Contrary to what some may think or have grown up doing, eating is more than just about sustenance or the taste – it is a whole sensory experience, a feast for all senses.
The harmony of different ingredients, complex flavors, enticing aromas, and mouthwatering visuals can be found even in the most basic of dishes. The whole dining experience also plays a part. Where you eat matters as much as what you eat, and this can transport people miles away to a foreign land or even a bygone era.
With the current situation remaining uncertain, ANC (ABS-CBN News Channel) and SM Supermalls teamed up to take viewers on a unique gastronomic adventure with ANCX Feast for the Senses.
In this show, viewers get to explore three of the metro's dining hotspots where taste, aroma, texture, sight, and sound enhance the whole dining experience. Video source: ANC 24/7 YouTube
Come take a trip around the world and indulge with all five senses.
1. BCN by Las Flores
It is a known fact that Filipinos love Spanish food for both the familiarity and variety it brings, and for the influences to flavors in local cuisine that have remained all these years.
But beyond the paellas and the tapas, there is a whole new world of Spanish cuisine just waiting to be discovered, and BCN by Las Flores has made it its mission to help Filipinos do so.
''We have the tapas and the paellas, but also we are specialized now in pintxos. That is very typical from the north of Spain. They just order in bite-sized pieces. So normally you go to the north of Spain and you go to a bar, you order a glass of wine, and then you order one pintxo. When you finish you go to another bar that has another kind of pintxo. So we tried to bring that one here,'' shared Chef Alfredo Rodriguez of BCN by Las Flores.
Chef Rodriguez recommends three pintxos for those who may not have tried it before. The first is the Mixed Anchovies that have white anchovy in vinegar, brown anchovy in salt, roasted bell peppers, and escalivada (smoky grilled vegetables) on coca bread. Another is the Butifarra where butifarra sausage, onion, shiitake stew, and brie cheese are piled on a small piece of bread with a little bit of soy sauce for an Asian touch. Last but not least is Morcilla & Foie. This sweet and rich pintxo has both Spanish and Filipino influences with morcilla (black sausage), foie, and onion jam placed on top of a pan de sal.
For the complete experience, the chef recommends guests to eat pintxos with sangria or gin and tonic.
Las Flores is also known for different paellas and here they did not disappoint with the Duck Confit Paella and the BCN-exclusive spicy Crab and Uni Paella.
Another must-try is the Secreto Iberico. The shoulder of the pig is imported from Spain and grilled. Piquillo pepper and chimichurri complete the dish.
More than authentic and delicious food, Chef Alfredo Rodriguez knows that where one eats is just as crucial. So they designed the restaurant to look like a restaurant or a bar in Barcelona, which BCN is the area code for. He divulged that this is exactly what one might encounter when walking along the capital of Spain's Catalonia region – from the interiors, furniture, and of course, the food.
2. Highlands Steakhouse
Highlands Steakhouse may be known for their old-fashioned steaks served with all the drippings and sides but there is more to the menu such as seafood, pasta, pizza, nachos, and quesadillas. The restaurant has taken its inspiration from a variety of Western cuisines like Mexican and Italian.
One example is the Mushroom soup. Fresh button, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms are topped with truffle oil and baked in their signature puff pastry. They also have fresh oysters from Aklan that are known for their big size and sweet flavor. Together with creamed spinach, parmesan, and mozzarella, it is baked in the oven and served with lemon on the side for an extra lift.
''Our best-selling steaks here, we only serve certified Angus beef. Our prime rib is marinated in mustard, paprika, herbs, and spices that are patiently cooked in low temperatures for about one or one and a half-hour. So we have three different sizes of our steaks. So we have the 10 ounces, the 15, and if you have a big appetite we also have the 20 ounces,'' said Chef Earl John Castillo of Highlands Steakhouse.
What makes their steaks a must-try is that they use charcoal to grill them. When the fat drips into the charcoal, it vaporizes and gives the steak even more flavor.
3. Rossini Ristorante Italiano
Last on the list is a restaurant that invokes lazy days under the Mediterranean sun, inspired by a temperamental artist with a penchant for good food.
Rossini Ristorante Italiano was founded by a German who decided to put up an Italian restaurant.
''It started with the love of my wife and I for the Italian culture and the Italian cuisine. We started with a smaller place, which we call Buona Vita, which stands for the good life. And it was successful,'' said Thomas Moersheim of Rossini.
Their success with Buona Vita has then led to the opening of another Italian restaurant, this time inspired by a famous Italian composer who was well-known for his operas. Gioachino Rossini was all about the good life, always insisting on eating with only the best ingredients made with the proper method. So there really was no better inspiration than him for this Italian fine dining restaurant.
With Paris-trained Italian chef Davide Lombardi at the helm of the restaurant, they were able to refine their menu to fit the new concept. Moersheim even trained to be a sommelier and he picked the wines from small, traditional wineries in Italy.
''You cannot just have good food in a restaurant like Rossini. The experience has to match. The service is very important, how your food is going to present to you, how individual demands are being met, because some people they would like a little refinement,'' Moersheim shared. ''The whole environment is actually like Rossini would have experienced the high-end restaurant in his era. So even our facade has very small windows because in 1760 you could not build large windows.''
According to Moersheim, an authentic Italian journey starts with antipasti like cold cuts and Italian cheese before going into the first dish.
For the first dish, he recommends their Pizza Rossini. Because it is a pizza Romana, it has a thin crust and tightly packed toppings. It has smoked duck breast, mozzarella, fontina, artichoke, mushroom, black truffles, white truffle oil, port wine sauce, foie gras, and fresh arugula. This has no tomato sauce and is eaten by hand.
Customers can also go with their Taglierini Tartufati Rossini where the dough has been made with truffle and served with shaved black truffle, or the Risotto ai Funghi Porcini e Tartufo Nero. Italian rice, dried Italian porcini, black truffles, and white truffle oil is cooked the Milano way.
For the main dish, he recommends the Filetto Rossini, which originated in France and came back to Italy with Gioachino Rossini. Grilled U.S. certified Angus beef tenderloin with seared foie gras, asparagus, caramelized shallots, roasted potatoes, and port wine sauce – a dish said to be invented for the Italian composer.
End the meal with Italian coffee and dessert like cannoli to complete the experience.
Here at Rossini, every dish has a story. Everything has been made with passion and without shortcuts to deliver an experience that will excite all five senses.
They even customize dishes for customers who prefer a different flavor profile. And as long as they have the ingredients, they can even make any Italian dish upon request.
''You have to give people an experience. You have to exceed the expectation to a certain extent. If you claim to be fine dining, you are creating a certain expectation. You have to meet that but to be successful, you need to exceed it a little bit. When they leave, they should say 'wow, I did not expect that,''' said Moersheim.
Thomas Moersheim is right. The good kind of dining is all about the experience. From the location and ambiance of the restaurant and the presentation of the food to the sizzles and the scents that waft from the kitchen, and finally, to the harmony of texture and taste of the food. All these elements combine to give diners a true feast for the senses.
To know more about how you can experience a gastronomic adventure with your senses, catch ANCX Feast for the Senses on ANC and YouTube. To know more about SM Supermalls, you can visit its website and follow @smsupermalls on all social media platforms.