Amidst all the thesis woes and the months our group dedicated to painstakingly converting 80 kilos of humble papaya seeds into a golden orange biodiesel, my food buddy and I felt the need to indulge ourselves and finally bid thesis farewell. :D As every thesis group gets frazzled and flustered in accomplishing their thesis… a bountiful celebration upon hearing the words, “Congratulations you’ve passed!” is just reasonable. :D
After looking through a multitude of food blogs in Manila to find the perfect after-thesis lunch place, Spasso Italian Tapas and Wine Bar appealed to us the most. Spasso apparently is the Italian word for ‘fun’ which the restaurant hopes to portray with their one-of-a-kind Italian tapas, their enoteca (wine library) of over 170 premium wines (from Australia, Italy, Chile, Spain and Argentina), and the live acoustic bands every Friday night. More than these alluring offerings, our minds were set on the Wagyu tartar lardo, Truffle Pasta, and Mushroom Frittata… yes, we were that prepared.
It’s amusing to witness how we Filipinos have come to embrace tapas over the years. When paired with the right wine and a vivacious company, the dining experience inevitably escalates. I’ve encountered numerous Spanish tapas bars in the past but an Italian counterpart in Manila is a rarity. If the Spanish are accustomed to: gambas al ajillo, chorizo al vino, croquetas de jamon, calamares, tortilla de patatas (potato omelets), and hamon cerrano, then the Italians have: Arancini (fried risotto balls), bruschetta, frittata, salamis, prosciutto or pancetta w/melon balls, chunks of cheeses, and crostinis. The Spanish prefer their tapas fried or swimming in rich gleaming olive oil, while the Italians like theirs raw, accented with cheese, cured, or laden with bread. Whatever the region, the true essence of serving tapas is to encourage conversations among people because with small plates, the diners won’t feel obliged to focus on the meal set before them. Another plus is that one can get a taste of various dishes in the menu without necessarily having to break the bank. :D
Instead of gothic cobblestone walls that tapas bars normally possess, Spasso’s terracotta-colored walls, enhanced by plush furnishings made the ambiance more contemporary. A vast wine library was charmingly located at one side of the restaurant. It’s every wine lover’s fantasy!
Spasso’s menu presented a sophisticated nirvana of Italian tapas (piccolini), crostinis, bruschetta, risottos, pastas, and meat entrees.
Complimentary Bread and Olive Oil dip
A bite of this starter instantly reminded me of C’ Italian’s version. Flavor wise, the rye bread was dense, possessed rustic qualities, and had a tinge of sweetness into it. The olive oil and pesto dip were certainly of good quality. However, the bread’s texture was stale, just as if they were preheated.
Mushroom Frittata (P 190.00)
Don’t be fooled by the picture, the frittata was not that massive. :D Yet, it was undeniably a plateful of happiness. The filling dish banishes all mediocre omelettes that you may have had in the past. A burst of earthy mushrooms with a generous blend of fine Italian and sharp Swiss cheeses play beautifully in the mouth. The cheese crusted well while bits of al dente pasta were surprisingly layered into the frittata. Despite several components and textures, the egg remained fluffy to the bite. I wouldn’t mind having this for breakfast every morning with a wicked siding of crispy bacon! :D
Wagyu Beef Tartar Lardo (P 550.00)
How can I pass the word lardo in the menu? Lardo is made from a thick layer of fat directly below the skin of a pig cured with salt and spices (wisegeek.com). As many may know, Chef Mario Batali endlessly babbled and raved about this Italian cured pork backfat in his cooking shows. He treated the pearl-hued slices of fat with utmost passion and intimacy. It was a lardo love affair that he expressed on pizzas, pastas, crostinis and even chestnut cake! For a time, he made lardo as trendy as an iPhone in the New York dining scene. You might think the man’s crazy for overly exalting such a sinful shaving of fat, but personally I think he’s just doing us a favor. :D
It’s about time that the Filipino palate experienced the delicate slivers of lardo no matter how devious it may seem! It isn't heavy or greasy as one may imagine. Perfectly devoured atop luscious wagyu tartare and you get a mouthful of exquisiteness. The king of all beef at its cold and raw form is just as pristine when it is cooked. Topping it off with heaping spoonfuls of the king of pork fat just makes the experience out-of-this-world. The acidity of the capers brightens the taste of the garlicky bruschetta. A contrasting texture of crunchy, creamy, and smooth makes the dish immensely pleasurable!
Tagliatelle with Salsa Tartufo (P 480.00)
Lori’s (of dessertcomesfirst) description of this truffle pasta was so vivid that we had to order it ourselves. Being a truffle pasta enthusiast, this was too difficult to overlook! Spasso thankfully veered away from overpowering and drowning the pasta with truffle essence. Instead, they ingeniously balanced the robust black truffle bits with what I believe is beef broth. Yes, a beefy flavor that sleekly glided through the tubes of penne (they ran out of tagliatelle). This brought ample depth to the creamy and lush sauce. Precious slivers of silky and salty prosciutto just made the dish even better!
Crispy Roasted Rosemary Pork (P 595.00)
Just by looking at the picture, you know the dish is just like your typical bagnet, but paired with creamy parmesan mashed potatoes instead of rice. It was wonderfully crispy and the taste of the herbs permeated well but it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. A sufficient layer of fat lay on the tender meat. I enjoyed the taste, but I didn’t enjoy the price. The problem is… for almost six hundred pesos, I would expect something more innovative and mind-blowing than just adding red cabbage and assorted vegetables to four pieces of pork. Fely J’s lechon kawali may be a far better alternative! :D
The spread was good enough help me recover from a stressful thesis experience. After an abundant lunch of delicious tapas and pasta, I can happily say that Spasso definitely lived up to its name! Looks like lardo may just be the next best guilty pleasure after bacon :D
Spasso Italian Tapas and Wine Bar
Luxe Residence Bldg., 4th Avenue cor. 28th Street,
Fort Global City Taguig