Holiday season is upon us, which means nonstop get-togethers and out-of-town trips with visiting family and friends.
Tagaytay, given its accessibility to the metro, its cool weather and variety of dining spots, has always been an easy choice—much more now that the Cavite-Laguna Expressway is open.
It has two new restaurants worth visiting.
The Fatted Calf
In 2007, chefs Jayjay Sycip and Rhea Castro, who were seeing each other, took a quick trip to Tagaytay to try a new restaurant. The couple missed a turn and as they were looking for a clearing to make a U-turn, they chanced upon a house with a sprawling lawn and enough driveway space for the car to back up.
The house, with a garden of flowers, looked inviting. A “for sale” sign hung on the grill gate.
Rhea said in jest that she was willing to drop everything in Manila and move to Tagaytay. Jayjay laughed and told her that maybe someday they’d be able to live there.
Ten years later and now married, they saw the same house in an ad, called the contact number, took a huge leap of faith, and are now living their decade-old dream with The Fatted Calf, a restaurant that doubles as farmhouse suite with three lovely rooms overlooking a pineapple field.
A reference to a biblical story where an animal was slaughtered upon the prodigal son’s return, The Fatted Calf represents family, feast and love, says Rhea.
“Food is thriving here. There is a growing community of foodies and chefs whipping something really nice up here and we wanted to be part of something good.”
The 35-seat restaurant follows a wholesome approach to dishes. Most of the ingredients are sourced from farms in Cavite, as well as artisan producers from all over the country including Negros, Davao and Bukidnon.
“Our menu offers a no- borders cuisine, following the seasonality and availability of ingredients,” she adds.
There’s the Farmer’s Tartine, local burrata on a bed of patani puree and rocket dressed with cucumber vinaigrette on rustic bread; and another with creamy, scrambled free-range eggs seasoned with white truffle oil and served with shimeji mushrooms.
The Thai Beef Salad uses Tagaytay mixed greens and local beef with toasted rice, while the braised pork belly comes with salted red egg, roasted garlic puree and bits of Imus longganisa.
The 10-hour roasted, grass-fed beef shank with aromatic spices and rum jus can feed a party of four or more.
Being adept at pastry making, Rhea has an array of sweet treats like gluten-free cookies made of 65-percent single origin cacao from Davao del Sur, and her signature rum cake soaked in rich rum butter sauce.
The Fatted Calf Farmhouse Kitchen: 23 V. Belarmino St., Bucal, Silang, Cavite. Open Saturday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.; and starting December, Friday for dinner, 5-9 p.m. Tel. 0917-7892352
On a sprawling 5-hectare lot in Cavite, Tagaytay, is EP Farm, a home slowly being converted into a wellness resort, set to open in early 2020.
Last month, its in-house Thai restaurant opened and has been getting good reviews.
Called Ayutthaya, the 28-seat space is offering something rarely found in Tagaytay—a tasting menu, a really good one.
At the head of the kitchen is chef Kevin Villarica, who’s one of the guys who run Hapag in Katipunan. He researched about Thai cuisine in Bangkok for a month, and started planting some of the staples like galangal and kaffir lime on the farm.
When the villas open, he will offer traditional dishes like pomelo salad and curries.
In the meantime, he gets to show off his creativity in an eight-course menu that stays true to the flavors of Thailand but comes in a more playful manner, much like what they do in Hapag.
Villarica starts his menu with market-bought fish in a red curry reduction. It sits on a potato mash that’s been seasoned with green curry and peanuts.
All these are to be scooped up and placed on a tapioca cracker. It makes for an appetizing opener to a medley of equally clever dishes.
There’s the succulent piece of sous vide pork belly that you drag on sweet and subtly spicy satay sauce, and Kevin’s take on tom kha goong, a spicy prawn broth with coconut milk, prawns, three kinds of mushrooms and kaffir lime oil.
There’s rib eye that’s been slathered with nam jim jaw and served with a beautifully plated portion of pad Thai; as well as smoked lemongrass chicken tossed on toasted rice dust that sits on green curry sauce made with local green finger chilies.
One dish that truly shows Villarica’s creativity is his take on la tieng, which is a dish typically served to royalty. He places kaffir lime cereal prawns in a soft egg net on a basil and beetroot emulsion.
Fine dining choices are limited in Tagaytay, but the few are really good ones, as Ayutthaya proves.
Ayutthaya: EP Beauty Farm Wellness and Events, Barangay Cerca II, Anuling Mendez, Cavite, Tagaytay. Tel. 0917-8455519