April 27, 2008

The Courtyard Bistro Boracay

(From left: The Rib-Eye Steak, Pomelo Salad, and Oysters Rockefeller)

TO conclude my story on a couple of new flavorful discoveries in the island paradise that is Boracay, Courtyard Bistro will no doubt also titillate discriminating diners with well-loved family recipes and steak/seafood delights. The bistro is owned by Mark Santiago, former operations manager of family-owned restaurants such as Salo, and his uncle Melo Santiago’s Steak House and Steak Factory.

Tucked in a cozy corner fanned by the refreshing sea breeze from Bulabog Beach, Courtyard Bistro is an intimate gathering place offering an exquisite dining experience for food lovers. (The spot used to be occupied by the short-lived Palo Maria restaurant which had been run by two architects, ex-lovers now, but which managed to attract a loyal number of patrons with its flavorful Italian pasta creations.)

According to Santiago, Courtyard “fulfills my life-long dream of opening my own bistro and serving the dishes close to my heart,” most of which are family recipes and old favorites from his travels and life in San Francisco surrounded by food enthusiasts.

“Having lived in Boracay for a year, I also got sick and tired of the Boracay waiting time of 30 minutes to an hour for your food. Being a customer myself who expects good service, I felt it was time to give back and offer a product that I know would appeal to a certain market of travelers—people who know refined cuisine, those who would appreciate every bite, every sip of wine and the little details that make The Courtyard Bistro a special place,” Santiago continued.

So, under a very old and ginormous balete tree, we exchanged ghost stories and began our late dinner with superb Oysters Rockefeller made from freshly harvested Aklan oysters in a shell, with hollandaise sauce and topped with bacon bits, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

We were also pleased with the pomelo salad, a very refreshing dish with the sweet juicy fruit tossed with shallots, celery, shrimps, coriander, coconut milk and a delightful Asian dressing.

As I’m not really a steak eater I passed on the juicy rib eye, but the gang gave it their thumbs-up, especially because of the creamy mashed potatoes that came with it. Santiago is marketing the restaurant as “the steak authority” on the island serving only USDA-certified Angus beef. “Your steak is cut to your desired size and weight [minimum of six ounces] and served with mashed or baked potatoes and vegetable sidings. Each cut is grilled to perfection on the cast-iron grill with lava rocks.”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t too impressed with the Twice-Cooked Chicken and Pork Adobo that everyone who had eaten there had been rhapsodizing about. The meat that night was a tad too tough for my taste, which was later confirmed by a regular patron. So, perhaps, this was just a fluke, and worth another tasting trip.

But I highly recommend the exquisite Dory Fish in Lemon Butter Sauce. It is tender and flaky, with a sublimely subtle sweetness and tangy flavor.

For dessert, we capped our meal with a scoop of pistachio ice cream that helped calm our sweet tooth. With his extensive restaurant-management experience, Santiago promises consistency in quality of the dishes. “I am there to personally attend to every dish before it reaches the table, checking its quality in the kitchen, supervising its plating and constantly developing new and exciting dishes. I personally attend to our guests to find out if they are satisfied, gathering feedback to improve where we can and offering a personalized service to each one.”

The restaurant can seat up to 30 to 40 persons and accepts group bookings. It can also customize a set menu according to one’s budget.

Whatever your budget and persuasion, Boracay is definitely every foodie’s playground.

***The Courtyard Bistro is at the Lazy Dog Bed & Breakfast, Palomar, Bulabog Beach, Boracay Island. For inquires or reservations (for private or group functions), you may call (036) 288-4128 or 0915-487-4121, or e-mail thecourtyardbistro@gmail.com.

(This story was published in the BusinessMirror on April 25, 2008. Photos courtesy of Freida Dario of Courtyard Bistro)

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