MANILA -- Hotel Rembrandt has long been a fixture in the Quezon City hotel scene. Established in the mid-'90s, it is one of the earliest boutique hotels in the Tomas Morato area.
Named for the Dutch painter, the hotel prides in offering clients larger than usual rooms, different food and beverage concepts, all in a prime Quezon City location.
One of these outlets is the Malt Room, a basement bar that can be accessed either via the more conventional elevator or the hotel’s backrooms. The Malt Room has an old gentleman’s club vibe crossed with a 1920s speakeasy. It's a room for drinking and enjoying alcoholic libations with couches and tables arranged in various nooks, and an inviting circular bar which had quite an extensive cocktail list.
But Rembrandt's main F&B outlet remains the Lobby and recently, the hotel invited a select group of food writers to try the Lobby's new culinary offerings, as well as to introduce the ArtStream Hospitality Management Group’s (AHMGI) new chef consultant, Marie Jo Camarista.
Apart from Hotel Rembrandt, AMHGI also manages Hotel Luna in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Le Monet Hotel in Baguio, Vitalis Resorts and Villas in Santiago, Ilocos Sur, StayLite in Candon, Ilocos Sur, as well as restaurants Munchtown, Kessaku, Yumi, and the Le Monet Bakery.
With more than 20 new dishes, guests got a glimpse of Camarista’s food style, which showed a predilection for seafood, as well as an artistic bent, giving little twists to classics.
Camarista graduated from the Center of Asian Culinary Studies under Chef Gene Gonzales, and has worked for 11 years in various places around the globe from the Middle East, to New York, to Europe.
Standouts in the appetizers were two prawn dishes – the Prawn Scampi, fresh prawns bathed in a sauce of crab fat and butter, and the Shrimp Cocktail. While the former will surely appeal to many, it is the Shrimp Cocktail that surprised me the most.
The classic dish gets an innovative spin with three kinds of sauces — tangy radish that adds tartness and zing, fruity mango for sweetness, and a cheese sauce that rounds it all out. While you can choose only one dip, I found that mixing the three gives you the most harmonious bite. Add more of the radish if you want it sour and spicy, more of the mango to make it sweeter. I can’t remember when I last enjoyed shrimp cocktail more.
Other appetizers include the artichoke and sundried tomato dip, tuna tartare (tuna, orange juice dressing), calamari (fried battered squid, lemon tartar sauce, or vinegar) and the salmon ceviche. The last was interpreted with lemon, coconut milk and dill—bright with the lemon, creamy with the coconut, and spicy as it had a bit of bird-eye chillis.
Salads stayed true to her style, with a fresh tasting Shrimp and Watermelon Salad, which had a fruity spicy dressing, and another classic, the Nicoise Salad -- tuna, olives, anchovy, feta cheese with lettuce, French beans, topped with soft poached egg.
Burger sliders represented the sandwich menu. Camarista’s sliders had well-seasoned beef patties, cheesy mushroom sauce, and a sunny side egg on top. Relish on the side included a chunky tomato jam, and a red onion marmalade.
Camarista also added four new pasta dishes and two new pizzas. The pizzas showcased classic Italian pairing of flavors—Artichoke and Fungi (Artichoke and Mushroom), and Prosciutto and Arugula. Both are popular for a reason, they go well together, and the properly thin and crispy crust complements the pizza experience as well.
While the hotel added a decidedly safe dish in the Spaghetti with Meatballs, which had a tart tomato sauce, if seafood is your thing, you will have a field day trying out the other pasta dishes with Seafood Pasta (squid ink linguine, clams, mussels, fish, shrimp in seafood broth/sauce), Shrimp Scampi Linguine (lemony shrimp linguine in a white wine and garlic sauce), and lastly, the Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli (spinach and ricotta filled ravioli, tomato sauce).
Camarista clearly has a way with shrimp. The Shrimp Scampi was indeed luscious and rich, but the Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli was a favorite, tickling my tastebuds with alternating textures and tastes of cheese, spinach and tomato.
Besides a Stuffed Roast Chicken (juicy chicken roulades stuffed with mushrooms, sausage, with an almond wine reduction), seafood was still the star in her main entrees. The Shrimp Thermidore was a spicy shrimp-filled béchamel served in a ramekin, gratin-ed with a topping of breadcrumbs and cheese, deviating from the traditional thermidore, where the stuffing is stuffed into the shrimp shells.
While the regular restaurant version of fish and chips uses dory, in the tasting menu, Camarista used the fillet of the tawilis, served with the traditional malt vinegar and tartar sauce. The tawilis was fresh, and the unmistakable rich seafood flavor of this prized fish made it easy to gobble up, even without the dipping sauces.
The last seafood dish was the Pan-Seared Tuna with Balsamic Glaze—the glaze was sweet and slightly acidic, making this dish protein rich, but still very light.
Titania wines were paired with each course all throughout the meal. Wines served were mostly white, as the menu was largely seafood. These included a Chardonnay and a lone Merlot from Three Wishes, an Orange Label Bianco Toscana Piccini wine, a Sta. Ana white wine, as well as a Vina Albali Airen.