Tuesday, September 30, 2008

VERBENA

4 out of 5 stars

The only reason why I rated this 4 stars was due to pressure from Paolo when he insisted that Antonio's still tops the bar in Tagaytay. Not getting a consensus from him and other foodie friends, my lemming self shelved the star down a notch.

Chef David Pardo de Ayala is the corporate chef for the Discovery group of companies, where Verbena is located in their Tagaytay branch called Discovery Country Suites. He was born in Columbia, where he took basic cooking courses, but later specialized in CIA, NY. He then worked in NY restos like Bouley, Le Bernardin and Lespinasse, before moving to the Philippines, where he cooked for Aqua and opened the former Soleil Cafe Moderne. Being the chef who created Verbena's menu, I was excited to try this 80-seater place with Pao on our Tagaytay weekend spree.

Verbena is located right at the lobby of Discovery Country Suites, where the interiors flow into the decor of the bed and breakfast. You don't really know where the concierge area, nor the hallways of the b&b starts or ends, because the restaurant was merged into the whole lobby area. Thus, the main area of the resto is strategically fronting a fireplace, with a huge painting on its mantle. The place is elegant, decorated like a grand living room complete with the armoire and potted plants. Yet, it maintains its rustic feel, with the wooden, log cabin theme and quaint country bric-a-bracs.
Even for its rustic charm, expect five-star service. The waiter was attentive and quick to get our orders, notwithstanding the fact that we were the only customers at that time, haha (it was around 9:30 pm already, past closing). After ushering us to the balcony area (smoking section), he offered us bread and butter with a romesco dip that tasted almost like the tomato and garlic dip of Bravo!.

freebies

We were munching on our bread leisurely while we placed our orders. The menu is 2-paged short, but complete, covering appetizers, soup, salad, pasta&risotto, stews (stews, casseroles & classic broths) and main (grilled, roasted & seared). We were quick to choose from this "Contemporary Country" menu, getting an appetizer, pasta and main since it had a short description of the dish (which always helps!).

For appetizers, we had the Pan-Roasted Foie Gras (670PhP). Bernice must've rubbed off her love for it on me, cos when I see it on the menu, it leaps off the page begging to be ordered. Well, only for seared ones like this one, haha. It was cooked with pancetta, prunes and figs in a cognac sauce. And was it ever tasty! The sweetness of the fig and prunes balanced off the heavy taste of the foie gras. They were also pretty generous with the pancetta, which is a bonus. But let me go to the taste of the foie gras. It was melt-in-your-mouth goodness that I'd probably eat a lot of if it weren't so fattening. They deglazed the bits stuck to the pan with cognac, and putting it on liver intensified the taste even more. One thing I did wish for were probably more foie gras, because there was an awful lot of prunes and figs on the bottom.
Pan-Roasted Foie Gras (670PhP)

As for the pasta, we had Black Pepper Fettuccine (360 PhP). It was a pasta mixed with smoked bacon, roasted garlic and seared portabello mushrooms. I love this pasta because it was light (having no sauce, just st olive oil and flat-leaf parsley), yet filling. Garlic can be pretty sweet, especially if it's roasted as in the pasta. There were whole cloves of it, and biting into its sweetness with the smokiness of the portabello mushroom was a great combination. The bacon picked off the flavor of the mushroom, and thank god they used the deli-type slab of bacon and not those instant honey-cured ones. My only comment though was that there was a strong aftertaste from the mushroom that wasn't salvaged by putting something slightly acidic in the pasta, like maybe a hint of lemon.
Black Pepper Fettuccine (360 PhP)

We had Verbena's Sampler Plate (780 PhP), which is a combination of BBQ Lamb Baby Back Ribs, Grilled Norwegian Salmon with Arugula-Mushroom Salad, & U.S. Beef Short Ribs "Goulash." Of the three dishes, the one I expected to taste best was the disappointment of the three. The ribs did not have much of the sweet and spicy bbq glaze it touted to have, and it was awfully tough, as if it had been microwaved along with its polenta "fries" siding. The salmon was delicious, pan-fried in a wine sauce that complemented the vinaigrette of its arugula salad. Finally, our goulash sandwich was rich, tasting like a caldereta that was spiked with the spicy-sweet taste of caraway fruits.
Verbena's Sampler Plate (780 PhP)

This is definitely a restaurant to check out when dining in Tagaytay. The crabmeat and corn ravioli is highly recommended, and I would love to try it again on my second visit!

Thanks, Pao! Our posterity "I was here" shot.

Verbena menu. click to magnify.












Cafe Verbena
Country Suites, Discovery Tagaytay,
300 Calamba Rd. San Jose
Tagaytay City, Cavite
(046) 413-4567
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 10:00 am - 8:00 pm

5 comments:

Gildo said...

Buena comida en la "Verbena".
Siempre me gusta la "Verbena".
Salud amigo.

graey eats said...

Estoy de acuerdo. ¡La verbena esta fant├ística! Salud a usted tambien :)

Anonymous said...

enchelada burrito la vida loca del tiero taco bell - P

Anonymous said...

I just had one of my best lunches in months in Cafe Verbena!

With the company of my best friends, Chef David capped our fabulous Tagaytay reunion with a fantastic luncheon fit for kings!

Our menu:
Starters:
Amuse Bouche of tapanade crostini with sundried tomato and mozzarella
Marinated roasted Tagaytay bell peppers
Crispy croqueta de Tinapa (local smoked fish)
Baked oysters rockefeller
Salads:
Crispy fried mozzarella salad
Warm scallops salad with organic arugula, jamon Serrano, red onion confit and anchoide vinaigrette.
Simple green salad - assorted Tagaytay greens, fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes & sherry viniagrette.
Soup:
Tagaytay Bulalo soup (local recipe for beef shank with marrow soup)
Midcourse:
Black truffle risotto, crispy soft eff and smoked bacon jus
Lucban longganisa (local sausage from the Lucban, Quezon) risotto
Main Course:
U.S. ribeye tagliata with seared shitakes and arugula with potato puree.
Dessert:
Chocolate Marquise with pistachios and vanilla English cream
Apple tarte tatin with creme chantilly
Crepes nutella with caramel bananas
Panna Cotta Heaven - Saffron panna cotta with caramel oranges, Black pepper panna cotta with berries, and Lemon balm panna cotta with pistachio brittle
Chocolate Fondue

So when I said fit for kings, now you know what I mean.

Of course because I was too excited (and a little hungry) by the time we arrived at Verbana, I went after their yummy bread with their home made butter, chicken terrine and a bean spread. Thing is because the menu was really a surprise menu for us, I didn't realize how much food was coming. But not to worry, I was ready to take on whatever Chef David prepared for us.

My favorites (and this does not mean the rest weren't great), just that these were the ones I tried to get more of:
- Tinapa Croqueta - so delicate even if Tinapa has a tendency to overpower any dish.
- Warm scallop with Jamon Serano - I loved the anchovy dressing that complemented the combination of each of the ingredients in the dish.
- Bulalo soup - I'm actually not a big fan of Bulalo soup, I've always found it too greasy even if my husband says that is what makes it good. But this one was truly easy to eat with not to much of that fatty taste I don't like, plus the veggies made were still crisp (which never is the case for other Bulalos I've tasted)/
- Lucban Longganisa risotto - I wanted to have more of this, but of course I needed to share with my friends (but my friend serving us did give me the biggest portion, woot woot!). The risotto was cooked to perfection, something that is really hard to get here in the Philippines. Most of the time it's either too soggy or crispy. But this was perfect. Plus the taste of the Lucban longganissa was subtle and not subtle, I'm not sure how to explain it, but the way it was prepared, I seriously will be craving for this one for a long long time.
- The BEEF...the glorious Beef! - Honestly folks it was cooked exactly the way a piece of meat should be prepared. The meat was juicy and the herbs used gave justice to the excellent beef it was supplementing. Of course I love shitake mushrooms, so what more could I ask for. And his potato puree (which I've tried in his other restaurants) has always made me wonder why I can never do it to perfection the way he does!!!
- Lemon Panna cotta was glorious! The pistachio brittle on top was perfect with the panna cotta and just melted in my mouth!
- CHOCOLATE MARQUISE -- This is Chef David's piece de resistance, and honestly, the best chocolate dessert I've had in years. I didn't bother being nice to my friends and just ate most of it cause the chocolate with the English cream combination was so perfectly executed, I just can't imagine finding anything better in the Philippines.

I recommend this place to anyone visiting Tagaytay. Not only do you get the view of one of the Philippine key landmarks (Taal volcano - a volcano within a volcano), but you also get a warm fuzzy feeling after eating in Cafe Verbena!

graey eats said...

Thank you for leaving your exhaustive review of your feast! It truly sounded like it was fit for a king

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