Monday, August 15, 2011

Manolo's (August 12, 2011)

In one of my earlier posts, I said that I feel so lucky to have so many Chinese friends because of my affiliation with the Manila Jaycees. I should amend that to, "I am thankful to have many friends from the Manila Jaycees." Why? Because the Chinese and Manila Jaycees in general are among the best foodies around, with prodigious appetites at that. I am always clued in on new sightings in the foodie landscape, and which are worth trying and which are crap. Mind you, these friends go for both dives and gourmet destinations, so no restaurant is spared.

A good, old friend from the Manila Jaycees, Toto Villavicencio, recently decided to enter the restaurant business. He is one of the proud new owners of that sisig-centric Pinoy restaurant, 1521, at their new location at Burgos Circle at The Fort. When Toto invited us to try out his restaurant, he introduced us to Manolo Torrejon and Robby Goco, then went on to rave about his dinner at Manolo's eponymous restaurant. According to Toto, his dinner at Manolo's lasted for 5 hours, with fresh oysters and USDA steak topped with foie gras. They both had me at 5 hours. So plans were made to celebrate the birthdays of two friends, Rami Villavicencio and Paul Co, at Manolo's. Manolo himself recommended that we go on a Friday because that's when the Oysters are flown in from Capiz.

The thing with dining at Manolo's is that it is not a commercial enterprise. Manolo, or Manny, trades in artisanal coffee grown in Benguet. His restaurant is strictly by reservation only. Another issue with the restaurant is that it's not the easiest to find. Best to download the map from Manolo's facebook page. The restaurant is no-fuss, and I imagine that the chef-patron could whip up a customized menu for you. The experience was akin to being invited to someone's home whose cook prepared a very good meal for you.

The chef patron,
Manolo Torrejon
Bottomless Manchego c/o Paul Co 
Armed with scotch and a wheel of manchego cheese from Paul (who was a no-show), and three bottles of cabernet, off we went to Manolo's. Upon our arrival, we were served crispy boquerones, which the chef-patron made with local tuyo instead of bacalao: soaked, shredded and deep-fried. While we were chatting away, Manny sliced up the manchego  for us to munch on, along with the first official starter, bowls of moules mariniere: fresh mussels cooked in white white, cream and onion, served with warm baguette from the neighborhood Elsie's (not Anita's) Bakery. On such a dinner like this, everyone throws caution, diet, doctor's orders, wife/girlfriend/partner's advice out the window. So after partaking of the mussels, we sopped up our baguette in the sinful cream sauce.

Fresh Capiz oysters with three sauces
Moules mariniere
From the princess of bivalves, we went to the queen of bivalves: fresh oyster from Capiz served with three sauces: mignonette, chimichurri and cocktail. I had to try all three sauces, then wondered if there was some pinakurat. Manny graciously provided Robby Goco with lemon and hot sauce. Then the feast continued with the Pasta Bottarga, my first to taste this delightful dish. Robby explained that Manny makes his own bottarga (salted and dried tuna roe), since it is not easily available here. Chefs being chefs, Manny and Robby made it appear that making bottarga is the easiest thing in the world: get some tuna bihud, salt it, then sun-dry. This dish was fantastic in its simplicity: it was just the dried tuna roe, sauteed in olive oil, served with spaghetti with a squeeze of lemon. I just wished that it was served with no cheese, being a seafood pasta. The cheese overpowered the flavor of the bottarga, which should stand on its own. Nonetheless, I hankered for a second serving.

Then came the meat of the matter: the steak. With foie gras. Perfectly salted and grilled, drizzled in its own fat, served with baby potatoes and asparagus. What can one ask for? What's that? Paella? Two varieties? Valenciana and Negra? Coming right up! I liked it that Manny didn't eschew the tutong or burnt bottom, which is what some restaurants do. I understand that the Negra is a must-have when dining at Manolo's. Well, I venture to say that the Pasta Bottarga is another must-have, as is the Tiger Prawns Simmered in Red Egg Sauce and Curry Leaf. This latter dish, that was served along with the Garlic Butter Crabs to end our meal, is another delightful first-time dish for me. The salty bits of red egg, and the robust flavors of the curry leaf were perfect with the prawn.

A night at Manolo's is not complete with his aromatic Benguet coffee, served with Swiss Chocolate Cake baked by his sister, Elise.  I would have wanted something citric to cut through the rich tastes simmering in my palate, like a lemon curd or a kalamansi sorbet.

At the end the dinner, we all had smiling faces, happy countenances, content bearings and clogged arteries. Not to mention reeling brains from the alcohol that was downed.

Still and all, it was a night that will be remembered for a long, long time. How about that oyster night, Manny? Kinilaw, fritters and cake. I'll bring the cookies and ice cream. Not made from oysters.

The birthday boy surveying the 
remains of our prandial carnage
Happy birthday, Rami and Paul, and kudos to the chef! And thanks to Louie Orosa for the pictures.

Manolo's is at 2759 Daang Hari, United Hills Village, Parañaque City. Telephone Nos. +639088827913 and 8811828.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

like like like! Thanks, Jo!


If you like to eat well, live well, listen well and have the patience to go through my kilometric but hopefully entertaining blogs, then this is the page for you. I chose EATERSHIP because it sounds like "leadership," and because if you jumble it up, it could also read "hip eaters." Eat and read on!