Sunday, March 8, 2009


5 out of 5 stars

The first thing you think of Sala, when going to this place, is how inaccessible it is. Sure, it may be neighboring Greenbelt 5, but the only way to get here is to walk through a maze of streets, nary a parking slot available next to it. But don’t let its inaccessibility deter you --- it’s a small sacrifice for what could probably be your best restaurant experience.

When you go up the stairs of the building and see the big banners spelling Sala per letter, you wonder how you could have missed their signage driving through Makati Avenue. And then when you reach the top, you are pleasantly surprised at the building you see in front of you. It’s actually quite small, a one-storey building sandwiched in between the PLDT Building and Locsin Building (where the British Embassy is). To even call it a building would be ironic, because it looks more like a room with glass and cement walls and a thick metal ceiling. But instead of detracting from its ambience, it only adds to it, making it more charming and intimate despite its modern furnishings.

Sala used to be in Malate, Manila. But they relocated to Makati, making it more accessible to yuppies and professionals in the business district. To make things easier, Sala was divided into both Sala and Sala Bistro, the first being their fine-dining version and the latter being the more laid-back branch in Greenbelt 3, which serves up Sala’s famed Sunday Champagne Jazz Brunch. These restaurants, along with People’s Palace, are owned by chef and entrepreneur Colin McKay. He hired Chef Carlo Miguel, of Mezzaluna fame, to be its Executive Chef early 2008, who started cooking up new dishes, keeping old Sala favorites.

Sala is simple, yet contains sophisticated hints of luxurious upholstery, smoked mirrors and shell-shaped sconces. It is mainly in white, with its floor, tablecloths, walls and raised ceilings. And it is complimented by the warm brown colors of the wooden side paneling and chairs. There is nothing which stands out architecturally, because they expect the setting to be a blank canvas for its food. Service is on spot, with the waiters being attentive but not hovering. Upon entering, they even offered me a bag hook to hang mine by the side of the table.

There were only 13 dishes to order for that day covering both appetizers and entrees, fitting in one page. Changing their menu every several weeks make up for the small number dishes offered, so that next time you visit, you’d have a fresh set of choices. While we placed our orders, we were offered bread from a metal basket carried by the waiter, which for that day was a chewy rosemary bread sprinkled with sea salt as well as sesame lavosh, which is a crisp, unleavened flat bread. They also set 3 small quiches in front of us, our amuse bouche. It looked deceptively plain, a normal pie with cheese melted on top. But when you bite into it, there was a burst of flavors that told you what you were eating wasn’t just any quiche. The phyllo pastry crust was perfectly flaky, which grounded the other flavors of portabella mushroom, cream spinach and cheese. It was meaty, yet light; creamy yet zesty. Eating something like this raised the bar for the dishes that we ordered.

And we were not disappointed. Far from it. Our appetizer of Twice Baked Souffle with Prawns, Feta and Dill (420 PhP) as well as the Portabella mushroom, ricotta and thyme ravioli with parmesan and white truffle oil (460 PhP) were both divinely inspired. The soufflé has been a best-selling mainstay since Malate, and has never failed to please. The soufflé has been baked hours ahead of time, and baked once again to form a crispy, cheesy crust, where the chef surrounds the plate with even more parmesan and feta cheese, garnished with basil, to make it more decadent. While the crust is crisp, the inside remains creamy and delicate, with the feta, prawns and dill blending seamlessly with the beaten egg and flour mixture.
Twice Baked Souffle with Prawns, Feta and Dill (420 PhP)

While the soufflé is rich and decadent, the ravioli is refreshing and savory. Homemade ravioli pasta is stuffed with light ricotta cheese and portabella mushroom cooked in truffle oil, its mild-smoky flavor giving way to the tart flavor of fennel and orange slaw that beds the pasta. Rocket microgreens is used as a garnish, as well as a side of basil oil and another side of truffle oil. When you bite into the perfectly al dente pasta, its delicate ricotta flavor is played up by slaw, teasing you with its light, acidic notes. You feel revived, yet satisfied, and all the more expectant of your main course.
Portabella mushroom, ricotta and thyme ravioli with parmesan
and white truffle oil (460 PhP)

The entrees were a sight to behold, its plating quite brilliant. The Minted Lamb Loin and Confited Lamb Shoulder with Eggplant Mashed Potatoes, Roast Peppers and Pomegranate Molasses jus (960 PhP) was the most experimental and playful. The Lamb Loin was seared and baked perfectly medium rare. It was pink on the inside and it was so tender and juicy. Mint encircled the lamb loins to offset its aftertaste. It was accompanied with a bed of diced zucchini and pomegranates, the latter picking up the sweet flavor of the lamb dripping sauce that was spiked with the same fruit. The entire thing was topped with the confited lamb shoulder, where the process involves it roasting duck fat after marinating overnight in spices. It was well worth the process because it brought a rich, earthy side of the lamb. We all loved how the sweet flavor of the zucchini and pomegranates lent itself to the rich taste of the meat. There were much textures and flavors involved, and you can’t help but leisurely savor every bite.
Minted Lamb Loin and Confited Lamb Shoulder
with Eggplant Mashed Potatoes, Roast Peppers
and Pomegranate Molasses jus (960 PhP)

We also picked the special of the day, which was a type of special Australian Tenderloin (900+ PhP). It was seared before putting in the oven. It was also very tender and it matched its side dishes of mashed potatoes, French beans and portabella mushroom well. We actually loved how they grilled the portabella mushroom to make it stay so soft and flavorful. It almost melted in your mouth, and brought a new dimension to the meat when you ate the mushroom with it. However, its jus was overpowering (maybe from the wine mixed with it) and we preferred eating the tenderloin with the side dishes alone.
Australian Tenderloin (900+ PhP)

Finally, we also chose the Grilled Australian Bobby Veal Tenderloin with Green Pea Risotto and Braised Veal Cheek with Smashed Root Vegetables (980 PhP). We loved how the taste was almost a yin-yang of flavors. The veal cheek to the left had an intense flavor, braised in a sauce that stood up to the strong flavors of the root vegetable siding. It was braised for such a time that it was literally fork-tender. I never even had to use a knife! Meanwhile, the veal tenderloin to the right had a mild taste, that was matched by the soft, pleasant flavor of the pea risotto. A sauce that was slightly sweet encircled it. It was fun alternating from the cheek to the tenderloin, then back, loving how the same ingredient could taste so different from the other. However, the tenderloin wasn’t as tender, and it was even sort of dry. But that may have been my fault since I told the kitchen to grill it medium well.
Grilled Australian Bobby Veal Tenderloin with Green Pea Risotto
and Braised Veal Cheek with Smashed Root Vegetables (980 PhP)

We were so stuffed from our appetizers and entrees that we didn’t even have room for dessert. But I heard that the panna cotta laced with berries is one to die for! If only we had more room to eat more of their creations. Good thing there’s a second visit, a third visit, a fourth visit….

p.s. pictures care of my photographer friend, Keisie Marfil :)

MENU. Click to magnify.

Sala, Makati

Podium Level, Locsin Bldg., 6752 Ayala Ave. cor. Makati Ave.
Makati City, Metro Manila
(02) 750-1555
M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 11:00 am - 2:00 pm
M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 6:00 pm - 11:00 pm


TM™ said...

hungry atty, how was your birthday? please try sonny's resto, buffalo's wings N things in food street when you have the time. thanks! am tweeting your food blog.

graey eats said...

How was your birthday too, Nons? We're on the same day kaya! :) I hope I greeted you on that day, though! I was supposed to throw a party, but I got really tired, and didn't have time anymore to arrange one.

yep, will try your suggestion. Sounds delicious. And guess what? I've tasted estrel's already. You're right! It is yummy, just my type of cake since it's not too sweet.

goodfor2 said...

would try the souffle next time we eat there

TM™ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TM™ said...

graey, have you tried making a souffle? are you selling any of your old pizza stones? you want more estrel's?

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