Touring Tagaytay

Touring Tagaytay

My foodie tour at one of the Philippines' favourite weekend getaway destinations.
Jean Kao
Jean Kao

The dish is one of the pricier mains in the extensive menu, and I thank my hostess for highly recommending this. The medium-cooked cutlets were seared on the edges but still retained some of the crisp fat. Juices flowed, unhindered, with each cut I made on the pieces of lamb rack, but not to worry - no bloody messes were made both on the plate and in my mouth.
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The caramel sauce reminded me of sweet popcorn... this and the prunes toned down much of the gaminess from the lamb. Don't coat with excess caramel if you want to enjoy the meat's flavour. For me, I used the small potatoes (so perfectly round they could've bounced off walls) to wipe up whatever was on the plate.
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Of course, it was only appropriate to down some red wine along with the dish, and the Pinot Noir was good for adding a spicy edge.
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This entrée is an excellent choice for female diners, especially those who are often overwhelmed by bigger lamb chops. The only thing I didn't enjoy were the broad beans that had the unpleasant raw edge.

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A complimentary palate cleanser that was served in between the soup and entrée, this mango basil granita is so representative of the Philippines, or Southeast Asian cuisine in general. I never liked basil but this was very enjoyable thanks to the powerful mango sweetness.

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This was the soup of the day under the lunch set menu, of which the price is dependent on the choice of entree.
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The savoury broth was poured in after the plate was served with chunks of diced potato, bits of bacon, a sliver of toasted focaccia (I think), green herb oil and créme fraîche. I liked that the consistency wasn't thick like the usual western soups, and that the onion flavour was pleasantly mild instead of being dominant like French Onion soup. A delicious soup that prepares your appetite for the main course without filling you up prematurely.

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Honestly just having the three variations of duck "sacrifices" is more than complete, but what's a salad appetiser without the greens right?
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First is the pate with raspberry compote on thin toast, the sweet jam reduces the bitterness from the creamy rich liver paste spread on the crunchy toast.
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The smoked duck breast slices were tender, and sat on some chopped pickles... I ate this combination with the greens as the pickles were very sour.
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Last and the best was the seared foie gras, perfectly browned and crisp on the sides, further flavoured by what I believe is olive tapenade for that continental touch. So much indulgence in one (or three, if you savour it slowly) bite.

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I had gotten most of my food recommendations from my Filipino colleague, and whenever Antonio's came up, she'll turn dreamy-eyed as it's the one place she wishes her hubby would bring her to for a dinner date. It is after all one of the best fine-dining establishments in the country, and was #48 in Asia's 50 Best 2015 - the only restaurant from the Philippines in the list that year.
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It's a must to make a reservation via phone or email, walk-ins are not entertained. They also enforce a smart casual dress code, and have turned away customers who wore slippers and shorts. In the off-chance that you overlook these details, go check out its three affiliated and very popular dining concepts - Balay Dako (Filipino comfort food), Antonio's Breakfast (all day breakfast menus), and Lanai Lounge (cocktail bar).
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You need to either rent a car (left-side driving) or somehow find a driver (there aren't any proper taxis in Tagaytay) to send you here, it's a long drive in from the highway… Trust me, I walked for more than half an hour along the highway the day before - I must've been insane. After going through the inconspicuous black gate and down neatly bricked pathway, my driver dropped me off in front of a colonial-style building amongst lush greenery. Pushing through the wooden doors made me feel like I was entering a mysterious wonderland, an idea reinforced when I saw the decadent waiting lounge and the hostesses who greeted me in their French maid uniforms.
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There are possibly four to five dining areas within the compound, all adorned with massive chandeliers hanging above the classic furnishings. Take some time to explore after you have placed your order, and see how the areas cater to different settings like family dining, weddings, or romantic dates.

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Josephine Restaurant is another highly rated diner for local comfort food. It caters mostly to big groups so families who are in Tagaytay for a short holiday make a point to feast here, especially for their weekend buffets. The view overlooking Taal lake is pretty spectacular at night, I imagine it'd be even more so in the day. Lucky for me, they had a small menu for "solo" portions.
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Pancit Malabon is a stir-fried noodle dish that originated in Malabon City, Manila. The white rice noodle is like thick beehoon or mee tai mak but harder, and smothered in a yellow-orange sauce made with fish sauce, shrimp or crab. Seafood toppings include shrimp, squid, hard-boiled egg, and bits of yummy crispy lard (yaaaas). The noodle texture was too tough for my liking, like biting through dried cuttlefish snack. The sauce however, though clumpy, was rich with seafood essence, to the extent that some bites taste pretty pungent. Hopefully this isn't representative of the overall standard given that it's #6 of 136 restaurants on TripAdvisor...

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This drink tasted very much like Singaporean ice jelly 文头雪 in liquid form, more so with the shaved ice!

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Filipinos come here hoping to catch a glimpse of its celebrity owner Alden Richards (google him), but I only got to see his cutout standee 😅 Concha's located in the dining and commercial cluster known as Cliffhouse Tagaytay, with some other food establishments such as Cafe Breton and Fire Lake Grill. I was here for a short break from walking at about 5:30pm, but sunsets are early in the Philippines, so it looked like Singapore's 8pm, hence the lights.

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A lot of sugar was added to the top, resulting in the hard caramel layer that was a bit too thick and sank into the custard while attempting to break through, and still has sugar grains beneath it like unstirred coffee. However, the pleasant lavender scent is prominent right after the cracking. The dessert was too sweet and syrupy overall, luckily it's just a small cup.

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This grilled loin chop is super big, maybe about the size of my hand with fingers spread out. Don't even bother with the rice unless you have two stomachs... ok maybe just one spoonful of the bit that's been immersed in the savoury juices seasoned with fennel and pepper. Exercise that knife to cut through the one-inch thick hunk of meat, each morsel is chewy and a bit on the lean side. The crackling edges drew some audible sighs from me... unadulterated delight of the G-rated kind. Take short breaks with the tangy salsa, it re-energises the tastebuds from the heavy-duty meal.

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This is one of the regular appetisers on the menu without extra charge. The chickpea mash is mixed with olive oil, chopped herb and garlic, topped with a dash of paprika powder. The garlic was a tad overpowering, I'd have preferred much less of it, but it was still a good dip with the crisp and slightly charred thin tortilla triangles. The server even offered to give me more hummus when I had a few pieces left! Service is really the best thing about dining in the Philippines.

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Marcia Adams is pretty well known in Tagaytay, and is in the top ten of almost every food-hunt list. Getting around Tagaytay is tricky for tourists with little knowledge of the jeepney/tricycle routes, and coming to this garden restaurant is a huge hassle without a car. There aren't any taxi services in this town as well, so thankfully the owner of my accommodation offered his driver to get me there, phew!
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You are greeted by the lush greenery right from the entrance, a signpost marked "This Way" points you to the path down to a clearing where there is an open-air seating on one side and a indoor Tuscany-style dining area on the other.
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Meals here are served in three courses at a minimum price of PHP700 (slightly over SGD20) depending on the main course price, though certain appetisers and desserts have additional charges as well.

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Jean Kao

Level 7 Burppler · 463 Reviews

Some things I don't eat (eg. dairy, beef), but those that I can, I eat A LOT. Instagram: @dana_zincy

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