No Longer A Secret Garden Restaurant
Angelo Comsti is breaking in his new SPOT.ph blog by revealing a secret.
(SPOT.ph) I'm not one to gossip nor break secrets I've promised to keep, but when it comes to discovering exciting places to eat in and new dishes to titillate my taste buds with, I'd always be the first to dish out information and tell my family and friends about it.
I’ve hidden Maria Luisa's Garden Room in my list of Manila’s best-kept secrets-that is, until now. Tucked inside Makati Garden Club, the four month-old restaurant hasn't elicited much promotion from the press compared to other new establishments, though I personally believe it deserves more attention than others.
Just the beginning of the flower theme
The restaurant emulates a garden: colorful and bursting with a floral theme. There are flowers painted on the wall, flowers splashed on the curtains and seat cushions, fresh flowers on the table, more flowers on the menu cover. The feel is so "afternoon tea party" that one would expect Alice and the White Rabbit to come through the entrance any minute. Mismatched chairs made of wood and metal crowd the room, while the ceiling is adorned with low-hanging chandeliers. Instead of the anticipated scent of flowers, the aroma of freshly baked European artisan breads trailing from the open kitchen will put customers in a hungry trance, especially once they see the hot-off-the-oven buns on the shelf display.
Shepherd’s Reward sandwich
With its countryside garden vibe, one would assume that the menu would feature light dishes, like the type you'd see in brunch cafes. Don't be fooled. It has classic French fare like a rich onion soup, escargot drenched in garlic and parsley butter, Cassoulet or pig knuckles that have been braising with sausages and beans for hours, and the much-loved Duck Confit with Cranberry Sauce. Grilled meats like Steak Roquefort and 50-day aged New Omaha Tenderloin have also been thrown into the interesting mix, along with other European favorites, like cheese fondue composed of Raclette, Gruyere, and Emmental; goulash soup, and a wide range of traditional Danish sandwiches.
Cattleman’s Favorite sandwich
Served open-faced with your choice of bread (sourdough, whole wheat, or pumpernickel black), the subs have enough variety to give you a hard time choosing. It has salmon gravlax with dill mustard, mini prawns and caviar with horseradish mayo, curry herring with green peppers, roast lamb with feta cheese and capers, and steak tartare with cognac and raw egg yolk. The assortment gives you an excuse to come back. I have yet to savor all of them, but of those I've tried so far, the Cattleman's Favorite (P390) does it for me. A generous amount of thinly sliced, pink roast beef comes with a velvet blanket of remoulade sauce and crowned with crispy onions. It's a simple and uncomplicated sandwich, making it all the more appetizing and worth savoring.
One dish you surely can't go wrong with is the Moules Baltazar (P680). This bestseller comes as a bowl of Chilean mussels bathed in two possible ways, either with wine and cream or with parsley and garlic. The former is what I usually have and it’s always a success. In fact, I always end up mopping the bowl clean with bread as the sauce is robust with flavor and, I imagine, can potentially be enjoyed as an indulgent soup.
The restaurant's limited accessibility and mystery give it undeniable charm, the secret-garden-in-a-concrete-city setting its clandestine appeal, and the delicious food the bait that will lure people back in. For these very reasons, Maria Luisa's Garden Room is one secret that just has to be shared.
Maria Luisa's Garden Room is located along Recoletos Street corner Ayala Avenue, Barangay Urdaneta, Makati City. From EDSA heading south, turn right at Ayala Avenue, then right again at Recoletos to arrive at a dead end where the Garden Club is. It's open everyday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (552-7051, 552-7045)
Angelo Comsti writes for Yummy magazine in addition to other publications. He studied at Le Cordon Bleu Australia. Grab a copy of his bestselling cookbook From Our Table To Yours for a collection of generations-old heirloom recipes from some of the country's best cooks and chefs. Follow Angelo on Instagram (@fooddudeph) to catch more of his food discoveries.