Pizza, pasta, risotto–Italian fare ‘Koreanized’ and made more garlicky
Thin-crust gongonzola cheese pizza, rolled and dipped in honey with fried garlic bits, may seem strange, but it works like eating pancake with maple syrup.
The sweetness of the honey contrasts with the salty cheese, and the crust, hot off the oven, gives a good crunch. Toasted garlic ties up the flavors and textures.
Gongonzola Pizza is one of the unique pizzas served in Mad for Garlic, an Italian bistro from Korea. For something fresh-tasting, try the Garlic and Sweet Potato Pizza. It uses creamy sweet-potato paste as base instead of traditional tomato sauce, and is topped with arugula for some welcome bitterness, shaved mozzarella and Granapadano cheeses, then drizzled with honey-mustard sauce.
The house specialty is the Garlic Snowing Pizza. It has chopped shrimp and pineapples, and crunchy garlic slivers. There are also the basic Mixed Cheese and Margherita pizza, and the good ol’ Calzone, for something familiar.
Good pizza starts with a good crust. Senior operations director Joie Arvesu showed us how crusts are hand-rolled using a wooden rolling pin with no handle. She learned the technique after training in the Mad for Garlic center in Seoul for three months with the kitchen manager, chef Winkee Chong.
Korean national Caroline Nam put up Mad for Garlic in 2001, and established over 20 branches across Korea. And since garlic is a common ingredient in Asian cuisine, Mad for Garlic has expanded to Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. Global Restaurant Concepts, Inc. (GRCI) president and CEO Archie Rodriguez opened Mad for Garlic in Manila on April.
Mad for Garlic is the newest addition to GRCI’s roster of restaurants. These include California Pizza Kitchen, PF Chang’s which serves Chinese, Ihop pancake place and Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ—conveniently clustered in W Global Center on Bonifacio High Street in Taguig.
The menu is basically Italian: pizza, pasta, wine. The “Korean” part comes in the form of spices such as chili, pickled garlic which is a Korean appetizer, and some entrées like the Dancing Salsa Rice with Steak—wine-marinated beef strips on garlic rice, with bean sprouts and fried egg, served on a hot plate—reminiscent of the bibimbap.
Chef Chong said Filipinos naturally like garlic, a staple ingredient in local dishes like the adobo. He said the High Street restaurant uses around 500-600 kg of garlic every week, sourced mostly from China and Korea, some from Philippine provinces.
Garlic is present in all food items, even in the desserts, but chef Chong said their garlic gives a tender, spicy taste that is not overpowering. Aside from the bulbs, fresh garlic stalks, chopped like spring onion, are used.
Lobster and steak
Bestsellers on the menu are marked with a garlic icon, while spicy items are marked with chilis (rated one to three; the spiciness may be adjusted to taste). Recommended starters are the
Dracula Killer, garlic bread with a dip made of garlic, olive oil and anchovies; and Zuppa di Pesce, a filling spicy seafood soup.
Salad choices include Tutto Mushroom with three kinds of mushrooms and Teriyaki Sauce dressing, and Caprese Salad with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil dressing.
Make sure to leave room for the real deal: the steak selection. Fresh Lobster & Garlic Steak is prime rib-eye with lobster. Garlic for You Steak is garlic-filled tenderloin. Cacciattore is tenderloin with red-wine sauce and arugula. Garlic Hug Steak is tenderloin with honey-garlic and white cream sauce.
Chef Chong suggested to pair these with a dry, sweet wine from the bar list, which also includes white wines that “go very well with the cheese platter.”
Garlic sizzling rice
The rice and risotto items make for a complete meal. Choose from the Garlic Sizzling Rice with bacon and fish roe, Jalapeño Garlic Rice with Steak, Seafood Cream Risotto.
Spend good calories on the Crab and Fresh Lobster Pasta with chunky crab and lobster meat in rich cream sauce. Other choices are Creamy Chicken Popcorn Pasta with Korean soy sauce, seafood-based Triple Garlic Pasta, Shrimp and Garlic Spout pasta in light olive oil.
Have these with the cold Yuja Ade Korean herb tea or Wine Ade with red wine and soda.
And, for novelty, end your meal with Garlic Sprinkle Gelato, vanilla gelato spiked with garlic.
Mad for Garlic is a two-level restaurant with filling food and a loaded bar. It has dark-brick interiors, warm lights and a casual set-up for dining and lounging. Garlic is also present in the
interiors. There are garlic-shaped lamps on the walls, and a garlic chandelier in the private function room.
Mad for Garlic is open 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Monday-Thursday and Sunday; 11 a.m.-12 a.m., Friday-Saturday. Call 8089517, 8089503.
Visit www.facebook.com/MadForGarlicPhilippines; @MadforGarlicPH on Twitter and Instagram
PHOTOS BY ALANAH TORRALBA