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Marriott Hotel Manila, #10 Newport Boulevard,
Newport City, Pasay City
Tel. No. 988-9999 local 810
Open from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Closed on Mondays
Recently I was channel surfing and ended up on Cinema One. They happened to be showing a movie starring one of my all-time favorite local actors, Eddie Garcia. The scene was in an elegant Manila restaurant, circa 1970-something. Manoy is (what else?) romancing his leading lady. He wore a beige suit (When was the last time you wore a suit out to eat?) and she had a string of pearls adorning her neck. A bygone era, indeed, and a visual stirred up my imagination: What were they ordering? A glass of wine (Blue Nun, anyone?) Caesar salad. (Prepared tableside, of course) Steak ala Pobre (Extra garlic.) Chicken ala Kiev. (Butter squirting on Manoy's tie.) And, for dessert, a plate of canonigo for her, and for him a smoke from his pipe. Dated dishes from more innocent times, but delicious, nonetheless. Muy romantico, except when you do the kissing scene– Listerine breath strips didn't exist yet.
It's nice to know that there are still restaurants that still have that vibe and kind of service, updated for the 21st century. One of them is the dinner-only Cru, over at the Marriott in Newport City or Casino Land. The Marriott is a pretty cool and contemporary looking hotel, and one that I think has yet to pique the curiosity of the city. Every time I've gone there the lobby seems a bit empty–funny, considering it's an interesting one with an even cozier looking, centrally located bar. It's nothing like the Manila Pen's grand lobby, or Shangri-La's even, but rather it's something a bit more subdued and mod, in an American hotel sort of way. Cru is, apart from their main buffet type outlet, the "main" restaurant (and can also be found in other Marriotts around the globe), and is slightly hidden in the far corner of the hotel, with a small sign on the wall being the only way of knowing where it is.
Going to the main dining area reminded me of entering an old uncle's house (albeit a loaded, Ron Burgundy-like one!). Dark, wood paneled furniture, and soft lights set the mood. I half expected to see a man sitting in his leather armchair, dressed in a smoking jacket, wearing a cravat, and sipping cognac while playing backgammon with his equally dashing BFF and listening to Verdi on the record player. Decidedly Old World and clubby, it also looked like it was going to be pricey. Then again, I've begun to notice a certain category of specialized, ultra premium steak houses popping up here and there–places like Fireplace Grill at the Hyatt, I'm Angus in Yakal, and Elbert's Steak Room. These are the kinds of places that take extra efforts with their meats, thawing and chilling them properly, seasoning well, and employing mega heat and enough resting time to produce optimal results. It's something that as a consumer we must insist on, considering the prices they are charging. Steaks can hit the three thousand-peso range easy, but you get what you pay for, and they are gigantic enough to sometimes feed two reasonably hungry individuals.
Sinking my butt into the soft banquettes on a quiet Sunday evening, I recall only a few more tables being occupied, which to me meant that service was going to be extra good. I have to say, by the way, that their wait staff (mostly women) are kinda cute–being served drinks and steaks by them in this rather masculine restaurant add a nice touch to the whole experience for the men folk. They communicate well, and are quite charming, so hats off to the hotel for training them well.
Click to see more photos.
I can't help but smile when served a freebie from the kitchen. Yeah, yeah, I know it's plugged into their costs, but it's always a pleasant surprise. In this case, we were each brought a huge baked oyster, topped with seasoned bread crumbs, cheese and a lemon twist.
I've always been a soup guy, so I went and ordered a tasty little cauliflower soup, topped with almonds and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. It had that kind of mellow, uncomplicated, comforting flavor that was perfect for a night like this.