Thursday, June 4, 2009

Albarino Wishes and Chuleton Dreams

Chinkee: What do you feel like eating?:-) Steak or Spanish?

Sam: Steak! Let’s do Spanish when James comes back.:-)

And so that is what we did. When Sam announced her husband James’ arrival a week after our steak dinner, we immediately planned dinner at La Tienda with our other college buddy, Mara, and Matt. James has returned to Manila to pick up his wife (whom, in our humble opinion, has been spoiled-rotten by him) so they can return to London together after a week. He has been craving Basque food since his previous departure from Manila, so this Spanish dinner is all about him (or so we made him believe).

After a mediocre meal the first time I ate there, I made sure to have tisoy food blogger and La Tienda patron Miguel do the ordering for us. Judging from the frequency that he, wine expert Noel and their friends go there, I knew that I missed out on something. Therefore, I happily gave Miguel free-reign to show me what La Tienda is really all about.

After being served our chilled Laxas Albarino 2007 from Terry’s (another recommendation from Miguel), we sampled our appetizers of Boquerones (thin slivers of fish marinated in vinegar) and Escalavidas (roasted eggplants with anchovies on top of toasted baguette slices). The appetizers went very well with the crisp white wine and did its job of whetting our appetites for the feast that is yet to come. The boys just cannot get enough of the escalavidas, though, and immediately pounced on the remaining two when I said they did not have to save the portions meant for Mara and her friend, Lia. Without missing a beat, they happily munched on the bruschetta-like appetizer while chatting about European football.

After we were given just enough time to digest, the main courses finally came. The Chuleton (stoneware-grilled rib-eye seasoned with sea salt) was served in an impressively-large platter with a generous side of thinly-cut fries. Spanish-style Steak Frites, Matt called it. But it was so much more. The meat was cooked medium-well in some parts, medium in others, which worked well with our group. The simple seasoning was enough to highlight the natural flavors of the steak. Matt and I were still fantasizing about it the next day.

The fish dish was a butterflied and filleted Besugo al Horno, swimming in olive oil (oil that’s famously good for you) and crisp, thinly-sliced garlic. Again, it is a straightforward dish using the freshest catch and high-quality ingredients, allowing the firm texture of the fish to be the highlight.

Paella was naturally a part of the repertoire and we had, not one, but two: Paella Verduras and Paella Negra accompanied by aioli (garlic mayonnaise). By special request, these dishes were prepared with Basmati rice, giving the classic a much fluffier dimension, and in effect, allowing me to eat more of it. I had no idea that a purely vegetarian dish (Verduras) could be so flavorful and delicious. This is my new favorite Paella, for sure.

We also opened a bottle of rose (a New World Syrah, if I’m not mistaken) that James brought, but I was too “busy” to either take pictures or to take note. A quick swirl and sniff gave out wonderful aromas of ripe dark berries. I liked it. Good thing that I remember it coming out of a Ralph’s plastic bag and I have a blurry memory of its brand.

We left after the large party of Tisoys that took up most of the restaurant has broken up, but not before opening Sam’s advanced batchelorette party gift- a bottle stopper shaped like a man with an unusually large appendage. What’s funny is that I burst out laughing upon seeing it, thinking it was something else. You know, something used for “other things”. When I realized what it was, it explained the puzzled look on everyone’s faces, which said something like, “It’s funny, but it wasn’t THAT funny”. I later on explained my dirty mistake and naturally that one they thought was hilarious.

Mara was celebrating her birthday at midnight so we moved to Aquaknox for some after dinner drinks. They were about to close but were nice enough to accommodate us.

More of Mara’s friends came to join the fun and everyone was raving about the delicious fruit martinis that they served us.

After Mara has blown out the candle on her Caramel Mousse, Matt, James, Sam and I stayed a bit longer then decided to move on to another friend’s event. After that delicious Spanish meal- which Matt proclaimed to be the first Spanish meal he truly enjoyed- we simply did not want the night to end.

La Tienda Restaurante Espanol
Polaris St.
Brgy. Bel-Air, Makati City
Tel. no. (632) 8904123

Arnaiz Ave.
Makati City
Tel. no. (632) 8943380


Miguel said...

Glad you guys enjoyed. La Tienda is just about ordering the right food, bring your own wine and great company. Cant get any better than that...

Chinkee said...

For sure! Thanks so much again Miguel for setting it all up. Its truly one of our more memorable dinners. True story: The next evening, Matt and I were driving to my house from somewhere and we were hungry. Seriously, we wanted to check if La Tienda was still open! Hahaha!

Noel said...

The escalivadas and boquerónes are probably my favorite Spanish appetizers these days. Of course, their paella de verduras of basmati is stellar and my favorite paella now as well.

Re: the fries that come with the chuletón, those are really done well. I recall Edouard (the Vigneron) and Keiichi particularly liked them and couldn't stop picking at them long after the chuletón itself was gone.

Miguel is right of course, La Tienda is all about having the right dishes, bringing your own wine and being with good friends.

I can only add that, since I like old Spanish songs, the resident "Trio los Panchos" is a special treat as well and I cannot help singing along to the old favorites. That really adds so much to the festive air, especially after several glasses of wine!



Chinkee said...

Hi Noel! Now I understand why La Tienda is a favorite of both you and Miguel. James, my college friend's husband who loves to eat, REALLY enjoyed the food. He seems to have been very impressed with our food here, considering that the price is a fraction of what they have to pay back in London for the same quality of food.

Matt and I also enjoyed their music there, but, being members of the MTV generation, I have to admit that we're more familiar with Enrique (Iglesias) rather than Julio. Hehehe.