This Restaurant Will Make You Feel Like You're Having Italian for the First Time
Chef Mark Buhain of Cantina Sicilianta is back with a bigger and brighter concept.
G/F Milano Residences, Century City, Makati City
Contact: 0956-948-2635, 0921-529-2245
Open daily from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.
(SPOT.ph) It’s been over 10 years since the term “EVOO” officially made it to the dictionary (thanks to TV personality Rachel Ray), and now everyone, from home cooks to foodies, knows how extra extra virgin olive oil actually is. “All the cuisines that utilize extra virgin olive oil are found around the Mediterranean,” explains Chef Mark Buhain, who recently put up Extra Virgin, a restaurant revolving around the famed ingredient. “That would include the south of France, Spain, Italy, and all the regions close to Greece that are famous for their bold and diverse flavors.”
Extra Virgin is Buhain’s second restaurant. The first, Cantina Sicilianita, which was based solely on Sicilian food, closed down in 2015. After that, the Chef took a tour around Spain, Portugal, and France. His travels fueled a newfound love for cooking, prodding him to take further culinary studies via a French diploma course. The product of intensive study, travel, and research has led to this new Italian eatery.
“This time around, I’m using French techniques to prepare Italian food,” he says. “The Italians aren’t strict about the way they prepare food. The Escoffier discipline, however, is very different.” The result is incredible plating and a sophisticated aesthetic for hearty, affordable food. “It’s my way of sharing my experiences abroad and with varied cultures in a budget-friendly way.”
Extra Virgin’s menu covers everything from pastas to share, mains that can satisfy someone with a large appetite, and small plates and tapas, which are great accompaniments to Extra Virgin’s extensive wine offering. They also have a Happy Hour promo that gets you substantial discounts on appetizers and drinks from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesdays to Fridays.
If you want to sample Extra Virgin’s most interesting and beautifully plated dishes, we suggest you kick off your meal with the Kissable Lips (P300). Salmon lovers will love the fresh catch marinated in beetroot overnight and smoked on the spot. Those looking for something a little more conventional, on the other hand, will appreciate the Contessa Vongolessa (P250), which is Chef Mark’s take on the classic vongole, but served with slices of freshly baked charcoal baguette. If you’re looking for some of that signature garlic flavor, then this mildly spicy treat is for you.
Pork lovers wouldn’t want to miss the Countryside Porchetta (P500), or tender roast pork belly served with baked potatoes. “I adapted the dish to my own style, slow roasting it for hours and coupled with an apricot jus,” says Chef Mark, who favors pairing meats with different fruits in his sauces. The Salacious Beef Tenderloin (P1,500) is the ultimate dish for those looking for something a little naughty and extra special. Medium rare U.S. Angus tenderloin is complemented with an earthy truffle-potato foam, beetroot purée, vegetables, and a Marsala reduction.
At Extra Virgin, no meal is complete without a taste of Chef Mark’s famous cannoli—a Sicilian dessert off his first restaurant’s menu that he just couldn’t do without in his new venture. “Our Cannoli (P290) combines pistachio, fresh ricotta cheese, and hand-rolled shells I personally make,” he says. The refreshing dessert is perfect for the summer, but a good year-round treat, especially in Manila’s tropical weather. “I like to keep things exciting, so I do variations too.” A cannoli spin-off created by the chef consists of Nutella, orange zest, and a chocolate-chip garnish—“something to satisfy the Pinoy sweet tooth!” he adds.
There’s a lot to look forward to in Extra Virgin—a real taste of the Mediterranean, familiar flavors presented in novel ways, and hearty food that you’ll want to keep coming back to. After all, EVOO has always been a heart-healthy ingredient that everyone needs.
Photos by Vincent Coscolluela