It is of rarity that the outstanding restaurants in our country do get recognized. We have a plethora of good eats in the Philippines that vary from comforting home-style to exquisite. Even Makati can already stand as its own food nation. To name a few consistently good restaurants in the Metro there’s Abe, Shinjuku, People’s Palace, Cibo, Café Med, Chelsea, Hossein’s, Som’s, Tsukiji, El Cirkulo, Chef Laudico’s, Sala, Carapccio, Lolo Dad’s, and Lemuria. Yet south of this bustling Metro is a quaint, family and barkada-friendly city that is surprisingly known not just as a place for relaxation but also as a melting pot of top-notch food. I’m talking about Tagaytay and one if it’s best kept treasure is Antonio’s Fine Dining.
What I thought would be a Sunday trip for lunch at Verbena became an unexpected trip to the restaurant that I envisioned to be the finale of my ‘Food Adventures’. My jaw literally dropped and my heart started to race when I heard my dad say these glorious words… “Celine, parang ayoko mag Verbena, let’s just go for Antonio’s. We’ve gone this far anyway!” All I can reply was, “Are you serious?!” No exclamation point and swear word can justify the enthusiasm and excitement I had.
Antonio’s is what I would like to describe as The Food Lover’s Mecca. It would be an honor as a foodie, to experience Chef Antonio Escalante’s mouth-watering and innovative creations. It won’t rank number 10 out of 75,000 restaurants in the Miele Guide of Asia’s best restaurants for nothing. It ranks alongside Michelin-star winning chef, Joel Robuchon’s L’Atellier (Hongkong, #2) and Robuchon a Galera (Macau, #6).
Antonio’s ambiance transports you into a lush Spanish villa. Towering trees, vibrant greens, and blooming flowers envelop the place. It is a paradise for food, nature, and photography lovers alike. As we parked the car I even saw a family with the father carrying a camera tripod! A tall medieval wooden door welcomes you. You may choose to eat near the cobblestones and pond, you may opt to dine near the balcony over-looking the abundant garden, or you can go down the stairs and enjoy a veranda setting. The Spanish-inspired manor carries a modern twist as its walls are painted with a chic white and black combo. The sun generously peeks through the doors and windows to create a more invigorating dining experience. Natural lighting just seems to make the beauty and elegance of your food pop out.
The menu prepared by Antonio’s is enticing (except for the price)! Yet, who wouldn’t pay for a blissful ambiance and a meal that is internationally acclaimed and intricately prepared?
The entrees already come with soup, salad, and dessert which makes the experience even better and you won’t feel as though you’ve been deprived. Oh, they also serve unlimited garlic bread that is to die for. It’s crusty, garlicky, thick, buttery, and rustic. You know they baked it in a brick-oven.
|A part of the beautiful, Mediterranean-inspired dining area.|
|Dalandan Juice w/ Mint (P 300.00)|
I hate that this drink cannot be shared (according to the menu) because it is so darn good! It is so soothing with the mint. Almost resembles a virgin Mojito. Since we’re pretty pasaway, we discreetly shared it anyway. Hehe. You’d be crazy to leave your family just looking at you while you enjoy it.
Light, Frothy, and Refreshing
Mesclun Greens with Walnuts, Feta Cheese, and Raspberry Sauce
The greens are incredibly fresh. Even If I am not a fan of Arugula, the bitterness of the mesclun is balanced by the sweet raspberry coulee. The saltiness of the feta adds a pleasant bite to the salad.
Antonio’s Trio (P 1,800)
Topmost: Beef Fillet on Plancha w/ Black Pepper Sauce
Center: Walnut Encrusted Chilean Sea Bass on Gorgonzola Risotto, Saffron Kafir Sauce
Bottom: Honey Glazed Lambloin Gratinated w/ Goat Cheese
The trio is an experience that goes from good to mind-blowing. The beef fillet is very tender with the juices oozing out, but it’s very ordinary. Many restaurants can pull this off. The sauce was too subtle. I wish they added more pepper to give it that nice kick.
My dad on the other hand adored the walnut encrusted sea bass. He is such a sucker for sea bass so he knows a beautiful piece of fresh Chilean sea bass as soon as he smells and tastes one. I must agree, the dish is genius. The walnut gives the fish more depth and crunch. It’s very light, fresh, and divine. Although I believe they served it with polenta and not with risotto. Otherwise, it’s still great! The polenta brought a rich and creamy dimension to the dish.
Finally, what I loved most among the three is the Lambloin. Succulent, sweet lamb is well-complemented with the tangy goat cheese. The flavors linger in your mouth. Each bite is perfect. It would be perfect to pair it with a nice vintage red wine. My only complaint would be the portions. Bitin!
Crispy Deboned Lamb, Garlic Egg Noodles, w/ Hoisin Sauce (P 1,300)
I am so glad we ordered this deboned lamb because it is such a well-rounded and well-executed dish. The lamb is not only succulent since it was baked, but is also crisp to perfection after being deep-fried. It’s an upgraded version of Liempo/Crispy Pata sans the bones which makes the dining experience even better! The hoisin sauce adds a spicy and sweet tang to the meat. A clever oriental touch is added through the yummy garlic noodles. The noodles are light and springy which makes a successful pairing with the lamb. I would come back to Antonio’s definitely for this dish! Love, love, love!
Poached Pear in Port Wine w/ Mascarpone Ice Cream
This dessert looks too pretty to eat! It’s so delicate. Mascarpone in itself is already bland, but turning it into an ice cream produces a nicely creamy and bold flavor. The pear on the other hand was poached perfectly. It’s certainly a good balance of hot and cold but this is a dessert that you’d either love or hate. As for me, I didn’t love it. But, if you are craving for fruitiness and tartness, go for this dessert. It’s definitely adventurous. If you want something rich, I suggest you dig in to this:
Dark Chocolate Souffle w/ Cardamom Crème Anglaise
The one soufflé that can match up to Le Souffle’s souffle! Nuff’ said J
Good thing I wasn’t paying for the bill! Haha. But if reading this blog is already tempting you, please do not hesitate to miss such an experience. Set the price or the distance aside. It’s a pilgrimage to this food mecca that you’ll thank the gods for! J
Tagaytay City, Cavite
Tagaytay City, Cavite