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THE QUIET DINER

Recurring culinary pleasures

Delicious culinary experiences actually lead foodies to go back to restaurants where they had very satisfying meals coupled with efficient service and pleasant ambiance. Sometimes, we are too conservative that we would rather go back to these dining places rather than try new ones and come out frustrated.

There is one which emblazoned the greeting “Hello, Happiness”—a fitting invitation to a memorable meal, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Another one, which in its quiet, consistent way, silently beckons those seeking uncluttered ambiance and good food.

Relish

74 Scout Limbaga, Quezon City

Contact nos.: 3525492; 3520774; 0926-6959885

Established by the Almario sisters (of the famed Interior Design outfit) and their other siblings. The clan must all have the Midas—incidentally the name of the hotel that they also outfitted—touch, for they have been literally “hounded” by success.

Relish Restaurant, which first opened in Salcedo Village, Makati City, now has a branch in Kamuning, Quezon City. The place bears the tagline “Hello, Happiness” and, fair enough, one gets very enthused about a joyful dining experience here.

After being extended a courteous welcome, you must take in the romantic ambiance, sit as elegantly as you can muster, and receive the longish, laminated menu card.

Dining area: A foyer by the entrance provides a unique welcome to the guests. It feels like walking into a cozy living room of an upscale house. The romantic mood starts with the lovely settee and chairs with the softest cushions; a duo of geometrically designed towers; and a chandelier hanging from an inverted cone ceiling.

Inside, look around and “relish” the tastefully assembled objets d’art, arranged to blend with the vases of flowers in white and green. There is no unpleasant view across, seen from the glass walls, because the Almario sisters had the walls painted in the colors of the interior with decorative flowers. Even the loos are tastefully done.

Service: Impeccable. There is a greeter at the entrance. You are led to a table, the chair is pulled and the menu handed.

Staff: Mostly males, very neat and elegant in long-sleeved gray shirts tucked into dark trousers. Servicial, as a guest beckons. Unobtrusive but attentive.

Suggested orders: Chona Almario, who is credited for putting together the impressive array of dishes, most of which come from her clan’s heirloom collection, graciously makes her recommendations. For starters, quench your thirst with a very refreshing green drink.

Then select from the regulars, herbs rendering rich flavors on two appetizers: the Gourmet Pesto Cheese spread with a dollop of pesto on top, laced with a tomato-based dip with Melba Toast; and the Amazing Artichoke Dip with Tostitos.

A must is the Roasted Pumpkin Soup, so flavorful it would make you more anxious about what could come next.

An A-1 dish is the Pasta with Wild Mushrooms, so generously laced with truffle oil. This makes you sigh a happy note.

Three recommended mains: Stuffed Grilled Prawns; Slow-Roasted Beef Belly, tenderized for eight hours, turning it very soft that it falls off one’s fork, served with gravy and corn kernels; and Louisiana Pork Chop, amply thick but equally tender, served with apple sauce.

Other bestsellers: Smoked Salmon dip with caviar; Steaks; Lamb Chops; and Grilled Fish. And don’t forget the wines.

You can skip the dessert since the main entrées can be filling. But try a spoon each of the very nutty Sans Rival, the perfect Chocolate Cake and the light Bread Pudding.

Service and government charges are added to the bill. Senior cards are honored.

*****

Conti’s Bakeshop and Restaurant

G/L Robinsons Magnolia, Hemady Street, Quezon City

This chain, which got popular through word-of-mouth recommendation, has successfully spread its wings to many parts of the metropolis from its beginnings in BF Homes, Parañaque. It all started when the three Conti sisters introduced a line of fabulous, towering cakes which captured the fancy of sweet-tooth city dwellers. Later, they expanded to full-service restaurants and a very active catering service.

Dining area: All Conti’s restaurants have been given a new look, but most retain the original green-and-yellow motif. The resto’s new branch on Hemady took on a new color scheme—beige and chocolate brown.

The place is homey and soundproof. The Baked Products section is separate but accessible from the main door.

Service: Fast and efficient.

Staff: Neat in their uniforms, accommodating.

Suggested orders: The Filipino comfort food is what brings us back to any Conti’s branch, be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We give a 10 for its Tapa with Garlic Sinangag and Fried Egg. The meat is very soft, the seasoning a perfect blend of sweet and salty.

The Pancit Palabok is just how our dedicated, late Tia Bana would do it—tender rice noodles bathed with atsuete-colored sauce, with no evidence of too much thickening starch.

Other choices: Salmon comes in baked, sinigang, grilled or salpicao varieties.

Never skip the desserts: tall Viennese Mocha Torte; Oreo Cheesecake; or any pastry.

Service charge and government taxes are added to the bill. Senior cards are honored in all outlets.

*****


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