17 Jun2012

It’s been several years since we were last at Antonio’s in Tagaytay, and I can only say that it keeps getting better with age. Mrs. MM and I were invited to lunch and dined at Antonio’s with about a dozen other folks, many of whom were chefs and culinary professionals, and here was the superb lunch we ate that day. So much has already been written about Antonio’s that I would just like to do a quick post, heavy on the photos. I would encourage you to experience this wonderful restaurant, if only for that one absolutely special occasion you are saving up for, or if you just want to have a great meal, in a beautiful setting, with generally very good service. The visit starts after you enter the property’s gate, curve around the cement and grass driveway and pull up to this porte cochere to alight from your vehicle (ideally a horse drawn carriage…) to begin your lunch or dinner experience. The recent rains have helped to make the gardens even more lush and green than usual. The outdoor temperature must have been in the high 70’s, but intermittent heavy downpours meant being seated indoors would probably be ideal.

The entry hallway is partially open to the elements, so you get a preview of the garden and dining areas on several levels terraced below. A brightly painted red wall is the backdrop for several dozen sepia and black and white family photos of the owners of the restaurant. After a brief walk down to the gardens, and to see the relatively new and wonderfully designed “Breakfast” restaurant that was transferred from another location and appears to be open for special events or weekend breakfasts, we sat down to lunch.

I didn’t take notes at the meal and it’s been a while, so I may have difficulty remembering all of the dishes in detail. My apologies if I describe a few of them with some of the ingredients perhaps missing. We started off with a warm roll, baked in-house, flavored with fennel seed and onion, accompanied by a compound butter with black olives. It’s a throwback to a different era in dining to still get freshly baked or warmed rolls, and I have to say, I am a huge fan of this practice. The rolls were delicious, and I managed to have two. :)

The first appetizer to arrive was a brilliantly executed steak tartare. Raw meat conjures up all sorts of issues with respect to the pristine manner in which it must be handled and prepared and served, so there aren’t many places I would feel comfortable ordering this dish. Antonio’s version was STUNNINGLY good — excellent quality meat, nicely chopped, just the right mixture of capers, lemon, oils, mustard, herbs and spices mixed in that it was music to the tongue.

I could have feasted on the entire contents of the silver-plated silver bowl chilled with ice with a good glass of wine and that would have been my entire lunch. As it was, the table shared two orders and most of us managed two slices of toast with a generous helping of tartare on top. A memorable dish indeed.

This was followed with a rather surprising combination of watermelon with very gently poached scallops with a lemon-herb dressing. It was refreshing and an unusual mixture of textures. I have to say I wasn’t completely thrilled with the almost sous-vide (or was it sous-vide?) slightly mushy texture of the scallops, but overall the dish was still an unusual one — so simple but probably not simple to do.

A dozen mushroom souffles appeared simultaneously, and they were served with a rich cream sauce. The souffles were superb, but several had collapsed before they were served, a victim of timing or the fact that we were just such a large party which is frankly, hard for a kitchen to contend with.

The lack of pouffiness aside, the souffles were delicious and just the right balance of lightness, richness and savory flavorful goodness… A nice segue into several more courses that were about to follow.

Next up, a tortelloni(?) (definitely not a ravioli) with four cheeses appeared at the bottom of soup bowls, then waiters served an intensely tomatoey broth poured from tea pots.

The essence of tomato present in the light broth was quite intense, and I wonder if local fresh tomatoes were used, as it’s often difficult to find flavorful tomatoes here, with very rare exceptions.

Next up, some shrimp or prawns encrusted in nori (black seaweed squares) and flavored with squid ink I believe. This was served with a salad that had a dressing that included fresh passion fruit pulp with seeds that provided an acidic counterpoint and unusual crunch as well. I thought the idea was nice, but this was my least favorite of the courses served. It just didn’t seem in the same league as the other dishes that were presented that day. But this is quibbling, on it’s own, it would have made a nice starting salad or a small main course dish. The black encrusted prawns were not particularly visually appealing to me.

A couple of glasses of a very drinkable Malbec and several glasses of white wine as well had me rather giddy midway through the meal. Gejo Jimenez was also at this lunch (after we had visited his organic farm, previously called Kitchen Herbs Farm and since renamed Malipayon Farms) and he too was smiling from ear to ear with the lunch so far…

A little break, a palate cleanser of mango sorbet served with Grand Marnier, Triple Sec or other liqueur, was a welcome respite and pause before the main courses arrived. The sorbet was freezer hard, and almost certainly pre-scooped and frozen as a ball, and it took several minutes for it to thaw and make it easier to eat.

The main course was a semi-deboned meaty roasted quail served with a truffle cream sauce and a foam of some sort that I can’t recall. Could there also have been morels in there? There were a few red grapes which gave nice sweet counterpoint to the savory quail. I don’t get to eat quail that often, but this dish was so good it inspired me to send one of the crew to the Arranque market a few days later to hunt down some fresh quail for me to experiment with!

A snapshot of the terraces that have been retiled with retro machuca cement tiles with painted designs reminiscent of flooring in older homes… ponds with large carp and lush greens that have really grown in nicely over the years.

Giant ferns and more foliage.

And finally, a snapshot of this little sitting area (complete with white chandelier!) in one part of the vast gardens. We had several desserts but I was so sated that I didn’t taste many of them and didn’t bother to take any photos. Overall a gorgeous and delicious meal, and yet again proof positive why Antonio’s is so oftened mentioned as the best restaurant in the Philippines. I would certainly agree. Many thanks to our host for the wonderful lunch, and to the company we dined with for keeping the conversations so interesting and lively. Kudos again to Antonio’s!

Antonio’s
Purok 138, Bgy. Neogan
Tagaytay City, Cavite
(046) 483-4847
(046) 413-0975

 

COMMENTS:

  1. ariel says:

    Why hasn’t this restaurant gotten a Michelin star? It ranks highly in the Miele guide.

    Jun 17, 2012 | 9:35 pm

     
  2. ferlin says:

    where is the location? interested to came

    Jun 17, 2012 | 9:36 pm

     
  3. corrine says:

    This used to be my favorite restaurant but the second time my family and I were there which was about 3 years ago, we ordered scallops but unfortunately, the oil used tasted rancid. Haven’t been back since. It’s a lovely place and I enjoyed our dinner the first time we went. Really nice gesture of the chef to come to our table and have a small talk about the food. Maybe, we’ll give it another try. I’m just so particular with oil.

    Jun 17, 2012 | 10:16 pm

     
  4. Mart says:

    Yummy!
    It is probably already Monday there but it is still Sunday here, so…

    Happy Father’s day MM!

    @ariel
    The Micheline reviewers probably don’t visit the Philippines much.
    And with the mushy scallops, frozen sorbet, I don’t think it would get a Michelin anyways.

    My favorite article about the “undercover account” of a Michelin “evaluation agent”:
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/11/23/091123fa_fact_colapinto

    Jun 17, 2012 | 11:31 pm

     
  5. Lava Bien says:

    I totally agree. The BEST restaurant in the Philippines bar none and service is excellent. Not for an average person who’s just trying to fill his/her tummy, the wrong place to say “di nakakabusog” (person like this do not deserve to visit Antonio’s).

    Jun 18, 2012 | 1:43 am

     
  6. Irene says:

    Good to see that Antonio’s continues to deliver. I remember voting for them for the first Miele guide. Sounds like it’s time to go back.

    @Mart, I liked the article. Thanks for sharing!

    Jun 18, 2012 | 3:13 am

     
  7. PITS, MANILA says:

    I enjoyed viewing the photos, MM. Must try ANTONIO’S.

    Jun 18, 2012 | 8:44 am

     
  8. ami says:

    Have never dined there yet but it has been in my radar for years. Do they have a pre-set fixed menu or are you given a selection of appetizers, starters, etc then you get to choose what you like best?

    Jun 18, 2012 | 9:29 am

     
  9. Skye says:

    Thank God for a business dinner, otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to afford to eat there.

    Jun 18, 2012 | 10:14 am

     
  10. Isa Garchitorena says:

    We visited Antonio’s for my wife’ birthday a couple of weeks ago largely based on your first linked post. I had eaten at Breakfast on an earlier visit some years back and decided it was time to try the real thing. The grape shake was as yummy as you said! I am not normally a fan of fruit shakes but I would go back for that! The frozen grape ice cubes was a delicious touch. We went there hankering for some delicious steak and they definitely delivered. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Jun 18, 2012 | 11:30 am

     
  11. Marketman says:

    Isa, glad you enjoyed it. When you are back home in the Pacific Northwest and have access to good grapes… try the following… freeze a few whole washed grapes for garnishing. Into a good blender, add say 150 grams of seedless grapes without stems, some ice cubes and a little water. If you like your shakes sweet, add a little simple syrup, but I make mine without syrup, blitz for a minute or so and adjust amount of fruit or sugar as you desire… pour into a tall glass, add the frozen grapes. Easy. Refreshing and delicious. I love grape shakes. :)

    Jun 18, 2012 | 11:35 am

     
  12. JE says:

    My only comment is that those tiles are amazing.

    Jun 18, 2012 | 12:56 pm

     
  13. Sleepless in Seattle says:

    Our recent vacation in the Phil(month ago)We stayed at Tagaytay Highlands with family,quite a few places we dined..wish we visited Antonio’s.Love you pictures,enjoyed them immensely.

    Jun 18, 2012 | 1:07 pm

     
  14. Chas says:

    The stuffed pasta you had is called a raviolo. A larger version of the ravioli, the raviolo’s serving size is almost always an individual piece. Common shapes are round, square, or triangle. A tortellini has a hole in the middle and is shaped like a ring.

    Jun 18, 2012 | 2:28 pm

     
  15. Marketman says:

    Chas, thanks for that information, I really appreciate it. I knew it wasn’t a ravioli, but I couldn’t recall what they called it. Okay, definitely not a tortellini… Btw, does it matter how many cheeses are in it? I was told that a ravioli would likely only have one type of cheese in it, but if it had multiple cheeses, it would be called something else? Thanks.

    Jun 18, 2012 | 4:40 pm

     
  16. Helen says:

    I just had lunch there last Friday with my husband, together with his sister and hubby who’s visiting from the UK. They had as they said a superb meal. Love their rack of lamb.

    Jun 18, 2012 | 5:25 pm

     
  17. wysgal says:

    Still one of my favorite restaurants in the Philippines. Although service was a bit spotty when we were there.

    Was this a special tasting menu? I was there last week and we just saw the regular menu of entrees with a standard salad, soup, and dessert. Don’t recall seeing stuff like the steak tartare an mushroom souffles.

    Jun 18, 2012 | 9:02 pm

     
  18. Katrina says:

    Tina, the menu is more varied in the evening. I suspect MM’s meal was a special menu just for them (please correct me if I’m wrong, MM), which is why they were able to have it for lunch. That’s why, when I went last year, I made sure to go for dinner so I could have the delicious starters such as the steak tartare and bone marrow, both of which were the best I’ve had. We also very much enjoyed the scallops and mussels. I hear the oysters, when available, are terrific, too. But my favorite dish was, surprisingly, the salad course. Not just any salad, but the Foie Gras Potato Truffle Tempura Salad. A mouthful of a name, and I’m sure some would think it’s more than a tad too much, maybe even silly. I was a bit apprehensive myself, but was so curious that I had to try it. And I thought it was astounding!

    MM, do you recall what the desserts were? Although their desserts are all right, it doesn’t seem to be Antonio’s strong point. I’m hoping he’s come up with more exciting ones. :-)

    There are several dishes I want to go back for, and if that quail is now part of the menu, that would be one of them. I also want to try going during the day to enjoy the surroundings, but at the same time, I’m loath to give up the options in the dinner menu.

    Jun 19, 2012 | 12:28 am

     
  19. sunflowii says:

    ooooh, the setting and the dishes look world-class. hubby and i must really try to get to this place on our next visit. my impression was that you had to be a big group to appreciate the range of dishes. that is, you get to try more because there’s more people to share it with compared to just 2 people dining. MM, is this true? wish they had a website with a menu. unless, like wysgal mentioned, they have a special menu for special people like your group (there were chefs). =(

    Jun 19, 2012 | 12:51 am

     
  20. netoy says:

    i’ve been reading about Antonio’s for a while and had the pleasure of treating my friend (who was my host for my stay) to a dinner there one time and it was truly a memorable dining experience. The service was impeccable. I was making some comments about my entree when someone from a table nearby piped in – didn’t know that was Antonio until he introduced himself. He was so accomodating and gracious. Will gladly try this restaurant again. truly deserving of the title one of the best, if not the best, restaurants in the philippines.

    Jun 19, 2012 | 1:11 am

     
  21. sunflowii says:

    eeep! they have a website and menu. it’s been a while since i last googled them.

    http://www.antoniosrestaurant.ph/

    Jun 19, 2012 | 3:26 am

     
  22. sunflowii says:

    me again. (lang magawa kasi sa opisina)
    looked through the online menu. the first article i read about antonio’s must’ve been one where they’d ordered steak for a group which made me think that you have to go as a group.
    looked at the pictures too. the night-time pictures look so romantic! ideal date place.
    AND THEN, they have passion fruit pavlova!!!! ohmygossshhhh i must go now!!!

    Jun 19, 2012 | 3:46 am

     
  23. Marketman says:

    sunflowii, thanks for that link, wonderful website, and I too had no idea they had it… didn’t even bother to look… :) But it’s a beautiful site. Katrina, Sunflowii and Wysgal, I think the menu was determined before we even got to the restaurant, as we just sat down and a few minutes later dishes started arriving… Mrs. MM and I were guests, so we assume the menu was set earlier. It seems like several of the dishes are standard dishes, like the tartare, but perhaps are only available from the evening menu? or if you call ahead? And yes, I think there is an advantage to dining in larger groups if you want to taste more dishes. Having said that, it is a beautifully setting for a date for two. Katrina, for dessert there was a passion fruit pavlova, a chocolate pavlova (not great), some chocolate desserts, and honestly I can’t recall the rest served…

    Jun 19, 2012 | 6:19 am

     
  24. Vince says:

    Location, service and ambiance? All great. Easy to compare it to to French Laundry in Yountville in the sense that you do have to make an effort and drive to the place. But it ends there.

    The food? Wouldn’t really say it’s great or blew me away. I decided to try it when I visited Manila last year after reading about it from all the reviews it has received. Unfortunately, didn’t really wow me. Too bad.

    Jun 19, 2012 | 6:47 am

     
  25. Mila says:

    We were there, my hubby and daughter early this year lunch time on our way to Pico de Loro and I swear, the souffle was heavenly, I think that was the same souffle you had here, will go back just for that. The service was good, my husband ordered the steak set meal good for two, with salad and desserts. You are right Marketman, the bread tasted wonderful, the dalandan juice was also divine.

    Jun 19, 2012 | 12:53 pm

     
  26. Chas says:

    MM: I don’t know of any specific term for ravioli with four cheeses except “ravioli ai quattro formaggi.” The name of the dish is then completed with the type of sauce (sugo/salsa/ragù) it is served with. Some of these sauces are “con sugo di pomodoro” (tomato sauce), “con salciccia” (sausage), and “con ragù e Scamorza bianca” (white gravy made with Scamorza cheese, which then technically makes it “cinque formaggi.”

    Jun 20, 2012 | 12:35 am

     
  27. marissewalangkaparis says:

    It ranks as my fave resto. Peer restaurants rank Antonio”s No.1.,Verbena No.2—both in Tagaytay and Goose Station at the Fort as No. 3. Kudos to Tony Escalante!

    Jun 20, 2012 | 6:38 pm

     
  28. Jim says:

    Someone asked for Antonio’s location. Does this help?

    http://www.openstreetmap.org/?mlat=14.08957&mlon=120.90883&zoom=14&layers=M

    Jun 26, 2012 | 11:53 am

     
  29. Ley says:

    Last year we filed a libel case with the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office based on defamatory posts on facebook. The said office found probable cause and filed the case in court where it is now pending. So, yes, I think that case will reach the court and that guy will be issued a warrant of arrest:)

    Jun 27, 2012 | 10:36 am

     
  30. pixienixie says:

    Hi Ley, I think you posted your comment in the wrong entry. :D

    Jun 27, 2012 | 2:33 pm

     
  31. Rocky says:

    Hi! I would like to ask if these were from a set menu or ordered separately? Thanks!

    Aug 3, 2012 | 3:03 pm

     
  32. Marketman says:

    Rocky, I think these dishes were ordered separately, from a mixture of the lunch and dinner menus.

    Aug 3, 2012 | 4:53 pm

     
  33. mampob says:

    The telephone number stated is of Antonio’s Grill. Antonio’s number is (0918)899-2866

    Sep 29, 2012 | 12:56 pm

     
  34. alex says:

    Looks really nice and beautiful photographs. Just one thing: A raviolo is not another pasta than a ravioli. Raviolo is just the singular form of the word word ravioli. so when it is written raviolo you are just getting one (mostly) bigger piece of filled pasta.

    Dec 27, 2012 | 10:58 pm

     
 

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