When in Manila, you will ever run out of eating places to suit your palate. There is always one place to match your mood and your stomach’s cravings. You can never go far without seeing food, for people here seem to be afraid of getting hungry. Whether you are in the mood for simple and humble street foods or for fine- dining, Manila is the best place to be. It is a city with an eclectic mix. Old and new merge in this bustling city, giving insight on the place’s history and the potential of the people.
The very cozy and romantic vibe of the entire restaurant is thanks to the soft lights,
tasteful decors, and the old structure itself
I am partial to old things, from black and white photographs to old houses that give me a glimpse of how we were before. They also give me a sense of having lived prior this lifetime as some of the antiques give me a feeling of familiarity, a sense of nostalgia, so it was understandable that I fell in love right away with Cucina ni Chef as soon as I set my eyes on it. Looking right out of the pages of a history book, but oddly with some additions of the present time, Cucina ni Chef is a very cozy dining place set in an old structure that once was the original Philippine Post Office. It was the only edifice standing after the city was bombed during the Second World War. For me, nothing beats dining in a place with a story to tell and boasts good food to boot.
Dining inside with soft lights and antique displays was a very nice experience. I can imagine the place getting raves not only about the food, but also the ambience. It definitely appealed to me as a date place. I imagine the homey but elegant feel of the place will set the right easy and romantic mood for couples or couples-to-be. And the affordable mixed cuisines that they serve were nothing short of mouthwatering.
Chef Velmor de Rona explains the mixed cuisine menu of Cucina ni Chef
First on the list on the five- course meal prepared by the chef- owner Velmor De Rona, himself, was the minestrone. I love minestrone and I have tried making it for myself. Their minestrone was full of veggies and full of flavor, with just the right amount of tang. And the vegetables are not dead at all as usually happens whenever vegetables are cooked in soup (by me).
Appetizing Minestrone P190
Next thing on the menu was pizza, and we were served gamberetti. The flavor was nice and nothing in the pizza was too overpowering. It was not even that oily as is the usual characteristic of a good- tasting pizza. The only thing I could complain about was, there was only one slice.
Gamberetti Pizza P490/pie
Next served was a very light- flavored pasta. As if readying us for the full- bodied flavor of the next dish, chef served aglio olio with rosemary chicken. I came to appreciate this pasta as the noodles were al dente, and even if it was already turning cold (I took too much time with the minestrone because we were waiting for the others to arrive) it didn’t detract from the flavor. The rosemary used was just alright, just the right amount to showcase the flavor of the chicken.
Aglio Olio with Chicken, a delicious light- flavored pasta, perfect entree choice
before the Caldereta Risotto
For the main dish, we had calderetta risotto. Yes, it was quite intriguing. This dish isn’t even in the soft- opening menu yet, so it was rather exciting to taste something that has just been invented, and I felt privileged to be one of the few people who got to taste the dish first. The caldereta risotto tasted really good. What was surprising with the dish was the ground peanuts. We never made nor tasted calderetta with peanuts before, although one fellow blogger informed me that she was able to taste one made with peanut in Isabela some years back. The presentation was nice, on top of the very tasty risotto was a scoop of mashed potatoes and a very well- seasoned and very tender strip of beef wrapped around asparagus. It tasted like a fine version of a good caldereta I have tasted, with the right amount of spiciness to keep things interesting. One of the bloggers commented that it was rather overcooked, but for me it was fine. I guess when it comes to risotto, how nicely the rice is cooked is relative. Everyone was in consensus about how good it tasted.
Caldereta Risotto. Full of flavor, full of character. The tender beef strip alone is divine.
Lastly we were served the mango cake. I was delighted to see that there were many layers to the cake. There was sponge, what tasted like pistachio layer, chocolate mousse, with light whipped cream frosting and mango cubes with a little bit of cinnamon syrup. It was not diabetes- inducing, a little bit tangy, and for me that was just right. It was the perfect ending to a very pleasant meal.
Moderately sweet layered mango cake. Just how I want it.
So When in Manila, be sure to drop by Cucina ni Chef. This month-old restaurant not only promises gastronomic pleasure, it also appeals to the other senses and offers an experience that is truly representative of the current Manila: elegant but idyllic, with a mix of new flavor brought about by its inhabitants and visitors.
Photos courtesy of Allen Uynicky
Cucina ni Chef
Casa Tesoro Bldg.
1335 A. Mabini St. Ermita, Manila
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