At an early age, I was exposed to fine French cuisine via our restaurant Au Bon Vivant on Leon Ma. Guererro Street, Ermita. At that time, I wasn’t aware of the quality of food I was eating. To us kids, it was ordinary fare.
It was only when we dined in other fine-dining restaurants here and abroad that we realized the food we were used to was actually very good.
As time passed, many new types of cuisine were born and new delicious dishes were created. Nouvelle Cuisine was one of them. It became a hit and almost all restaurants were doing it.
Fusion cuisine also came into the picture. Very interesting but I feel it is no longer as popular as before or it hasn’t lasted.
I like to compare the restaurant to a car. Today, many US car companies are going back to the classics—the Ford Thunderbird, Chevy Camaro, Dodge Challenger, Beetle.
I have been asked by quite a few to resurrect Au Bon Vivant. I do know the recipes of that dining institution but feel that not all the dishes of the place will be a hit today. Lord willing, someday I will revive it.
But there are a few that will survive the change of time: our onion soup Gratinee, Chateaubriand Bearnaise, Poulet Grandmere, Boeuf Bourgignon and Almond Mousse.
Every time I come across such dishes in restaurants, I order them. There is nothing more satisfying than getting a blast of the past through food.
That is why comfort food is such a hit. It’s getting more difficult to find cuisine prepared and tasting the classic way. I prefer it this way.
Just a few days ago, I found one. From Cubao, take Edsa and make a right on Ayala in Makati. Right after that turn, make an immediate right in that street where Urdaneta apartments is (closed entrance of Urdaneta Village). Right there, you will find the Makati Garden Club, my latest discovery of fine European classic and Danish cuisine done the way I like it.
The restaurant is surrounded by a lovely garden which you walk across to get to this haven.
Just reading the menu will make you realize you will be coming back to this place to try almost all of his dishes.
Samples of what I saw are: Open-Faced Sandwiches served with salad and choice of bread, homemade pumpernickel black, sourdough and whole-wheat bread.
Pink Roast Beef, Remoulade Sauce and Crispy Onions; Skagen Shrimp Cocktail and Caviar; Gravlax Cured Salmon with Dill Mustard Sauce; Pink Roast Lamb with Feta, Capers and Sun-dried Tomatoes; Goat Cheese Omelet with Arugula Salad; Curry Herring; Crab Cocktail—those are just the sandwiches.
I tried the Moules Baltazar, which consisted of Chilean mussels with wine and cream. These are to die for. Then I had a plate of pate, thinly cut parma ham and spicy tuna tartare with grated fresh horseradish on top.
The homemade baguette didn’t help me stick to my diet. The bread was crusty with a soft inside. With the butter, one just hums in satisfaction.
For our main, I tried the Ciopino Seafood Bake. This is a blend of various seafoods in a red tomato-based sauce and served with crusty bread.
Then I also had a Cassoulet de Maison with Braised Oxtail. The meat of the oxtail was sticky but fell off the bone. This brought me back to the meals I had in Carcasonne, France, where the Cassolet was served with large wooden spoons just like in the olden times. Sarap!
Finally, I tried Reindeer Tenderloin which was also delicious and even more tender than its beef counterpart. That was a first and pleasant experience.
For dessert, we had a simple but out of this world Crème Brûlée. Very good!
The other dishes I plan to return for are the steaks with Roquefort, Pepper Steak, the Rossini or steak topped with foie gras, Merlot-Braised Lamb Shank, Confit or Crispy Duck with Potatoes.
There are many dishes that will surprise you. And the chef prepares them the traditional way.
So the Makati Garden Club has just become my latest favorite restaurant. It brings me back to the cooking I have always loved. The food here will immediately make you think of your loved ones. I’m bringing my family here.
The Makati Garden Club is on Recolletos Street and Ayala Avenue, Makati. Call 5527051, 5527045; visit the author’s blog at www.sandydaza.blogspot.com; follow him on Twitter @sandydaza.