My own ‘Miele Guide’ ‘Retrospective’: Sentro 1771

18 11 2008

While flipping through last Sunday’s ‘Sunday Inquirer Magazine’, I saw that 30 Filipino restaurants made it to the ‘Miele Guide’, intended “to become established as the most credible, independent and respected system through which restaurants are evaluated in Asia.”  It was launched last October 31, 2008 at the Grand Hyatt in Singapore.  I was very pleasantly surprised to realize that some of my favorites have made it to the list.  So I gues it is but fitting to post in my blog reviews I had written about them in the past years.  Previously, I just shared my reviews through e-Mail to friends.  For my ‘Miele Guide’ retrospective, I begin with Sentro 1771.

 

[This was originally written in Filipino, on August 09, 2004.]

 

SENTRO 1771

Second Level,

Greenbelt 3,

Ayala Center, Makati City

Monday – Sunday 11AM-1AM

Tel. 757-3940

 

ALONG THE expanse of the ‘very now’ and ‘very happening’Greenbelt 2 and Greenbelt 3, you shall find modern and high quality restaurants offering cuisine from practically every corner of the world (at least those known to me).  If you shall check out each and every establishment, you might end up having a hard time deciding where to dine as each one has its own tempting appeal.  But if what you’re looking for is a taste of home that is truly a ‘feast for the senses’, then ‘SENTRO 1771’ in Greenbelt 3 might just be the one for you.

 

Sentro 1771, which has a the tagline ‘Modern Filipino Cuisine,’ was established in 2002.  It is the youngest member of the Chateau 1771 Group Of Restaurants that also includes Chateau 1771 French Bistro in Malate (since 1998), Chateau 1771 in Ortigas (1995), and Portico in Malate (1998).

 

When I entered Sentro 1771, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away, because as I have said, they are specializing on Filipino cuisine.  And who among us hasn’t savored almost everything offered under the header of ‘Filipino Cuisine?’  That is why it was quite difficult to think about any dish they have that could make me single out Sentro 1771 over all the many other Filipino restaurants.

 

I didn’t know where to start with their extensive menu.  Since the menu and the writings on the wall kept harping about this ‘house specialty,’ aside from the fact that it was only then that I had heard about it, I ordered their “Corned Beef in Tamarind Broth with Vegetables (Sinigang na Corned Beef, Php 295.00).”  Per the menu, this is ‘corned beef short ribs and boneless shanks in tamarind broth with native vegetables.’  Before they even served the dish, I was quite surprised when one of their chefs approached me to ask me to taste test the broth.  Wow, that was something new!  Before that, I had never been asked if the sourness or saltiness of a broth was to my liking.  After the final dish made it to the table and I had dug in, I realized one thing – I never thought corned beef ‘sinigang’ could be this good!  It hit the sweet spot, meeting all the three criteria I had set for the perfect ‘sinigang’ (sour broth-based dish) – the meat has to really be of ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ tenderness, falling off the bone is possible; the broth should have the perfect balance of sourness and saltiness (which should be the case here as I had given the thumbs up before the dish was served); and, the vegetables should remain crisp, with a bright green color to them.  Sentro 1771’s ‘Corned Beef in Tamarind Broth with Vegetables’ has all the right to be called the house specialty!

 

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Good food and great company! One Sentro 1771 trip with Millet, Edu, Arnie and Erwin!

 

While slurping on the ‘sinigang’ (OMG!  Did I just say ‘slurp’?!), I also grabbed bites of the “Crispy Boneless Trotter (Hinimay na Crispy Pata, Php 360.00)”, which, as the name suggests, had meat removed from the bone and cut up in bite-size pieces.  The meat was very flavorful and oozing with its juice, and not to be forgotten was the skin, fried to a delicious crisp!  For my pesco-vegetarian friends, we asked for the “Marinated Boneless Bonoan Milkfish (Php 260.00)”, topped by two types of sauces – one made with fresh tomatoes, and another made with soy sauce and probably, the marinade used for the fish.  But eventhough the fish was already topped with these sauce options, I still chose to have it alongside, and together with the “Grilled Eggplant Salad (Ensaladang Inihaw na Talong, Php 120.00).”  This salad was a great ‘showcase’ of most everything you can love with Filipino cooking.  With each spoonful, I got to savor the many layers of flavors and textures that was such a party in my mouth.  Off the bat, I got the taste of the ‘grill’, which was very fragrant.  Then I got the hint of saltiness from the vinaigrette that was spiked with fermented shrimp paste.  Not to be missed was the texture of the chopped indian mango, the perfect counterpoint to the sweetness and the smoothness of the chopped ripe mango.  Sometimes, you’d come along a dish that will make you go: “Mmm..  What is that?”  You won’t know right there and then what that was, but taken with the dish as a whole, it was good regardless of whether or not you figured out what it was.  In the eggplant salad, that factor was brought by the crushed ‘cornik’ topping that took me a second visit to figure out.  I challenged myself and didn’t want to ask!.  ‘Cornik’ is corn kernels fried to a crunch, a popular Filipino street snack.

 

As if the milkfish dish and the eggplant salad weren’t enough, I ordered the “Fish & Eggplant (Vegetable) Omelet (Tortang Talong at Bangus, Php 140.00).”  I doused it with tomato ketchup and it was such a treat!  Because of all these wonderful food, I had to satiate myself with two helpings of steamed rice (Php 35.00 each).  And to wash everything down, I opted for both their “Bottomless Sago’t Gulaman (Tapioca and Gelatin with Vanilla Extract, Sugar Syrup and Crushed Ice, Php 70.00) and Fresh Pomelo Juice (Php 70.00).

 

I don’t rate a restaurant with just one visit.  I’m very careful before I heap any restaurant with praises.  That’s why it is very important for me to be convinced that a place serves consistently high quality food.  And in the five times that I had dined at Sentro 1771 in the past month, I can say with utmost conviction that the taste, the cooking, and the presentation of their food are consistently excellent!

 

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The ultimate indication of a sumptuous feast - clean plates! Nothing survived eNTeNG's attack!

The resturant’s interiors are beautiful.  I felt genuine Filipino hospitality through the warm, dark-hued wood used for the walls, the furniture, and the décor.  I liked the touch of the low-hanging ceiling lamps at each table.  The seating capacity was just right and even at full occupancy, I didn’t feel uncomfortably hemmed in.  They also offer “al fresco” dining experience right outside their door.

 

The rest rooms are brand new, and the interiors were very at-the-moment.  I particularly loved the stainless steel appointments and how they beautifully contrast with the native accents – defnitely no clashing there.  When it comes to parking, it wouldn’t be a problem as the restaurant is in the Greenbelt 3 mall.

 

Even after all the nice things I have said about this new dining haunt, some of you may still feel a bit hesitant to fork out that much money for food.  But I find the prices reasonable, taking into account the freshness of the ingredients, the taste, and the fact that everything is cooked to order.  I love to cook so I can tell good, even great cooking, when I experience one.  And Sentro 1771 definitely exceeded my expectations.  So, the next time you find yourselves in Greenbelt 3, check out Sentro 1771.  You’d be very glad you did!





Café Bola: Filipino-Italian Café Bar For The Discriminating Mass Audience.. Comfort Food At Its Best

18 11 2008

[This was originally written on August 30, 2004.] 

GREENBELT 3                                                      ARANETA COLISEUM ARCADE

Second Level,                                                    Araneta Coliseum Arcade

Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center,                              Araneta Center, Cubao,

Makati City                                                          Quezon City

757-2652                                                               913-2928

Open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner         Open from 10AM to 11PM, Sunday to Thursday,

                                                                              Open from 10AM to 12MN, Friday and Saturday

 

I’M ALL for and about cool comfort food.  So the attraction to try out Café Bola in Greenbelt 3 was but natural.  That and the fact that it has behind it the name Margarita Araneta Fores, a name synonymous with what a famous movie character would call confident and inventive cusine.  And those in the know are aware that Café Bola is just one of Ms. Fores’ three fantastic restaurants.  The other two being the Italian Family Ristorante-Bistro ‘Cibo‘ and the high-end, fine-dining place ‘Pepato‘ in the Greenbelt 2 Restaurant Strip.  If there ever was an unspoken hierarchy for Ms. Fores’ restaurants, I think Café Bola would be the one for her mass audience, and Pepato would be for the elite, with Cibo bridging the gap.

 

While perusing the extensive one-page menu, we started with a round of drinks, soup and an appetizer.  When Café Bola first opened at the Araneta Coliseum Arcade in Cubao, it created quite a curiosity stir with its Kamias‘ Shake (Php 60.00), pale green, sweet and tart at the same time.  I personally hesitated to try this shake because the word ‘kamias‘ conjures up images of ‘sinigang (meat or fish cooked in a sour broth with native vegetables)‘ and not some cool drink that I would wash food down with.  But hey, what’s the point in trying out a new place if I wouldn’t order its house (drink) specialty?!  So I got one for starters, and for later, I got ice-cold ‘Lemongrass Tea’ (Php 60.00).  The ‘Kamias‘ Shake was nothing I feared it to be, and can only be considered as the crowning glory of Café Bola’s line of fresh fruit shakes.  The ice-cold Lemongrass Tea was calming and soothing, much like the local ‘Salabat (Ginger Ale)’, and the only thing closest to the ice-cold Chrysanthemum drink I fell in love with during a couple of trips to Malaysia.  The drinks alone were so comforting that with every sip, I fell more in love with place.  And the ‘Banana Heart and Cheese Dip With Pan De Sal Rounds’ (Php 120.00) wasn’t of any help from preventing me to plummet head over heels to food heaven on earth.  I think this is Margarita’s take on the classic Italian Spinach and Artichoke Cheese Dip.  Her use of the banana heart, instead of the artichoke, while being innovative and clever, actually works!  The dip blends perfectly together the mild, nutty flavor of the cheese and the chunky texture of the banana heart.  It was perfect for the toasted pan de sal rounds, which I later found out could be exchanged for the soft, untoasted ones (Php 15.00 for an extra serving).  The toasted pan de sal was also the perfect accompaniment to the home-brewed ‘Cream of Mushroom Soup’ (Php 65.00) that I ordered from the day’s roster of soups.  It was very yummy and fresh and didn’t taste anything like the popular canned soup.  If I could only make the same pot of soup, I would have the perfect bowl to snuggle with during the torrential rains when it is no good going outdoors and it would be best to stay home and watch a little TV, or better yet, a movie.

 

By the time the waiter was clearing away the soup bowl, I wouldn’t call myself famished anymore.  But I sure still had a lot of space to fill up.  What with the really tempting choices for the main course!!!  I started off with the ‘Fried Bangus (Milkfish) Belly With Crunchy Pork Skin And Baby Crab Fat Rice’ (Php 225.00) which I requested to be served with Fresh Tomato-Cilantro Salsa instead of the usual Garlicky Vinegar.  I chose this because of the baby crab fat rice, especially since I haven’t had my favorite ‘Aligui (Baby Crab Fat)’ Pasta for quite some time now.  The milkfish was tender and flavorful, rich in healthy fish belly fat.  It tasted much better with the fresh cilantro salsa, and a sprinkling of the crunchy pork skin (chicharon), with a lot of the rice in every bite!  If you’re like me, a big rice eater, one is never enough.  So I ended up ordering extra ‘Baby Crab Fat Rice’ (Php 85.00)    but don’t have too much!  The baby crab fat is high in cholesterol.  But the health-conscious need not fret.  There are quite a number of dishes on the menu that are marked “good for the heart.”  I was just not in the mood to try them out myself that night.  What I found were a couple more entrees that I just had to have.  ‘Botsky’s Tuna Laing Rice’ (Php 150.00) was not disappointing.  Their ‘laing‘, which is dried taro leaves cooked in a spicy coconut sauce, was a burst of flavors from the creamy coconut milk, the taro leaves and the pow-pow spiciness of the local chili, punctuated by the succulent and tender chunks of fresh tuna (which in itself is good for the heart!).  It was really a flavor of the Bicol region in every spoonful.  Lastly, I had one of their home breakfast specialties which is actually available at any time of the day: ‘Spicy Tuyo (Herring) Filets On Rice With Scrambled Eggs And Fresh Tomato-Cilantro Salsa’.  You can never get any closer to home than with this dish.  It was so visually appealing too    served in a deep pristine white bowl, with the colors of the tuyo filets and the scrambled eggs contrasting marvelously.  But admiring the presentation didn’t last long as I had to really dig my spoon and fork in and devour the dish that best reminded me of breakfasts at home that would kick off another busy day at school.  Or in more recent memory, a breakfast like this would set my friends and I off to long drives to destinations like Stanford University, Vacaville or San Francisco.

 

I almost mopped my plates clean with the pan de sal rounds.  And this was all because of the undeniably excellent food, which by the time I was taking my last sips of the ice-cold Lemongrass Tea, I had proven not only to be really confident and inventive, but trailblazing as well.  With the freshness of the ingredients they use, the brightly lit mostly-red interiors, the lightly pert and exuberant ambiance, not to mention the excellent attentive service, I would say their prices are very reasonable.  Undeniably excellent food and reasonable prices sure sound like a knockout one-two punch I’d keep coming back to and actually have.

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That's the beautiful "Partner", in one of our more recent visits to Cafe Bola's Greenbelt 2 branch.