What do Sundays mean to you?
Like most Filipinos, Sunday for us is family day. We would go to church in the morning, and then have a hearty lunch afterwards. My mother usually makes use of this time to try new restaurants.
Some days we eat in the mall. Some days she would feel extra, and we would go to a hotel. And then some days she kind of goes overboard and just whisks us away to a faraway land (hehe) like Tagaytay, Marikina or Antipolo.
Of course there’s no guarantee of a great time in trying a new place out, but there are times – rare instances – when the effort, the inconvenience, or the long drive is rendered irrelevant by a delicious meal.
This particular Sunday lunch was just like that. We didn’t have to drive for 2 to 3 hours to get to the restaurant, nor did it feature anything fantastic or particularly Instagram-able like a well-manicured garden, or a collection of antiques.
It’s in Makati, but along the cracks, if I can put it that way, in an old 3-storey building near Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Poblacion. The crampy elevator leading to the restaurant smells like old carpet. It opens to a small, simple yet spiffy restaurant with nondescript lighting, tables in pristine, crisp white, and the kitchen in full display, separated from the dining area only by glass.
I didn’t know it then, but I would still be able to remember how the food here tastes days later. And given the chance, I’d rather eat here than in any hotel buffet or restaurant, any day.
I’ve heard of Lolodad’s but never had the chance to try it. I’ve heard of the chef behind it, but never got to try his food; not even the ice cream flavor he crafted as part of a roster of celebrity chefs tapped by a multinational brand.
I finally sampled his cooking last Sunday. It’s one of the best Sunday lunches I’ve ever had.
My initial concern was that my kid would not be able to eat anything in such a fine dining establishment, but my mom, who has dined here before, went ahead and ordered the chicken for her, so that took care of it.
It turned out to be a wonderfully well-prepared chicken dish that the kid liked immensely: Chunky cuts of succulent chicken on a skewer, fragrant and juicy, with rosemary and other herbs absorbed deep in the meat and not just skin-deep as is the tendency with other places. It is so good in its simplicity.
With the kid’s meal well taken cared of and out of the way, we were free to explore. “Shrimpcargot” sounded uniquely interesting, so I ordered that, as well as the spinach and warm mushroom salad because veggies are a must and spinach is love.
Totally taken by surprise, the husband was impressed most by this bowl of glistening greens.
With the Shrimpcargot, there’s nothing like tender shrimp bathed in garlicky herby butter, and I think I literally swooned. What totally took me by surprise was the kid asking for one to taste, and then competing with me to finish the dish.
I haven’t eaten where a palate cleanser was served prior to the entree in a really long time, so my expectations shot up by this time. The duck leg confit was pure comfort food. The dish is elevated by its accompanying Mediterranean-inspired rice that had raisins, pine nuts and pieces of foie gras, but never mind that, the chef had an instant fan with me with the tutong (scorched bits of rice).
Quite full by this time – we also had some of our daughter’s chicken since the serving is generous – we had to make space for dessert. If this chef could transform spinach and poultry to poetry, I had to take this journey all the way home. The dessert – a mango with mascarpone and dulce de leche concoction – sealed the experience.
It may have taken me a long time, but I’m in on the secret now. Know for yourself the food creations of Chef Ariel Manuel in Bistro Manuel.
Bistro Manuel is in Six Axis Center, 4347 B. Valdez Street, Poblacion, Makati City
Call them at +63926 734 1067