Pablo Bistro can look intimidating from the outside. I used to walk past it everyday and try to catch a peek inside: all the expats enjoying breakfast or brunch under orange chandeliers and around sleek, marble tables. I’d never had enough courage to walk through their glass doors, past the al fresco dining area with the soft lounge music blasting from speakers and onto the Salcedo streets. Instead, I spent my afternoons at Cartel, the cafe right next to it, and scarfed down cookie after cookie after cookie. I wondered when I would ever be able to eat at Pablo.
Fortunately for me, my long-standing wish of eating at Pablo has finally come true. And although the dining experience was exquisite (as can be expected), my judgment of it has proven to be entirely false. Pablo is not the haughty, highfalutin restaurant I once envisioned it to be. Rather, it’s a friendly place: a cozy, international eatery with the most welcoming people I’ve met in a while.
The cozy interiors of Pablo Bistro
A little background: Cartel and Pablo are sister companies, which is why you’ll find them at the same address along L.P. Leviste Street in Salcedo Village. Both of them are a tribute to Spanish cuisine with Cartel serving a mix of cakes, pastries (their manchego cheesecake is an absolute must-try!), salads, and coffee. Cartel also carries various locally made goods aside from their imported Spanish ones. Chorizo, jamon, and cheeses from Spain are all available.
Meanwhile, Pablo focuses on serving fresh, high-end food made by Chef Amado Garcia. Be on the lookout for Pablo and Cartel’s latest establishment opening soon at Legazpi Village! It’ll be like a bigger version of the Cartel already open in Salcedo, but with the menu of Pablo Bistro. Talk about the best of both worlds.
My evening at Pablo began with a glass of wine. Portentous of the entire evening, my glass of Izadi Rose sat between my fingers like delicious, bubbly omen. This was to be the first of five. Pablo had teamed up with the connoisseurs at Happy Living to create a perfect pairing menu.
Wines from our friends over at Happy Living
Guests sat around two long marble tables, chit-chatting and taking sips of rose. Spanish accents intermingled with the Filipino from other conversations; and all the while, I sat there thinking what a great place this was even without having tasted the food yet.
We were first served two different kinds of amuse-bouche. Hors d’œuvres meant to start the meal, the amuse-bouche consisted of two things.
Brie cheese foam and foie gras mousse with apple compote
The first was foie gras mousse with apple compote, topped with brie cheese foam. It’s hard to describe the amazement I felt after I dug in. I love foie gras, I love apples, and I love cheese. All together? I didn’t think it would work. But it did! Trust Chef Amado to come up with something to really tickle your palate.
Philo toast with smoked eggplant pesto base, tomato tartare, pickle and gindara
The second amuse-bouche was gindara (a kind of fish) and pickles in philo toast with an eggplant pesto base and tomato tartare. Again, it was a playground for my taste buds. Different textures and flavours all blending together to form a perfectly balanced bite of heaven.
After the amuse-bouche, we were served an appetiser of scallop tartar, wakame (edible seaweed), and avocado topped with fish roe and saffron. The freshness of the scallops and the wakame was accentuated by the slight sweetness of the avocado. This was paired with a glass of Izadi Blanco white wine.
Arroz meloso with jamon Iberico
Our first official course was the arroz meloso with pork Iberico. As explained to me, arroz meloso is Spain’s answer to Italy’s risotto. Tasting it reminded me of a (foodie) love child; with the texture of risotto but the richness paella. You may also recognise pork Iberico as one of the more expensive meats available in the market; if you’re an avid fan of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, just the mention of it might bring you back to the pilot episode where a $6,000 ham was stolen from a deli. This was fabulously paired with a fruity Pruno D.O. wine from Spain’s Ribero del Duero’s wine region.
We were then brought to our second course (officially: the tuna belly with sweet and sour sauce. A slab of fresh, medium-rare tuna belly is placed on a bed of roasted peppers and paired with Izadi Reserva from Spain’s Rioja region. The meat is tender and delicious, with a spicy kick from the bed of roasted peppers.
Our penultimate course and the one that everyone was looking forward to the most: the grilled Angus ribeye. Cooked rare and placed atop a serving of potatoes and bell peppers, the steak was a great way to end the night. Taking a sip from my final glass of wine—the Celsus D.O. from Toro—I could not have felt more satisfied. That is of course, until dessert came.
A meal is never fully complete without dessert. We had a chocolate praline bar: rich dark chocolate sauce poured over chocolate mousse on a layer of crumble. Absolutely sinful at 11PM, but so worth the calories. I came home that night and fell asleep feeling all warm and fuzzy. Whether this came from the contentment of a good meal or the enjoyment of five glasses of wine, I won’t ever be sure.
If there’s something I’ve learned about dining at Pablo and drinking wines from Happy Living (aptly named), it’s that you can never judge a book by its cover. Amazing decor and foreign sounding food does not automatically equate to pretentious or overrated. The importance of a degustation really is to taste and see.
119 LP Leviste Street, Salcedo Village, Makati
Warehouse 16A, La Fuerza Compound 2241 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati