Well-sourced lamb chops, but less interesting desserts | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022


There are times when a weekend just falls into place, with everyone willing and able to meet up. The weather holds, and a new and interesting restaurant lives up to the hype.

This was one of those days that seemed like it wouldn’t push through because of illness in the family, a still delicate tummy (mine, from a malevolent dumpling eaten recently), and everyone juggling heavy workloads and pressing deadlines.

We eventually decided to meet somewhere easy to get to, and where I expected to get the kind of food that is so difficult to write about: competent but not outstanding.

Our cabal eventually did get to convene, and I couldn’t have been more wrong about the food. I had heard good things about Sage from a friend, but Makati Shangri-La hasn’t had a good restaurant in ages. I honestly think my last good meal there had been at the ground-floor space when it was a French restaurant called Cheval Blanc.

The Chinese restaurant has the dubious distinction of being the “most tolerable in Makati,” while the Japanese restaurant is known for “aburi,” a Japanese technique of torching sushi, or, in this case, torching wads of cash out of your wallet while leaving you hungry.

What a pleasant surprise, then, to find the old bar and disco converted into a very civilized dining space. The menu is a page (literally, one large page) out of a New York brasserie-style restaurant, with a good mix of classics and interesting creative items.

Perhaps it’s a bow to the sad state of dining literacy that a restaurant like this has to carry a burger on the menu. I love burgers myself, and yes, I know that a burger cooked to perfection can be a wonderful thing, but sometimes the omission of an item can make a strong statement as to the standard of eating that is supposed to be happening.

Kitchen ‘plaything’

Not many chefs are eager or even willing to list their kitchen equipment on the menu, but the exception might be if you have a Josper grill, in which case you might as well flaunt it. I’ve written about the Josper in this space before—it’s the chef’s latest plaything in the postmolecular world, an indoor grill that can reach temperatures of up to 500°C and costs more than a new family saloon car.

While the Josper grilled items take pride of place in the center of the menu, the most interesting bits are buried in a corner, under the heading “For Sharing.”

We chose the bouillabaisse, but given how it turned out we will be coming back for the blanquette de veau (yes, when was the last time you saw that on a menu?) and the whole roast duck, another French table-side classic in which the breasts are first carved out with the dexterity of a surgeon, served, and then the rest finished and then served with a light sauce (or sometimes as a confit).

The waiter recommended the tomahawk steak as a second course, also to share. But we’ve had bad experiences with very large, monotonous chunks of meat. The sight of it is certainly impressive and brings out the atavistic urge in you, but there’s far too much of it to go around, and it’s all the same flavor. Instead we all ended up getting individual main courses.

The steaks were exemplary; the lamb chops I ordered were well-sourced and of a generous quantity, but the medium-rare was closer to medium-well.

The side dishes and sauces—which often cause an ambitious restaurant to fall down —were all executed with precision, with the exception of the béarnaise. This one was of the correct consistency, but was over-acidic, under-salted and had very little trace of tarragon.

The desserts are less interesting. A nice, old-fashioned souffle had to be gussied up as “chocolate air” (it’s perfectly good, if somewhat ordinary), while banana sticky toffee pudding was fine but unexceptional.

Sage, Makati Shangri-La, Ayala cor. Makati Avenue; tel. 8138888.

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