing.

The view of Taal Volcano at Leslie's was spectacular, and live music was provided by these people wearing blue floral shirts. They were good, ha? Everybody loved them.

Their repertoire ranged from ABBA to Lady Gaga.

Verdict: Leslie's is as good a place as any to get your bulalo fix in Tagaytay. You can't beat their view and the food servings are monstrously huge. However, I just feel that soup is never served hot enough in Tagaytay, and this was true at Leslie's. After a few minutes, the oil slick on top of the beef broth had solidified. Not nice. Haven't they heard of food warmers?

Verbena, Verbena... I really wanted to like it. The food was superlative, excellent, first-class! But the racket from the karaoke bar? Ugh. Also, I felt that the dining area was too small. We were the only ones there, but I still felt like the furniture was crowding me. Perhaps I should try it again during the daytime.

For me, Buon Giorno has it all. The wonderful al fresco dining area is all light and air (Note to self: next time, reserve the opium bed), but if that's full, it's also beautiful indoors. The menu is authentic and has a good variety, the produce is fresh to the max, the service is OK na compared to what's out there, the prices are reasonable, and the view is... well, take a look at the photo on top. The combination of all these things makes one want to linger. Buon Giorno at Cliff House is, in a word, relaxing.

And isn't that why everybody goes to Tagaytay anyway? To relax?

For reservations, call:
Buon Giorno Café and Bistro +63.46.4832102
The Restaurant Verbena at Discovery Country Suites +63.46.4134567
Leslie's Restaurant +63.46.4131065

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