Mikel Arriet didn’t have to look long and hard for a chef that could take on Anya Resort Tagaytay’s in-house restaurant Samira. “I am part of the LTB Philippine Chefs Association. Everyone was saying one thing, ‘Chele, Chele, Chele,’” the resort GM recalls to ANCX over lunch. A chef himself, Arriet knew they were right. “I’ve known [Chele] a long time so it was an easy decision to make,” he says.
It was easy too for the Spanish Chele Gonzalez, multi-awarded chef behind Gallery by Chele in BGC and co-founder and senior culinary consultant at ADVIChE Food and Beverage Solutions Inc., to take the Anya offer. The desire to create new experiences for diners has always been a big motivating factor for this kitchen wiz. Apart from Gallery by Chele, he also has Enye by Chele Gonzalez at Crimson Resort & Spa Mactan. When the Anya post came up, he thought it’s about time gourmands south of Manila experience dining Chele style.
Samira by Chele Gonzalez is focused on bringing a warm, creative and innovative experience, says the famed chef. For this, he created a menu not limited to Spanish or modern Filipino fare but drew inspiration from different cuisines around the world. He wanted to offer a variety to vacationers who would most likely be staying at the resort for the weekend and have multiple meals at the restaurant.
Arriet says he only had two requests when Gonzalez was drafting the menu—make the starters “fun and playful,” and make the main courses simple yet satisfying. “Honest,” he added.
An important section of the menu are the ceviches, salads, and tartare, which Gonzalez made sure to be very refreshing, perfect for tropical weather. “It’s guaranteed to whet your appetite,” the chef assures. Tapas are an expected feature, of course, not only because of the Spanish chef but because the family running the place—the Roxases—are of Spanish descent. The tapas that made it to the menu are their selections.
Rounding out the menu highlights are the rice dishes—risottos to different kinds of paella—and a number of stews. Many people go to Tagaytay for the bulalo but to give it that Chele style, the chef gives the beef shank and bone marrow soup a Cocido twist. Anya’s bulalo consists of different meats (pork, beef, chicken) that are slow-cooked for several hours, with different kinds of chorizos thrown in. “This is a more intense, powerful version of the bulalo,” says Chele.
The chef even created a four-course menu to highlight the cocido experience. This consists of croquetas; garbanzos soup; the compango (selection of meats), cocido paella, and Chele’s Mama Fries; and the chef’s signature Burnt Basque Cheesecake.
When asked for his favorites on the menu, Arriet struggles to pick just one or two. “Many, many,” says the Spanish gentleman. He adores the playful combination of flavors in Chele’s Foie Gras and Mango Waffle and the Bulalo Tacos. He loves the Grilled Octopus with Ali-oli, which leaves a lovely, smokey flavor in the mouth.
The bright, fruity, spicy forkfuls of the Fresh Coconut Ceviche appeals to this writer. And the light and refreshing Buko Pie in Textures (re-imagined Tagaytay buko pie), totally hits the spot, a perfect dessert in the lingering summer heat.
You can enjoy the six-course set menu for P2,950++. Add P1,700 if you wish to have the dishes paired with wines by the restaurant’s in-house sommelier. The four-course cocido menu is P1,990++. Add P990 if you’d like a wine pairing with it. Samira by Chele Gonzalez accepts walk-in diners, but if you wish to make reservations, you may call or send a message to +639989553630.
Photos courtesy of Samira by Chele Gonzalez