New Restaurant Alert: Cazuela at Sapphire Bloc, Pasig
The Ortigas work crowd converges here after work, and we know why.
Sapphire Bloc, Sapphire Road, Ortigas, Pasig City
Open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. (Monday to Saturday)
(SPOT.ph) “People describe us as ‘The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,’” owner Ces Manalo says with a smile.
Her description is an appropriate introduction to Spanish-colonial restaurant Cazuela. Cazuela literally translates to "casserole," particularly a traditional Spanish pot which is used for many Spanish dishes. Inspired by the Galleon Trade, the unique menu is a melting pot of Spanish, Latin American, and Asian influences. Cazuela is a collaboration between the MonDay Group and an entrepreneurial bunch of friends, and one of them is always present at the restaurant to ensure that things—especially the food—are in tip-top shape.
The bright interiors definitely set it apart.
It's loft style, and you get a little more privacy on the second floor.
At the helm of Cazuela's kitchen is creative genius Chef Andre Soriano, who worked for a Spanish chef in Baguio and in a tapas bar. Chef Andre maintains high Spanish standards by using quality ingredients, but he's also tweaked the flavor to appeal to Filipinos. There is something quite lovely and familiar about everything they serve—from the lengua to the bacalao, from the croquettas to the paella—rich and well-done comfort food served at a home away from home.
Gambas al Ajillo
Begin with the Gambas al Ajillo (P320), which consists of fresh shrimps sautéed in roasted garlic-infused oil. The use of infused oil instead of stir-frying everything together makes a world of difference. This dish comes with bread and you’ll want to mop up that excess oil and garlic long after the shrimps are gone.
Clams and Chorizo
Another great starter is the Clams and Chorizo (P260), where Manila clams and homemade chorizo are sautéed in olive oil. It is an incredibly savory and decadent dish: crumbly, delicious homemade sausage pairs perfectly with fresh, briny clams in both taste and texture.
The clams especially go well with Cazuela's Sangria (P780/pitcher), arguably one of the best in Manila. Chef Andre is strict about what they put in the mix. When one of their bartenders suggested syrup or grenadine, he put his foot down. “We only use the best Spanish wine, fresh orange juice, and all fresh fruits as much as possible depending on what’s in season," he says. The sangria is murkier, with more pronounced and potent flavors—digging into the alcohol-infused fruit after will surely knock you out. Pro tip: Make sure you don't have anything to do after.
What Cazuela is becoming best known for, however, is their Callos (P385). This traditional dish of stewed ox tripe in tomato sauce tastes terrific—we love that there's a story behind it too. The recipe is from Chef Day Salonga's grandmother. The tripe is curiously but wonderfully tender and not at all the chewy, juicy type that often disappoint. It's also impressively light.
Pan Seared Mackerel
Cazuela is great with their fish dishes, as well, like the Pan Seared Mackerel (P325) and Bacalao Picante (P475). The mackerel, cooked with a nice, crisp crust on the outside and fleshy on the inside, is served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with a great chimichurri sauce on the side. The bacalao, on the other hand, is a blackened fish coated with spices; the saffron rice on the side is topped with garbanzo-tomato salsa.
Another Cazuela blue-ribbon dish is the Veal Caldereta (P708), where a 400-gram veal shank is slow-cooked and simmered until the meat slides off the bone with minimal effort. Chef Mon Urbano takes no shortcuts. It's a fancier version of the one you have at home, but with the rich tomato sauce and bed of potatoes, the overall flavor still puts up that nostalgic vibe.
Cazuela has so far been attracting customers who are taking a much needed respite post-work. We understand. Whether you opt for the sangria, a carafe of mojito (P320), or a bucket of beer, this melting pot is definitely a good place to unwind.
Photos by Pia Babao Guballa