Somerset Hotel Alabang, Filinvest City, 3409 Spectrum Midway Extension, Alabang, Muntinlupa City
Open by reservation, from 6 to 10 p.m. (Thursday to Saturday)
(SPOT.ph) It’s probably safe to say that, over the past two years, we’ve all come to appreciate the art of home cooking and everything that goes into it—that, and we’ll never take food delivery services for granted ever again. But as booster shots are administered and restrictions ease, we find the outside world much and irrevocably changed, in some ways for the better. That absolutely applies to fine dining.
Two years indoors is more than enough time for The Black Pig and Fiddle Leaf veterans Carlos Garcia and Jorn Fonseca to go ham on a menu, but the wheels on Tiago’s were turning long before the pandemic was a twinkle in some poor bat’s eye. Technically set to open in late 2019-slash-early 2020, this non-concept then became something of an exhibition piece for the chefs. Along with executive sous chef Lea Malagamba, they’ve colored outside the lines and put ‘epic’ back in ‘epicurean.’
Your taste buds are in for quite the ride at this fine dining spot in Alabang:
The best way to prepare you for this tasting menu is to give it to you straight. Every element on every plate builds and builds, with one another and from the last, giving the diner the closest thing to lexical-gustatory synesthesia without actually having it. (For the unfamiliar: that means some people can literally taste music.) Fonseca and Garcia seemed determined to push flavor combinations, camouflaged by pretty plating, as far as they could go. “We want dining to really be an experience again,” says Garcia. “It’s why restaurants go through the trouble of having the right lighting, we pick the plates, and here, the chefs come out and assemble the food [or put the finishing touches] in front of you.”
“We only accept around 10 to 15 diners at a time,” adds Fonseca, “so we can actually cater to all of them.” ‘Catering’ is an understatement; when you make your reservation—we recommend at least 36 hours ahead—they ask you if you have any dietary restrictions, allergies, or even things you just won’t eat. Then, rather than exclude an ingredient or dish altogether, the chefs will tailor the meal to suit a substitute. (Pro tip: let them in on what you’re celebrating that evening, even if it’s just a solo night out.)
Also read: 10 Best Tasting Menus in Manila Right Now
We won’t spoil the whole menu for you—surprise can be part of the fun. But what we can tell you is that there isn’t a single ingredient out of place. After a refreshing drink to kick the night off, you’re presented with an Oyster canapé steeped in lemon confit and topped with ginger, pineapple, and enough Prosecco granite for a boozy nudge.
Another starter comes in the form of the deceptively named Egg Toast. Don’t be put off by the mound of yolk—it’s been slow-cooked with citrus, which makes it a perfect self-saucing mattress on top of an airy-crunchy round of sourdough brioche, dotted with French caviar. If you opt for the cocktail/wine pairing, you also get a Smokey Berry Cocktail that starts off strong, but comes with an infused ice cube; the drink literally changes as the meal progresses. They really thought of everything.
Unlike most tasting menus which like to take the taste buds on highs and lows in turns, Tiago’s acts like a slow and steady crescendo; like winding steps up a mountain. This is best demonstrated by the Lobster, served under thumb-sized dollops of mozzarella and a fresh tomato consommé. Finally, basil oil and a bright citrus dressing take you on a kind of merry-go-round between pillowy textures and subtle, sharp notes. Venturing further into the sea, the Line-Caught Sea Bass comes to you already sectioned off by equally tender nori, with small discs of dashi butter and a lightly creamy, herbaceous oil for it to wade in. Somehow both rich and sprightly at the same time, this relatively generous course is the perfect midpoint to the meal.
Is it really a night out if steak isn’t somehow involved? Served swimming in its own jus, the SRF Wagyu Gold Striploin is pretty straightforward: perfectly seared, pink, and fork-tender. Also a rather liberal serving for a tasting menu, it comes with a disc of charred onion and two purées of black garlic and celeriac, lending their respective pungent tang and earthy sweetness to the meat.
You end on a high note with a selection of petits fours and the 70% Valrhona Dark Chocolate Mousse. Intensely bittersweet, it’s offset beautifully by a sort of banana curd, adding a helpful lightness to the strength of the chocolate. They’re classic flavors, sure, but it’s still a hell of a way to finish.
One might expect to pay a small fortune for a repast that seems to perfectly represent the chefs’ backgrounds—a real East-meets-West with no other goal but to exist and push limits—as well as the urban dining scene of Metro Manila as a whole. But at P3,900 (or P5,500 with the wine or cocktail pairing), it’s practically a steal, and one that’s worth the planning, the drive, the dressing up, what have you. Whether it’s your first return venture into the outside world or just another one of your nights on the town, Tiago’s is more than capable of showing you what dinner can really be.
Photos by Majoy Siason
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