The perfect Tagaytay Valentine date

By Joko Magalong

Posted at Feb 03 2013 01:44 PM | Updated as of Feb 04 2013 10:28 PM

TAGAYTAY CITY, Philippines – Tagaytay City was the perfect backdrop for the Valentine’s Day menu tasting of the award-winning Restaurant Verbena in Discovery Country Suites.

Famed chef David Pardo de Ayala, who is also the current resident manager of Discovery Suites, introduced new dishes to his annual signature “his and hers” menu.

Guests can choose and share between the two menus playfully called “For Him” and “For Her.” Both menus feature similar ingredients for each course such as oysters, prawns, seabass and US rib eye beef but interpreted from two different cuisines.

For him

The “For Him” menu is Spanish-inspired with big and bold flavors. The first course features the ubiquitous “romantic” ingredient---oysters in the form of a croqueta. The croquette is the perfect marriage of textures with a crispy crust and a soft garlic-infused oyster filling. A saffron garlic mayonnaise, a salad of greens dressed with Spanish sherry vinaigrette, as well as edible flowers also graced the plate, the latter giving the dish the dish a nice herbal kick besides making it look so pretty.

“Arroz Cremoso,” the second course is a perfectly al-dente risotto-like dish cooked with mushrooms, topped with Idiazabal cheese and finished with a generous amount of excellent olive oil. The highlight of this dish is the Idiazabal cheese, a smoked sheep cheese with a nutty sharpness that nicely compliments the creamy rice and the robust flavour of the mushrooms.

The seafood course can be a choice between prawns or seabass. “Gambas” is sautéed prawns with chorizo served over fideo with an aromatic pimenton sauce. Fideos are angel-hair noodles cooked ala paella. The noodles are crunchy and flavourful and have a different texture. A must-try!

“Merluza” is Chilean seabass slowly poached in olive oil and slowly-dried olives and served with a vegetable pisto. Chef David called this dish technique- and restraint-extensive, both of which were showcased as the dish succeeds very well in marrying the earthiness of the olives with the fish, without losing the fish’s delicacy.

The US rib eye, perfectly cooked medium, is the main component of “Chuleton,” the meat course of the “For Him” menu. The steak is topped with a “piquillo,” a wood-smoked pepper, and accompanied by fried potatoes, a nod to the well-loved Patatas Bravas. A piquant Spanish “ketchup” with sweet and sour notes that will surely appeal to the Filipino palate is served alongside.

Dessert “for him” is “Naranja,” which takes inspiration from Spain being one of the top citrus producers in the world. Oranges are paired with honey and yogurt for a sweet, tangy, and refreshing finish to “his” meal.

For her

The “For Her” menu features Italian favorites. “Ostricche” or oysters in Italian is the first course. This raw course features fresh Aklan oysters topped with a limoncello-ish granite, finished with black caviar. The freshness of the oysters hits you, and the salty black caviar opens up the palate.

The second course is “Agnolotti,” which are little “pillows” of freshly made pasta stuffed with a creamy delicious mixture of spinach and Italian ricotta. The sauce of the pasta packs a savory kick with double-smoked bacon, tomatoes, fresh basil, and balsamic vinegar.

“Gamberoni” with prawns cooked over a long-simmered vegetable “stew” of fennels, currant, capers, pine nuts and dry marsala wine is the first choice for the seafood course. The vegetable stew combines salty, sweet and acidic components, delighting the palate.

The other choice is Chilean seabass served on a bed of full-flavored “pesto rosso,” a red pesto of sundried tomatoes, almonds, garlic, and parmesan cheese. As a side, this dish is served with baked artichokes topped with cheese.

The meat course is aptly named “Bistecca,” which means steak in Italian. US rib eye is tender and perfectly cooked medium. Creamy truffle mashed potatoes, roasted garlic cloves, mushrooms and arugula accompanies the steak.

Velvety Chocolate “Panna Cotta” is the dessert “For Her.” Grated Amaretto di Sorrono or Italian almond cookies are served alongside and gives the dish texture, while fresh strawberries give an acid finish that balances out this creamy and rich ending to “her” meal.

The perfect date

If you think about it, what would make the perfect Valentine date?

First, it needs a great location and in that regard, Discovery Country Suites fits this bill. With its spectacular views and luxurious but homey interiors, it is considered to be one of the finest -- if not the finest -- “bed and breakfast” places in Tagaytay City.

Second, it must feature a great meal. Restaurant Verbena has consistently won the distinction of being one of Manila’s best restaurants for the past three years. And the Valentine’s Day signature menu is now on its eighth year and as per the latest tasting-- delicious.

Lastly, the perfect Valentine date must be shared with the right partner. Well Chef David can’t help you with that, but with the rest, he and the staff of Restaurant Verbena have got you covered.

The menus come with your choice of either two flutes of Moet et Chandon or a bottle of sparkling wine. Valentine diners can also join the raffle for a P25,000 gold heart-shaped pendant from Miladay Jewels. Both menus will be offered in Restaurant Verbena from February 11 to 17, for both lunch and dinner, priced at P2,500+ per person.