THE BURGEONING Filipino food scene in Tagaytay City gets even more vibrant with a new restaurant that serves familiar flavors in unique fashion.
Enjoy your chicken adobo with local cottage cheese spread over warm toasted bruschetta, or savor the succulence of beef kaldereta in a flaky pie crust pot with generous cheese toppings blow-torched to crispy perfection.
The Adobo and Kesong Puti Bruschetta, and Kaldereta Pot Pie are just two of the adventurous takes on Filipino dishes that chef Luigi Muhlach whips out at Amacena, the new restaurant of One Tagaytay Place Hotel Suites.
With its name derived from the Spanish words “amar” or profound affection, and “cena” which means supper, Amacena hopes to fuel the Filipino’s great love for food by serving classic dishes with daring twist.
During the restaurant’s recent launch, Muhlach tells the Inquirer, “people still look for Filipino food here in Tagaytay, so we worked hard to come up with new menu items.”
He adds: “Tagaytay is famous for Filipino food like bulalo and kare kare. It took us five months to develop a menu that would excite our diners.”
And Muhlach successfully reinvents these Tagaytay classics through Amacena’s Sizzling Bulalo Steak and Crispy Beef Short Rib Kare Kare.
Tender beef bulalo chunks are served on a sizzling plate, with fried potatoes on the side, then smothered with rich mushroom sauce and topped with fried garlic.
The classic kare kare gets a deconstructed treatment as crispy fried beef ribs are paired with blanched greens, then drizzled with an enticingly aromatic peanut sauce. The dish, cited by the hotel’s president John Ross Francisco as one of his favorites, is easily one of Muhlach’s best offerings.
Another classic Filipino beef dish taken for a spin is the bistek, which has a soy-calamansi gravy instead of the usual black sauce.
And for fowl foodies, there is the Honey Bagoong Wings, a Filipino take on an American classic. The fish paste mixed with honey used to coat the wings has a strong salty after-taste, but the accompanying light ranch dressing counters the imposing flavor.
Rice lovers may also look forward to the temptingly fragrant Tawilis Fried Rice, which is already a complete meal in itself because it is full of flavors.
And diners need not be wary of the Smoked Aligue Rice. The aligue is not overbearing and the rice has a light taste to it, the smoky flavor complementing the crab fat perfectly.
Children are not left out in the gastronomic adventures. The Longanisa Mac and Cheese will surely be a huge hit, with macaroni and garlic longanisa bits drenched in creamy cheese.
There is also the Duo of Tacos with refreshingly light salsa over crunchy meat chunks served in soft tortilla wrappers.
Parents may also find it easy to sneak in healthy food to their kids’ diet with the Pinakbet Pizza. The taste of native vegetables is concealed by the salty bagoong sauce and the generous blanket of mozzarella over a crunchy thin pizza crust.
But for those less adventurous, Amacena serves the no-nonsense Chicken Inasal, which is marinated for 48 hours before the grilling.
The Lechon Kawali is also an instant winner, with the tender meat almost falling off the crunchy skin. The dish is served with sumptuous mango puree.
For breakfast, Muhlach offers the Steak Benedict, which is immaculately crispy outside and paired off with a light hollandaise sauce.
Muhlach brings his expansive experience in various hotels and restaurants to his new post as Amacena’s executive chef.
“There are a lot of good chefs, I have to catch up. I trained hard. I worked as an everyday employee, from the bottom, peeling onions. I’m learning a lot and I’m not done yet. Even if your position is lower than mine, I will still ask questions, I want to learn,” he explains. “Every day, chefs are coming out with dishes and they are getting better and better,” the chef adds.
“I love what I’m doing. I’m not having a hard time at all. Some people work for money, to feed their family. With me, love is involved in what I do. I don’t mind losing sleep or having very long days because I’m happy with what I’m doing,” he declares.
Amacena is on the ground floor of One Tagaytay Place Hotel Suites. It is open daily and serves guests from breakfast to dinner and may accommodate up to 40 guests. A private room for 10 people may be reserved for meetings and intimate gatherings.