Business lunch for the books
A business lunch need not be boring or confined to a continental menu.
With the vast choices we have today, you can have your business lunch and eat it, too.
For a hip power meeting, try Rambla in Rockwell.
At night, this place transforms into a chic hangout with a subtle see-and-be-seen vibe, populated by fashionably dressed worldly youth.
Some cackle from the bar, others relax at a corner table. Mind you, the worldly chic who flock to this establishment are not confined to lifestyle’s top names like Anton San Diego or Divine Lee, whom I spotted on different occasions.
In my many visits to this restaurant, I have also had sightings of political heavyweights like Malacañang Chief of Staff Julia Abad, Corona-defender Atty. Beetle Lichauco and even Bangsamoro advocate and Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen.
On a hectic night, service may be amiss and even discriminatory, with a preference for the flashy diner.
If you don’t hit the right decibels, it may take a good 10 minutes to catch the attention of a server, in spite of the bearded Spanish caretaker clearly seeing you wildly waving your hand.
In spite of the selective pleasantries, though, the fact that the personalities of its visitors run the gamut from pretty to political is a testament to this restaurant’s success.
Philippine society seems to universally agree that the food here is good, if not excellent.
And it’s true. The kitchen doesn’t miss a beat and creativity flows without trying too hard.
It serves well-executed modern Spanish cuisine. It gives classic Spanish dishes like the paella a global touch.
The seafood paella negra has salmon loin tataki, ornamented with sesame seeds and laid atop the sea of black paella.
Given that this will give you black lips and teeth, it is not recommendable to order for a business lunch.
But if you can afford a laugh, go for this as it is delicious and creamy, and will make you beam that blackened smile with pride.
The risotto is a more poised alternative. This is a casually elegant dish, with the risotto clothed in parmigiano, with sharp hints of the cheese highlighting the al dente risotto. The chicken doesn’t really add to the character of the dish but the prawns are a delight, having been beautifully seared and oven-finished.
Sea bass is paired with clams. It is melt-in-your-mouth soft, competing with the best sea bass in five star hotels. But the fish is given a sexy Spanish touch with the accompaniment of clams and a green puree of garlic and parsley.
And the good ol’ empanada. It’s not chicken inside. Or pork. Rambla stuffs it with foie gras. Foie gras. Foie gras!!! And, brilliantly, pineapples, for a sweet touch to temper the fatty foie.
This time, though, as it updated its menu, executive chef Pepe Lopez seems to be quite obsessed with uni.
This customer, yours truly, who has never met Chef Pepe, is happy to benefit from this love affair with the sea urchin.
First, the heirloom salad. It has a lot—and I mean a LOT—of cherry tomatoes, making for a lovely, refreshing, punchy hello. But swimming in that pond of tomatoes is not your usual cheese or prosciutto but uni!
It’s a lovely, healthy appetizer.
Then there is the masterpiece of the tuna cannelloni.
Slices of uni already drizzled with wasabi are wrapped in a very thin slice of tuna, like an uni roll. But the rock and roll of seafood doesn’t end there. On top are a few pieces of salmon caviar and sesame seeds. And in the middle of the three slices, a Kikkoman foam for added character. This is the seafood roll of the next generation. A truly hip and happening plate that was a collaboration of Lopez with sous chef Paolo Nasol.
The creativity of the kitchen, however, is best exhibited by its molecular creations.
Order the olives and discuss philosophy with your business partners. You will feel like Neo in the Matrix. Before you pop it in your mouth, ask: is it an olive?
The kitchen purees olives, adds flavors, adds a chemical that makes the puree transform into the shape of a sphere .. and voila! An olive. Or is it? It’ll burst in your mouth like a dream. Making you wonder: did I just have an olive?
It also serves liquid omelet.
“This is an omelet,” I told my date, cracking up because I was holding up a sherry glass with yellow liquid inside. You are given a spoon to scoop out the liquid. I was delighted to find savory bits as I mixed the “liquid” with my spoon. “Bacon?” I wondered. It was caramelized onions. “Parang halo-halo! (It’s like halo-halo)” he said, laughing.
Make sure to leave room for dessert.
Dulcinea loyalists who miss their churros con chocolate, head on over to Rambla. (Sidenote: Terry’s also has good churros con chocolate). For those who like passion fruit, its tocinillo de cielo is heavenly. And the tiramisu is much raved about as well.
If you are going to do some serious talking, try to get the table by the door as the tables on the other end have ears—you can hear conversations from all around. The table by the door, though, is safe.
This place is perfect when you need a nudge in negotiations or if you are trying to build rapport among parties. Because while the ambiance is casual as opposed to stiff, the food is excellent.
So whatever your purpose for dining, be ready for some serious eating. Guests here may appear to be fashionably relaxed but the food is serious business.
G/F Joya Building, Joya Drive, Rockwell. Reservations recommended. Mobile 0926 690 9774. Tel. 02 823 6468. Open daily for lunch and dinner until 1 am. Major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking is limited though it is walking distance from Powerplant Mall where you can park. Cocktails are also excellent. Have after-dinner coffee at equally chic Refinery next door.
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