Cocktails always precede fine dining, as they did at Anya’s Samira Grill in Tagaytay. Small bites were passed around to go with the French wine Ampelidae Armance B Brut Rose NV.
But a glimpse of The Botanist gin and tonic removed some of the blah we had to endure from the city on our way to this cool haven.
We were to have a “four-hands” meal which meant two chefs, Jonathan Bouthiaux of Samira and Carlos Garcia of The Black Pig in Alabang, sharing the kitchen, each one doing his own thing.
Bouthiaux had been known for his menu at a Gout de France dinner and his interpretation of Filipino dishes with a French twist. I have not been to Garcia’s The Black Pig due to the distance, and special trips defeat the idea of relaxing at a bar.
But here we were at a place that required a special trip. An added perk was an overnight stay in a luxurious room.
Swimming in a mildly heated pool before dinner washed off some of the stress from city living.
First course was Local Crab Salad, crab chunks shaped into a log with toasted bread at the ends, topped with a foam of apple and coriander and lemon puree surrounding the appetizer.
Who made it? The wine will give the hint, we were told. The chef was Garcia, because the wine was a Zarate Albarino 2017 from the grape variety grown in Galicia, Spain, light and refreshing.
A layered creation came next, a cheese net holding grilled chorizo, and on top a crispy, organic egg yolk, topped again with alfalfa sprouts.
On the sides were the smoked paprika sauce and green asparagus. These ingredients would indicate a Spanish chef, but it was from Bouthiaux.
The wine was a Chateau Roubine La Vie en Rose 2018. It had a rounded, fruity and spicy flavor from a historical chateau formerly occupied by the Knights Templar.
The seafood course, by Bouthiaux, was tiger prawns in two ways—marinated and grilled, and encased in ravioli. It had a lobster sauce with a pumpkin condiment, and with basil and arugula leaves on the side.
The wine was a Ferraton Pere & Fils Cote du Rhone Villages, Samorens, smoky smooth with a hint of raspberry and licorice.
The next course gave more than a hint that it was a Spanish dish—Iberian Pork Jowl looking very much like Filipino sisig. It had morcilla (black sausage) and a purée of peach and carrot. The rich taste was complemented by a Vina Pomal Reserva 2013, with its aroma of a pipe tobacco humidor and a full-bodied taste tempered with a slightly salty flavor.
It was refreshing to have a palate-cleansing granite of cucumber and pandan with beetroot jelly bits and cubes of feta cheese.
Desserts make us smile, but more so this one, because it had a red pig image on top.
“Strawberry Eton mess” is how the British call their favorite cheesecake, and the original can be described as a mess because there is nothing neat about how the strawberries and cream are amassed on top of the cake, my kind of sweet.
But here it was, a small, neat cheesecake with meringue, cream and strawberry ice cream and a hint of red in the shape of a pig on top.
Next came coffee flambéed the Anya way with the next sweets—Chocolate Truffle with Cardamom, Marshmallow, Mini Coco Tartlet, Macaron Red Fruit.
It was a good, satisfying night.
Applause greeted Garcia and Bouthiaux. For some guests, it was time to call it a night, but for others, the gin and tonic was motivation to party on.