Resorts World Manila pays homage to all things Filipino with the opening of its newest signature restaurant called Casa Buenas, a term that literally translates to “good house” in English.
At the helm of the restaurant is Executive Chef Godfrey Laforteza who, hand-in-hand with his team of RWM chefs, created a menu that presents a new take on popular Filipino-Spanish classics. But the menu doesn’t stop there, not limiting itself to purely Spanish culinary influences, but reaching further for inspiration to Asian and Western cuisines, and showing how Filipino cuisine continues to adapt and evolve beyond its past influences.
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This latest addition to the Manila dining scene can comfortably seat 135 inside its beautifully designed, high- ceilinged brasserie-like space with traditional bahay na bato inspired interiors.
Enhanced with rich details sourced from various parts of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, the interiors boast handmade Machuca tiles, solihiya furniture, and baked capiz window fixtures that aim to transport diners to a bygone era. Despite the heritage feel, the restaurant still exudes a welcoming relaxed vibe, making it conducive for casual and intimate gatherings with friends and family.
According to Laforteza, Casa Buenas’ menu is filled with his team’s take on classic dishes that they fondly remember enjoying as children at large family reunions or gatherings, and that their mothers and grandmothers would serve during Sunday meals.
Among the early must-try dishes on the à la carte only menu is an appetizer called Shrimp Isaw, an interesting twist on the popular Filipino grilled street food fare that traditionally uses chicken or pork intestines. Casa Buenas’ sosyal version removes the fear factor that one usually associates with eating intestines on the streets (perceived as dirty). Instead, the restaurant’s version uses skewered shrimp forcemeat shaped to look like chicken or pork intestines, which is then slightly torched before it’s finished with a tangy vinegar sauce, inspired by the street version’s dipping sauce.
There is also a refreshing Asian-inspired cold appetizer called Kumot, the chefs’ deconstructed take on fresh Vietnamese summer rolls, filled with shrimps, vermicelli noodles, cilantro, and doused in nuoc cham (a fish sauce with lime sauce). This modern version is served in a deep-dish plate with the rice paper blanketing (thus the name) the filling like a pie crust instead of being rolled like a traditional spring roll.
I also liked the restaurant’s take on another appetizer, Tuna Tartare Kilawin. The raw fish is dressed with coconut cream pinakurat and finished with a generous serving of ikura or salmon eggs for a more interesting bite.
Among the entrees, an early favorite is the very tender Grilled Iberico Pork Jowl that’s served with sweet potato fries, orange zest, and lemon.
Another fave is Laforteza’s hearty take on his mother-in-law’s callos called Callos de Monserrat, which is a lighter, well-balanced yet tasty version of this traditional Madrileña tripe stew.
There is also a good Paella Negra cooked the way Filipinos usually like their paella, with a thicker layer of rice compared to its Spanish counterpart, and a more pronounced en su tinta or squid ink sauce.
There are only three dessert options on the menu: Emperador Strudel, Ube and Cheese Soufflé, and Tablea Chocolate Fondant made with chocolate from Davao. All three are good, but if you only have space for one, choose between the Emperador Strudel (flaky crust filled with mango bits and cream and finished with an Emperador Brandy-spiked vanilla sauce) or the extra springy Ube and Cheese Soufflé.
Budget conscious diners will be pleasantly surprised to discover reasonably priced dishes on the menu within the P200 to P500 range that one doesn’t usually expect in restaurants located inside a hotel.
G/F Grand Wing, near Hotel Okura Portwood Street entrance, Resorts World Manila, Newport City, Pasay City, (0917) 878-8312, open daily 11 am to 1 am
Photos by Chris Clemente