My brother Bong and I have varying tastes when it comes to food. It has happened a few times that the restaurant I suggest is not to his liking, and vice-versa. He brags about a certain dish, which, when I try it, I can’t understand what the big fuss is all about. He does the same about some dishes I rave about. But, we have something in common: We both love authentic French food. Having both lived in Paris for years, we were exposed to this wonderful, rich, fattening and most creative cuisine.
We were in our early teens when my mom opened the very first French restaurant in Manila. Au Bon Vivant opened our eyes to this totally new cuisine. I remember our first French chef, Mr. Adams. He was a chubby, red-faced man that shooed us kids out of the kitchen. Having grown up with Au Bon food, it became ordinary to us, not really realizing the envy many friends had about us for having good French food anytime.
I didn’t really realize how blessed we were until I noticed the place was always full and I would see a lot of known personalities dining at our place. I had no other place to compare it with. I also remember flying in cans of pâté foie gras and other French ingredients in my trips from Paris. I didn’t realize the restaurant had set a standard on us, which we still carry up to this day.
One evening, I got a call from Bong. He was raving about the good food of a restaurant he had just dined in. “French,” he said. He described to me how to get there and, for days, I was focused on sampling this new dining place. I know Bong likes a place because he will dine there at least twice a week.
One evening, my wife Tessa and I were supposed to go to my Tuesday badminton Christmas party at Viking Buffet in MOA. Not wanting to stuff my face at night, we decided to search for Bong’s suggested restaurant instead. What a discovery!
Savoy Bistro is a European restaurant with a lot of French-inspired dishes. Beautifully decorated with paintings and sculptures, it has a huge selection of fine wines. Looking at the menu reminded me so much of our Au Bon menu.
We ordered two soups to start with—the French Onion Soup Gratinee, and the Mussels and Company in White Wine and Cream, or the Moules a la Crème. The mussels were served with some crusty bread on the side. They were fresh and perfectly cooked with a superb broth of creamy mussels soup. A must-try!
For main course, we shared a Tournadoes Rossini, which is a medium-cooked beef tenderloin steak topped with a slice of pâté foie gras or goose liver and some hot brown sauce. On the side were dauphinoise potatoes.
I ordered a Medium Pepper Steak Madagascar. This is a beef tenderloin steak covered in crushed whole peppercorns and I had some mashed potatoes on the side. Beautifully presented, the steaks and their sauces are well-made.
I also ordered a sauce béarnaise on the side just to try and bring back memories. Close, but not quite there. Good just the same.
Former Au Bon Vivant patrons will surely go on a nostalgic trip when they try this place.
There were other dishes I plan to make a retour for. I was targeting the rack of lamb, the Cabernet-braised lamb shanks, and I am told they also make Beef Bourguignon, Merlot-braised Ox Tail and Confit Du Canard.
On my next visit, I will also sample the cheese platter. Their dessert, the Crème Brûlèe, was good, but the Chocolate Mousse was out of this world. Perfectly bittersweet, it was rich; I’m sure, fattening, but worth breaking a diet over.
I look forward to sampling other items in this new discovery. They have a private room that can sit 10-14 people. What a wonderful experience!
Thanks to my brother Bong, here’s a place we both agree on.
Savoy Bistro is at East Asian Art Gallery, 8479 Kalayaan Ave., Makati City; tel. 8965667.