IN this concluding installment of my three-part series on restaurants to visit and revisit in the new year, here's one more nod to an already established dining destination.
VERBENA, Discovery Country Suites, Tagaytay
WHILE the cool breeze Tagaytay is famous for was not felt as we dined in this restaurant almost overlooking the Taal Lake and the volcano (“almost,” because there was a house blocking our view), lunch turned out to be a pleasant surprise for my food buddy and I.
There were new items on the menu created by Colombian chef David Pardo de Ayala. I must say these were just amazing dishes that were really sumptuous and delightful. My favorites were the Pan-Seared Foie Gras (my heart just skipped a beat just writing that), Oyster Fricasse, Herb-Marinated Mushrooms and Organic Arugula, and Australian Lamb Chops. We were just stuffed that I couldn’t eat my dessert anymore.
In all of my dining adventures, I have yet to taste a badly prepared foie gras. I suppose any way it is prepared, whether it just be pan-seared, terrined, sautéed, poached or baked, it will still turn out delicious. The fat in the goose (or duck) liver just makes it so silky, rich at the same time delicate. At Verbena the foie gras (P590) is pan-roasted with pancetta (Italian bacon), prunes and figs served in an intense cognac sauce. Yes, kids, it is a taste of what heaven must be like.
The Oyster Fricasse (P460) is one of those dishes whose ingredients are so common but I would never have thought to prepare together as one dish. The freshly shucked oysters are lightly cooked with homemade spaghettini in a cream sauce, lemongrass and caviar sprinkles. Another winning appetizer.
For the salad we had the Herb-Marinated Mushrooms and Organic Arugula (P250) served with a light honey-garlic vinaigrette and parmesan shavings. The sweet dressing makes a delicate contrast to the peppery arugula leaves, a good way to transition to some heavier entrées.
The grilled Australian lamb chops was prepared in an aromatic Moroccan marinade, with parmesan-roasted tomato and honey-garlic reduction. The meat itself was grilled perfectly, a medium-well and tender to the bite.
An interesting dessert was a Walnut Soup with Blue Cheese. It was bold of chef Pardo de Ayala to create this, but the flavor of the blue cheese just overpowered the soup and the taste of the walnuts. I would have rather appreciated a slice of just the cheese and some grapes to end our delightful meal. Props to the chef though, for trying to shake up the dessert course.
When one runs out of new restaurants to try, there are always the good-old reliables that one can always turn to.
(Published in the Life section of the BusinessMirror, Jan. 25, 2008. Photo copyright Stella Arnaldo, 2007)