Monday, December 22, 2008

My Yummy Christmas Gift

Christmas is always stressful for Matt because he has a hard time getting me gifts that I would really like. He learned his lesson the hard way when, a few months into our relationship, he got me the prettiest bonsai (a Japanese ornamental plant) for my birthday, and then watched it die. Yes, it was a beautiful and symbolic gift, but I could not keep a plant alive (much more a high-maintenance one like a bonsai) if the human race depended on it.

I have said it a million times before and it still holds true: If I had P5000 to blow on anything, I would much rather spend it on a good meal than a nice dress. Therefore, the only thing better than a good meal would be a FREE good meal. One time, when Matt was in one of his celebratory moods, he exclaimed that he would want to have dinner at Antonio’s. The proverbial light bulb went on in my head and I said, matter-of-factly, “That’s your Christmas gift to me, right there.”

So off we went one Saturday afternoon, Matt’s patience being tested by the horrendous holiday traffic. After making it through the congested city streets and into the highway, we were again faced with slow-moving traffic due to several patches on the road under construction. We were told by the receptionist that they could hold our 7 PM reservation until 8:30. So when we were still in Silang, Cavite at around 8 PM, Matt was already on panic-mode, driving like a demonic speedster. Good thing we made it on time, and still very much alive.

The newly renovated restaurant retained its neo-traditional Filipino style, but much more polished. Areas that were formerly al fresco has been conveniently roofed to protect diners from the unpredictable Philippine weather. As we were ushered to our seats in the smoking area, I admired the distressed white chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings in what used to be a courtyard. The tables were decked in crisp white linens with whimsical black prints, classic china and silverware.

Still wound-up from the drive, we immediately had our bottle of Chateau St.-Jacques 2003 chilled and decanted. After a few sips of the young wine, we started to relax and enjoy our stylish surroundings. It really is one of my favorite wines, its elegant and restrained character belying its reasonable price. I decided to take one from my stash with me since I found out the stocks at Santis have been replenished.

We started our meal with an appetizer- the Steak Tartare. Miguel- a self-confessed Steak Tartare addict- claims it to be the best one in the country. I myself have never tried it, so I deduce that to set the bar high, I might as well try the one at Antonio’s. On my first few bites, I really could not taste the difference between the raw beef and Tuna Tartare. But, later on, the meaty and smoky flavors of the Angus has become more noticeable. There was a nice spicy-tangy element to it which I liked very much, plus the sharp flavor of raw red onions. I will surely order it again, although not when my mom is around, who freaks out when her steak is even the slightest bit pink.

Matt and I both went with their House Salad, not wanting to ruin our now-awakened appetites with sensory overload. As usual, the lettuce and arugula seemed freshly-picked from the garden, the vinaigrette a good balance of sweet and tangy.

We were served their Soup of the Day, a Clear Tomato Soup. Very clean, yet rich with that reduced tomato juice flavor.

I was already set on trying the Beef Fillet and Tagliatelle (which I will surely order next time) then I saw the Duck Leg Confit with Potato Gratin and Creamed Black Beans. Duck is my weakness and greatest indulgence (right up there with Foie Gras and creamy pasta), so I just couldn’t resist. And with the side dish of potato gratin- Sold! The duck was crispy and moist, the potato (sliced paper-thin) densely-flavored with cream and cheese. The lemon reduction was a surprising accompaniment to the dish, which worked quite well as it cut through the richness of the duck.

Matt had the Chili-Peppercorn Crusted, Honey Glazed Lamb Rack with Mashed Potato. The lamb was perfectly-medium and tender, the glaze just moderately sweet and with a slight kick from the chili. The mashed potato got major props from the Kartoffelkopf (Literally, “Potatohead”).

Later on, we lazily enjoyed our dessert of Chili-Chocolate Ice Cream and Poached Pear with Mascarpone, which we were “forced” to order because it was already part of the menu. Good thing we did, though, because, like the rest of the dishes, they were also well-executed and very delicious.

I checked out the wine list and it was a good selection of mostly Old World wines, although there were also a few good Chileans and Australians thrown in. With their reasonable corkage fee of P550 per bottle (it went up 10% since we last went there in July), it is very tempting to bring your own bottle. But next time I think I’ll try some of their own, which are also nicely-priced.

The service is undoubtedly one of the best in the country, although our server this time lacked the warmth and enthusiasm of our server last July. Still, he was very efficient and obviously well-trained. Even when he wasn’t around, the other members of the staff were always ready to assist us.

On our drive back (which, thankfully, was much shorter than the one going there), I smiled contentedly and told Matt how much I appreciated him driving me there for that exemplary meal. He enjoyed it too, of course, so it wasn’t a big deal, he modestly said.
Major pogi points for him.

Thanks again, mein Engel… Hab dich lieb.

Antonio’s Restaurant
Brgy. Neogan
Tagaytay City, Cavite
Tel. no. +639178992866


Noel said...

Great post, Chinkee. I was actually waiting for it when I found out you were going again. Unfortunately, I haven't been back there since before it was renovated. I will, though, for sure.

This post was all the more enjoyable to read since your feelings for Matt came out in your writing even without your outrightly stating them (in English, anyway). So nice to see young people in love. Naks naman.


Best to you both,


Chinkee said...

Thanks Noel! Yihee! Hahahaha! So funny because between me and Matt, I'm the one who is less demonstrative, so I'm sure he would frame this entry if he could.:-)

I was restraining myself from gushing too much about the food because it really was exceptional. Matt and I can't wait to go back. Hoping to get a lot of ampao this Christmas so I could go back in January. Hehe.

Anonymous said...

"mein Engel… Hab dich lieb"

how romantic! :-)

A wonderful german phrase........

Happy holidays,
Martin "BerlinKitchen"

Miguel said...

Great post. The food you ordered is exactly the same food I had that same day but for lunch.

Glad you liked the tartare and the duck leg confit is one of the best I've tried so far....

Ill be back again in January...will have to ry new stuff...

Chinkee said...

Hi Martin! Hehe... After only two semesters and a half of German (before I gave up, crying), at least I learned the "important stuff", which are mostly terms of endearment and curse words.

Frohe Weihnachten, meine Deutsche Freund! Prost:-)

Chinkee said...

Hi Miguel! Great minds think alike:-) Hehe.

The duck confit at Terry's used to be my favorite, but this one just trumped that, for sure. And i loved the steak tartare! Now I understand why you're hooked.

Was texting with Marga last week and we're planning to have dinner on the 26th. We're thinking La Tienda. I'm so excited to see her all pregnant and blooming!

Miguel said...

Yup hehe...If you go to La Tienda Let me know I can text the chef and advise you are coming so he can make something special or take extra care of you guys.

You can email me at

Anonymous said...

man looks liek a totally different antonios than me n pat went to back in 2002 (or 2003 i forget). Good post chi, now I'm rearing to go when I get back to manila. I see the barbarian is becoming more and more civilized hahaha. Pogi talaga yan si Al K***lkeize! I'm expecting your gift of Screaming Eagle on Pat & I's first anniv you're the best talaga! pel

Chinkee said...

Hi Pel! Yeah the food there is super good, really world class. I'm sure it would measure up to the NY and SanFo restos you've gotten used to.

Yes, the barbarian is learning slowly but surely. Hehe. But he's still hooked on his beer. He doesn't get a buzz from San Mig Light anymore, so he has since moved on to Red Horse. Hahahaha!

Anong Screaming Eagle??? You're delusional, my dear cousin! Taya muna ako sa lotto. Hehe.