AG New World Manila Bay

Dra­matic Din­ners at The Fire­place

Let’s Eat - - NEWS - WORDS BY SPANKY HIZON EN­RIQUEZ

Don’t let the dis­tance, or the travel time to the City of Manila, dis­cour­age you. In­stead, turn an imag­ined neg­a­tive into a def­i­nite pos­i­tive: drive down, and stay for the week­end. Dis­cover three of the best ho­tel res­tau­rants in the coun­try, and as an added bonus? En­joy the un­par­al­leled mag­nif­i­cence of the Manila Bay sun­set. It’s ab­so­lutely the best free show ever. A hyp­notic dance of dap­pled sun­light re­flect­ing on the blue wa­ters dur­ing the day, and in the after­noons, and to­wards 02 dusk? Mag­i­cal.

Here’s my ideal itin­er­ary for your stay­ca­tion in this beauty by the bay. Ar­rive in time for lunch at the Mar­ket Café. The buf­fet restau­rant has mul­ti­ple cook­ing sta­tions: Chi­nese and Carv­ings are al­ways pop­u­lar, but here’s a pro tip. Go to the Seafood sta­tion, and ask the chefs there to have the fresh prawns cooked in salt and pep­per; it’s not listed on the board list­ing the cook­ing op­tions, but I once over­heard a guest con­spir­a­to­ri­ally ask for it, and of course, I just had to try it my­self. It’s been my fa­vorite off-menu item ever since. Af­ter lunch, take a long si­esta, a stim­u­lat­ing shower or a dip in the pool af­ter, but by five o’clock, make sure you have a van­tage point for the sun­set spec­tac­u­lar. If you book a room with ac­cess to the Res­i­dence Club liv­ing room on the 10th floor, re­serve a seat in front of the pic­ture win­dows, or­der a cock­tail or a glass of sparkling wine, some sushi to nosh on, and … well, re­flect on how happy, and lucky, you are at that mo­ment.

But save space for din­ner. The pièce de ré­sis­tance of a New World stay­ca­tion is a luxe meal at The Fire­place. It’s my fa­vorite five-star ho­tel steak restau­rant.

I’m bi­ased. But with good rea­son. The Fire­place holds a sen­ti­men­tal value for me, as it was the one I wrote about in my very first pub­lished food fea­ture a decade ago. I fell in love with the restau­rant then. It’s lux­u­ri­ous in­te­ri­ors and ro­man­tic light­ing, bur­nish­ing ev­ery­thing with a golden hue. The de­canters and crys­tal glasses, lined up for the pour­ing of the bot­tles from one of the most well-cu­rated wine lists in the coun­try. And those steaks. Those mas­ter­pieces of meat that drive the car­niv­o­rous crazy with de­sire. Un­der the keen eyes of Ex­ec­u­tive Chef James Wil­liams, and the un­com­pro­mis­ing pro­fes­sional pre­ci­sion of Sous Chef Ilan Bacher, the restau­rant is se­lect­ing, sourc­ing, stor­ing, slic­ing, and serv­ing up some of the best steaks in the Philip­pines, bar

none. I’m par­tial to the 400-day grain-fed Wagyu Rib­eye from the Stock­yard Farm in Aus­tralia. It has that strong, mus­cu­lar taste pro­file, and that beefy bite. Medium rare, of course. It’s a clas­sic that needs no fur­ther ac­cou­ter­ments. I love it still siz­zling hot from the wood-fired oven, grill marks and a slight char. A most manly steak that I imag­ine, Don Draper and his Mad Men would have en­joyed dur­ing a “three gin mar­tini” lunch. Con­nois­seurs of the in­tensely fla­vored yet del­i­cately melt-in­y­our-mouth, high grade Ja­panese cat­tle will bow down to the plea­sures an A4 from the Saga Pre­fec­ture. And for fam­i­lies with

“THE PIÈCE DE RÉ­SIS­TANCE OF A NEW WORLD MANILA BAY STAY­CA­TION IS A LUXE MEAL AT THE FIRE­PLACE.”

chil­dren rav­en­ous from an af­ter­noon in the pool, I’d rec­om­mend the Tom­a­hawk. That hu­mon­gous cut, weigh­ing in at a kilo or more, it’s an im­pres­sive sight, re­ally. An epic pro­duc­tion.

Ob­vi­ously, I still love this restau­rant as much as I did dur­ing my first visit all those years ago. Per­haps, even more. The restau­rant has aged el­e­gantly, and it has con­stantly re­newed it­self. All its pro­teins and pro­duce are sourced from farms that prac­tice re­spon­si­ble farm­ing and har­vest­ing. The Fire­place has al­ways been im­pres­sive, but with this ded­i­ca­tion to Sus­tain­abil­ity, it is even more so.

PHO­TOS BY GABBY CANTERO

1 400-Day Grain-Fed Wagyu Rib­eye from Aus­tralia2 The Wood-Fired Beech Oven 3 The Open Kitchen 03

02 4 Grilled Scal­lops5 The Fire­place Din­ing Area6 Grade A4 Saga Wagyu from Ja­pan7 The Manila Bay Sun­set View8 Jack’s Creek Tenderloin Tartare

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