Mrs. MM, The Teen and a close family friend took me to lunch at Lusso at Greenbelt 5 today. It was our first time at Margarita Fores’ new baby that was just an absolute pleasure to behold. The food was wonderful and exactly what we were hoping for. I will disclose up front that Margarita has become a very good family friend over the past year, and we have traveled on several food trips together, so I am saying this now lest anyone accuse me of giving a biased review. Yes, I do like Margarita’s restaurants and I came with high expectations. Mrs. MM and I are not the type to frequent Manila’s chi-chi spots in the evenings so we haven’t even been to the Establishment, the club that I gather is the latest watering hole for those who want to be seen/scene, and where Margarita does some of the food as well… And we had not been to Lusso, a “champagne bar” either. So lunch seemed like a nice way to have our first experience at the tiny jewel of a place. Decorated in luxurious travertine, with velvet covered chairs and beautiful chandeliers, this restaurant screams tasteful yet updated elegance. The waiters are dressed in jackets similar to those in the finest bars/cafes in Europe, almost an air reminiscent of Harry Cipriani’s in Venice, albeit much lighter and less jampacked with chairs and tables. Lusso, translated, means luxe or luxurious. And luxe it is. But most surprisingly, luxe need not be totally out of reach.
Decorated in pale tones echoing a glass of champagne, the travertine, velvet and paint were best described as being rich yet effervescent. Glasses at the bar, mirrors and the huge picture windows looking out on the garden added to the airy feel. Signature floral arrangements by Fiore di M. were tastefully placed on the bar and an outdoor seating area. While these arrangements are often highly recyclable and reusable, the three or five blooms of stunning cymbidium orchids added a hint of added elegance…
We started with a couple of glasses of champagne, which we sipped while perusing the menu which was surprisingly very well priced, I noticed. The champagne was compliments of the house, a gift from Margarita (thanks!). Dishes ranged from PHP300 to PHP1,200 or so for the priciest steak. But most sandwiches, pica-pica’s, snacks, etc. were at PHP600 or less, surprisingly affordable for such a nice setting. We decided to start off by trying two potato based appetizers…
First, a bowl of truffle scented potato chips. Upscale Lay’s I am sure some of you are rolling your eyes. But these hand sliced thin chips with skins still on were fried to a crisp and scented with truffle oil. They hit just the right note of crunch, saltiness and flavor that went well with the champagne.
We also got an order of Asiago french fries. Heartily cut potatoes fried then sprinkled with asiago cheese that melts all over the potatoes. Absolutely simple, wonderfully delicious. These were gone in a flash. It’s hard to improve on french fries, but this was a nice version.
For our main courses, we debated among several sandwiches or light dishes… Since it was my birthday, I decided to try the “Foie Gras Croque Monsieur” or simply put a grilled sandwich with pate de foie gras. It was very small, and understandably so. But very good. I wouldn’t have this as a main course again, more like one of two main courses. :) Or as a late afternoon snack with a glass of wine. It came with a small serving of greens, which for me was well dressed in a highly acidic dressing. I dislike very oily vinaigrettes, and personally prefer a good vinegar hit so this was a nice foil for the rich foie gras. A few more chips took this dish, which must have had just a few grams in contents, completely over the top on the calorie counter!
The Teen opted for a Lobster and Prawn Roll which was the best we have ever had in the Philippines. I would return to Lusso just for this sandwich and a glass of Diet Coke. At PHP450 for the sandwich, it was well priced. And it had nice meaty chunks of lobster and prawn on a lightly buttered roll from L’Artisan. VERY NICE.
Our friend ordered the chicken pot pie, thank goodness, as I did a serious double take when the same dish was delivered to a neighboring table. The eye candy? Little black cocottes from Staub, my latest cooking indulgence. A sort of Le Creuset for serious cooks…heehee. I hope the waiters keep an eye on those little pots, as they cost far more than the pot pies that they came with. The chicken pot pie was nice, with a mixture of dark and light meat and veggies, but I must say the crust was a bit of a disappointment. It is hard to freeze or pre-make a crust on this sort of dish, and this one felt a bit like a hard biscuit sitting on top of the stew. A bit deconstructed, but personally I would have hoped for a better crust…
Finally, Mrs. MM ordered the Pan Seared Salmon which came on a bed of french green beans , a cream sauce and a liberal sprinkling of two kinds of fish roe or caviar. It was perfectly cooked, and the fish was nice and tender. At PHP550 we also thought this was well priced. And the nice bonus, some deep fried salmon skin on the side. YUM. We didn’t try the foie gras burgers that has caused a buzz among foodies but we saw several go to other tables. I would certainly want to try that some day soon.
For dessert, we tried a mini-pecan pie with whipped cream. A nice balance of nuts, crust and cream. I could have that for a merienda with a nice cup of tea.
A chocolate sans rival that was intriguing, but I personally am not a huge fan of sans rival so I really should just stop trying them while dining out. The Teen and everyone else wiped out the rest of this dish, however.
Two scoops of olive oil ice cream with salt was the perfect way to clean our palates… Wonderful meal. Not heavy, just right. And you can dine here in a very civilized manner for less than PHP800-900 for the most part. Not cheap but very good value, in my opinion. We will be back to check out the other items on the menu… :)