There are many good Spanish restaurants in the country. However, while there are a few great ones, only a handful are in a league of their own.
It was the night before Labor Day and I had a crazy day at work. The traffic was worse than usual, and I was banking on having a great meal to end the day on a positive note.
The moment I stepped inside Donosti – Pintxos Y Tapas, I knew I would have a fantastic experience. The staff is friendly, the interiors are a cross of modern luxury with classic touch, and voila! a whole leg of Iberico Ham was proudly displayed at their bar counter like a trophy.
I had a bit of a difficult time choosing what to order as there are so many great options. Plus, I am trying to lose weight. How is that even possible? In the end, I asked for recommendations from the very able and helpful server assigned to us and that’s what we had. Carbohydrates? We didn’t care!
To start off, we were given a complimentary basket of freshly baked, crusty French baguettes. This was sure to come in handy as Spanish cuisine is generally full of rich sauces. There is actually an Italian term “La Scarpetta”, which means to mop up the sauce from a plate with a piece of bread. I planned to do the exact same.
The Gambas Al Ajillo (garlic shrimps sauteed in olive oil at Php640) arrived first. The presentation was amusing. The dish was placed in a small cast iron-like skillet and they flipped the delicate shrimps in front of us, so we could witness how fresh and fast they cook. Oh, boy! They’ve got big and succulent shrimps here. The only minor comment I have is that it’s a bit salty.
Then the two pieces of Pintxos came. Pintxos are small snacks usually presented as having elaborate toppings on top of a bite-sized bread. These are popular in the Basque Country of Spain and it was said that the town of San Sebastian serves the best Pintxos! Coincidentally, San Sebastian is also called Donostia, where the name of this restaurant was derived from. We ordered the Montadito de Solomillod de Ternera (thinly sliced beef ternderloain on bread at Php220) and Montadito de Sobrasada (raw cured sausage with Brie cheese and honey at Php245). Both are authentic and of top quality.
The Diablitos (flavorful small spicy fried chorizos at Php630) were a pleasant surprise. The dish is generous with eight pieces of mouthwatering savory sausages. It is not too spicy, and is very aromatic. Before we knew it, we only had one last shy piece left.
In true fine dining fashion, the server requested to change our plates in preparation for the main courses. Paella de Pescado y Marisco (mixed seafood paella at Php995) was served. It has a vibrant color topped with mussels and shrimps. I am very biased with rice, but every spoonful of this is pure heaven. I could taste the generous servings of fish, the rice is cooked right, and the bell peppers give just the right amount of sweetness.
Finally, the winner dish came: Callos A La Madrilena (ox stripe stew in the Madrid way at Php875). Unlike the usual Callos I’ve tasted, this has prominent big chunks of tripe and I was worried that they would be rubbery at first. I was completely wrong; the texture is perfect. It doesn’t have a melt-in-your-mouth kind of consistency, but it is tender enough. I also saw a piece of my favorite blood sausage and it made me light up. Then came my favorite part: mopping up the addicting sauce with a piece of bread. Yummy!
We were also lucky enough to bump into the Executive Chef Pablo Lopez Iglesias who was sitting behind us all along. He was extremely hospitable and attentive, and asked us for a few comments about our dining experience. He shared that the Callos recipe is actually a special family recipe from his mother. Born in Bilbao and living in Madrid until he moved here around six years ago to set up the restaurant, we couldn’t help but notice his wit and candor. He offered us some Postres (desserts), but we politely declined as there was no room left in our tummies.
We promised the Chef that we would come back. We definitely will. Philippine Tatler’s T.Dining included Donosti as part of their Top 20 Restaurants for 2019, and it was on that elite list for a reason. For those special nights and with some money to splurge, this should be on your list, too.
Donosti – Pintxos y Tapas
NAC Tower, 32nd St, Taguig
(02) 856 0206