Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Let It Be... Mediterranean

The birthday of a dear cousin, Kuya Vince, brought me and some relatives to Alabang one weekend. It is very rare that I take a car ride longer than thirty minutes for a meal, like those special occasions when dinner at Antonio’s in Tagaytay is called for. But then, Kuya Vince- like most of us in our family- loves his food, so I immediately assume that the restaurant where we will be celebrating his birthday has the following qualities: good food, reasonable prices, and “manly-man” servings. These, predictably, have piqued my curiosity. So, I skip the usual weekend partying to prepare myself for the long drive and the hearty lunch the following day.

Fortunately, the ride from my parents’ place in Makati until the Filinvest Exit on SLEX did not take longer than thirty minutes. When we arrived at Sophia's Mediterranean Deli, we were warmly welcomed at the door by the chef/owner Mervyn Whitfield. The friendly Brit is famously known to have cooked for the legendary band, The Beatles, among other celebrities. He has decided to retire in the Philippines with his Filipina wife and kids and ended up opening the Greek/Italian/Turkish/French restaurant in Alabang.

The cheery interiors are obviously Greek- white plastered walls, Aegean blue shutters, wrought iron staircase, gas lamps as light fixtures, large Grecian urns holding mini palm trees. You get the shabby chic feel that puts you right at ease but still gives off a polished look.

As we hungrily waited for the rest to arrive, we decide to start ordering for everyone to share. Since the dishes were served family-style, I got to try a little bit of (almost) everything. With the amount of food that we ordered, I do not remember which ones came in what order. I have decided to just group the dishes into two categories: The “musts” and “must avoids”.

You must have…

Pizza Quatro Formagia- Amusingly, two orders of this pizza came to our table before we even ordered them. It was meant for another table, obviously, but as fate would have it, they were the wrong size. Famished, we were only too happy to accommodate them at our table and welcome them into their new homes- our hungry bellies. The toppings are just right and the perfect combination of gooey, pungent and rich. I would not drive all the way to Alabang for this, but if I find myself in the area, this would surely be my go-to pizza place.

Blue Cheese Salad- Simple, straight-forward flavors. Fresh salad greens lightly coated with a tangy vinaigrette, then topped with copious amounts of crumbly blue cheese, walnuts and tomatoes.

Bruschetta- crispy rounds of sliced baguette and topped by a fresh pomodoro sauce. The diced tomatoes are sweet and nicely accented by a hint of garlic and olive oil. It’s a really nice light starter or snack.

Kalamarikia (Fried Calamari)- Again, a pretty straight-forward dish- quite common and easy to make, but is also easy to mess up. The breaded crust is crispy and nicely-flavored, the thin rings of squid moist and tender. Dipped in aioli, it’s quite addicting.

Grilled Prawns with Mashed Potatoes- I wasn’t able to taste the grilled prawns, but I was told that it was cooked perfectly. The mashed potatoes I did try though, and yes, it tastes as good as it looks.

Osso Bucco (family-sized) with Mashed Potatoes- “Parang mechado”, my Tito Boy said with his signature chuckle. But, despite the similarity to the local stew, it really was not bad. Well, we did end up finishing it, right down to the bone. The beef shank was very tender and the tomato sauce quite flavorful.

Baby Back Ribs- Although I was not able to try this, the huge platter of the massive pork ribs remained in front of the birthday celebrant the entire time. He obviously loves it. I say, it must be good.

Veal Lemono- I am not a big fan of breaded meats, but once in a while I get a craving for veal scallopine. This one was flavored- delicately, almost prettily- by fragrant lemons and some seriously delicious butter. And again, those darn good mashed potatoes…

Sadly, you must avoid…

Chicken Liver Pate- The spread had an unpleasant aftertaste that I could barely stand. I did not even finish the slice of pita that came with it.

The pastas- I got to try two kinds- one with a tomato cream sauce and the other was a Ravioli Verde. Unfortunately, the former arrived swimming in sauce, and the latter was a bright Irish green. Aside from being visually unappetizing, they were also lacking in flavor. Too bad.

Seafood Platter- Although this was a pretty sight, I have to admit that I have had better grilled seafood. The mussels were pretty dry and this time around the squid rings were quite tough.

Overall, it was a good lunch made great by the wonderful company. I had an awesome time chatting with the adults and watching my cute nieces and nephews goof around and play. Some of the grown-ups even joined in the fun and went along with the silliness. That’s what I love about my family… We sure are far from perfect, but when we get together, it is always great fun.

Sophia’s Mediterranean Deli
Westgate, Filinvest
Alabang, Muntinlupa City

Tel. no. (632)7717717