Classic faves, new dishes as Plaza turns 50

Joko Magalong

Posted at Oct 12 2015 10:45 PM | Updated as of Oct 14 2015 02:35 AM

The famous Plaza Premium Baked Ham. Photo by Eugene Constantino of Hefty Foodie

MANILA -- For 50 years, The Plaza has enjoyed a fabulous history of catering for presidents, magnates, society darlings, famous actors and even popes.

Joe and Meldy Reyes of the famous Reyes clan of Aristocrat fame founded The Plaza way back in 1965. While the company has firmly entrenched itself as one of the premier caterers in the metro, it has also branched off to other ventures such as its famous Plaza Premium Baked Ham, which has outlets that sell not only ham but sandwiches as well; the Go Gourmet to Go concept that provides take-out and ready-to-eat meals; and Chick-a-Go, which sells gourmet chicken meals at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

To celebrate its golden year, The Plaza recently previewed its anniversary menus to select food writers and bloggers. “The new menus features well-known Plaza favorites and also new and exciting dishes,” explained Karla Reyes, business development manager of the Plaza.

Classic hors d'oeuvres are served during cocktails. Photo by Eugene Constantino of Hefty Foodie

Pre-dinner cocktails featured four elegantly presented hors d'oeuvres -- dainty Caviar Blinis with piped salmon mouse, topped with caviar; Prosciutto-wrapped Asparagus for those looking for crunch; festive-looking Smoked Salmon Pinwheels; and Spinach and Mushroom Quiches with flaky buttery dough.

Dinner started with a cold dish of beautifully plated Smoked Tanigue served with a dill mustard sauce and trimmings. Translucent and so clean-tasting, the tanigue was a wonderful start to the meal, with condiments like onions, chopped eggs, lemon and capers adding not only acidity or brine but also different textures to each bite.

This was followed by a simple salad of lettuce greens, crumbled Brie, with a sour-sweet strawberry vinaigrette, which was a great start to dinner.

Smoked Lengua is one of the new items in the menu. Photo by Eugene Constantino of Hefty Foodie

A bevy of hot dishes were in the buffet line, including new items such as the Smoked Lengua with cream sauce, mushrooms and olives; and the Cured Pork Knuckles. The first took the best parts of lengua, but kicked it up a notch with brining and smoking the pork tongue. The result was a melt-in-your-mouth bite that started with the taste of cream, which melded to the silky taste of the lengua meat, with both mushrooms and olives adding an earthy flavor with each bite.

Cured Pork Knuckles is another new addition. Photo by Eugene Constantino of Hefty Foodie

Brined and then deep fried, the Cured Pork Knuckles had a hint of sweetness, but not overly much, and went well with its accompaniments of sour-atchara-ish sauerkraut, potatoes, and mustard. This dish was said to be German-inspired, but minus its sides, and any Filipino crispy pata-lover will find it close to home.

Chicken Ala Kiev will be familiar to many, as this dish was popularized by the Plaza in the '80s (its creation was at the behest of a butter manufacturer). It is boneless chicken breast stuffed with herbed butter, and deep-fried. The satisfying spurt of butter as you cut into the golden chicken has made this dish a perennial Plaza favorite. Savor the buttery goodness of the chicken with rice pilaf or with pasta.

Angel hair pasta was served alongside two choices of sauces: Seafood Pomodoro, a rich and creamy tomato sauce with bits of shrimp, squid and fish; and Garlic Chorizo, a meaty and garlicky oil-based sauce with that definite hint of chorizo red. The latter, besides being a great pasta sauce, was also a table favorite as a filling in between bread or even eaten over rice.

Enjoy the Plaza Ham on pandesal. Photo by Eugene Constantino of Hefty Foodie

Different types of bread were on the table for the two meats carved on order. The first was the Plaza Premium Baked Ham with its glistening glazed crust, and as served in outlets around the metro, diners were given the choice between the traditional pandesal or their pan-de-sub. The succulent meat which nails the perfect balance of salty and sweet can be sauced with Gutsy Garlic, Sweet Mustard, Wasabi Mayo, but nothing beats the original --- the Premium glaze, the honey-based sauce.

The Plaza Premium Roast Corned Beef. Photo by Eugene Constantino of Hefty Foodie

The Plaza Premium Roast Corned Beef was a mouthful to say, but was also a delicious mouthful to eat. Brined and roasted, not only was the corned beef meat juicy and succulent, the roasting gave the beef that nice umami roasted flavor and wonderful fatty crispy bits. Eaten with dinner rolls and a bit of horseradish cream, add a spoonful or two of sauerkraut and you’ve got a gourmet corned beef sandwich like no other.

Decadent Chocolate Cake welcomed you to dessert. Rich, moist, and not too sweet, any chocolate cake fan would surely like it. Another cake was the Salted Caramel Cheesecake, the velvety cheesecake was topped with a layer of cream and criss-crossed salted caramel. Akin to eating semi-melted salted caramel cheesecake ice cream with bits of cake, this cheesecake proved to be so popular that night that they served two cakes of it.

For those not cake-inclined, a crepe bar had guests making their crepes to their fancy, with various fillings and condiments like fresh fruits like strawberries and mangoes, nuts, sauces (mango, chocolate, strawberry), and whipped cream.

The Croquembouche with the salted caramel cake in the background. Photo by Eugene Constantino of Hefty Foodie

Last but definitely not the least was the Croquembouche, the dessert of piled cream puffs held together with threads of caramel, traditionally enjoyed in high society, gave our fine meal that elegant concluding nod.