Sala Restaurant: The King of European Fine Dining In Makati

Long before the popularity of degustation in the Philippines, one restaurant has already been around as early as 1997 and has withstood the test of time.  SALA, which was originally situated at Malate, Manila Manila is now at its current location at Ayala Avenue, Makati. It is considered to be an institution in fine dining.

Owned and operated by Scottish Chef Colin Mackay, Sala is synonymous to modern European cooking. With its subdued elegance and very classic image, loyal patrons over the years have flocked to this 40-seater bistro.

It was admittedly long overdue before I finally dined at Sala. Better late than never, as they say, I am sharing my recent dining experience at this “It” restaurant with you.

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The meal started with a tiny but flavor-packed amuse bouche of puff pastry with savory cream filling.

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This was immediately followed by bread and butter.

A server will let you choose your bread of choice from a basket full of freshly baked goodies and my pick that night was focaccia, a yummy Italian bread usually with rosemary.

We were also in the mood for some bubbles prior to choosing our orders.

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We had a glass of the Duval- Leroy champagne, which is run by a French family dating back as early as 1859. Champagne should not be mistaken with sparkling wine; the former is a category of its own.  On top of the more sophisticated and complex method such as double fermentation, champagne can only be called such if it is produced in the Champagne region of France.

We then decided to order ala carte rather than the Set Tasting Menu, so we could sample more dishes.

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For starters, we had the Seared Scallops, Cauliflower Puree, Capers, Saffron, and Lemon (Php820).  The scallops are cooked perfectly and the sauce complements the delicate seafood well. My only sentiment is that two pieces just aren’t enough for me haha. I was left craving for more!

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We also ordered Guinea Fowl and Foie Gras Agnolotti, Porcini, Sage, and Truffle Cream (Php690). Agnalotti is a type of folded pasta which originated in the Piedmont region of Italy. It is shaped like a small pouch and has a filling inside.  Foie Gras, Porcini Mushrooms, Truffle and Cream.. ohhh when you see these ingredients, you know you will be in for a buttery, creamy, and rich umami experience. Sala has definitely created this dish with precision and mastery.

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For our main course, we first picked the Grilled Lamb Rack, Roast Sunchokes, Spring Greens and Spiced Carrot Puree (Php1,680).  Sunchoke is a type of root vegetable that is sometimes called Jerusalem Artichoke. I consider Sala’s version a gold standard of how lamb should be cooked. The look of this is something you might see in a Masterchef competition. The meat is well seasoned, medium rare in the center, and seared at the edges.  This tastes as great as it looks.

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Then we had Sea Bream Fillet, Braised Fennel, Green Peas, and Tiger Prawn with Saffron Beurre Blanc (Php1,780). Seam Bream or Bakoko in Filipino is a mildly flavored fish with soft and flaky flesh similar to Lapu-Lapu. Some consider this as one of the best white fish out there. As expected, Sala cooked it like a true master. The real hero is the freshness of the fish and the accompanying elements of the dish make it shine all the more.

We initially planned to just share our dessert. I don’t know what happened, but we ended up having one each! We were hypnotized and lured by our big appetites.

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First dessert is Dark Chocolate Souffle, Salted Caramel Anglaise, Chocolate Almond Crumbs, and Mascarpone Ice Cream (Php480).  The souffle is how it should be: like a cloud melting in your mouth. I don’t consider myself having a sweet tooth, but this dessert is something I would want to just finish on my own. Simply heavenly!

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The next dessert is equally superb! White Chocolate Macadamia, Praline Semifreddo, Citrus Crumbs, and Strawberry Sorbet (Php460). Semifreddo, which literally means “half frozen”, is a frozen mousse with an ice cream cake texture. The refreshing strawberry flavor coupled with chilled cream works well together.

Sala does not need any gimmicks nor much inventiveness. The real strength of this restaurant is doing classic dishes right. This is the winning formula that has kept this gem running for more than two decades, and they definitely aren’t showing any signs of slowing down soon. With ever loyal customers, I finally understand why. If someone were to ask me what I’d want my last meal on Earth to be, Sala would definitely be top of mind – an ace restaurant!

Also try other first class restaurants under Chef Mackay’s wing: Black Bird at the Nielson Tower, and People’s Palace (both in Makati).

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Podium Level, LV Locsin Building, 6752 Ayala Ave, Makati