Sunday 15 April 2012

Spices: L' Incontro

I was sad when I found out that my favorite hole-in-the-wall Italian resto which I frequent, Cafe Othello has closed down. I got more sad when I read about that the Martinel's passing on the reigns of L'Incontro to a local chef. Cafe Othello and L'Incontro are sister restaurants.  I'll always remember the gracious Mrs. Martinel who would always invite us to dine in L'Incontro as she gives us extra servings of bread and pesto dip or home made potato chips and puff pastry for dessert. When I saw a 7-course meal deal from Deal Grocer, I knew I had to get it to finally dine in L'Incontro.

The restaurant looked really nice and classy, with its high wood ceiling and spacious area it felt like I was eating inside a log cabin.

Inside L'Incontro

There were two choices, the regular menu and the vegetarian menu. The seven course dinner cost Php1.250++

Menu A - Regular Menu
Menu B - Vegetarian Menu

Upon being seated, a plate of crunchy Baguette and bread sticks with a tomato and pesto dip is served. Both dips tasted great that I had to ask for another round.

Complimentary Bread with Pesto and Tomato Dip

I was surprised to see that the wines are moderately priced so I decided to get a bottle of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Italian red Wine. It tasted mellow thus it paired with both menus relatively well.

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

The meal starts with a Glass of Prosseco, an Italian sweet sparkling white wine.


For the Amuse Bouche, a plate of Mussel Piastra was served. The mussels was cooked and seasoned perfectly. The mussels was plump and juicy and it can be easily taken off its shell. Cooked with white wine, bacon and breadcrumbs, it tasted simple and delicious.

Mussels Piastra

For the vegetarian Amuse Bouche, a beautifully plated Eggplant Caprese was served. Strips of white cheese and tomatoes in the center of a sliced of rolled eggplant. It didn't just looked beautiful, it also tasted like it.

Eggplant Caprese

The Zuppe (Soup) Course was a rich and flavorful Puree of Roasted Squash. I'm not a big fan of squash but the bright golden soup was delectably sweet and savory. One of the best pumpkin soups I've tasted.

Puree of Roasted Squash

The Antipasto ("Before the Meal" Course) was the restaurant's bestseller for 11 years. The Crespella Ala Funghi En Tartufo is a Smoked Ham and Cheese Crepe with White Wine, Mushroom and Truffle Sauce. I was caught off guard when I had a whiff of the aromatic Truffle Oil, when I looked to my right the server was still a good 10 meters away holding out the dish. The heavenly scent got stronger and stronger as he approached, it whetted my appetite more. The savory Crepe was astonishingly superb. The salty smoked ham and melted cheese inside the crepe complimented the bits of mushroom and the Truffle cream sauce so well.

Crespella Ala Funghi En Tartufo
The Vegetarian version had no smoked ham inside.

The Intermezzo (Palete Cleansing Course) was a Raspberry Sorbet served in a Martini Glass. The Sorbet that I've tasted are usually artificially flavored and rougher in texture. L'Incontro's Sorbet was creamy and tasted like the real fruit.

Italian Raspberry Sorbet

For the Primo (First) Course was the Gnocchi Gorgonzola. The pasta dumplings texture and consistency was spot on. It was soft, fluffy and pillow-like. Gorgonzola Cheese are quite salty I wish they added cream or white wine to mellow out the saltiness of the cheese sauce. Don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the dish, it was just a tad salty.

Gnocchi Gorgonzola
For the Secondi (Second) Course a deconstructed Osso Bucco was served. Normally, I wouldn't order this, I'm not a fan of Osso Bucco. This is because I find the Filipino counterpart of the dish, the Kalderetang Baka more savory. But L'Incontro's Osso Bucco has a secret weapon that blew me away. At the side of the tender chunks of flavorful beef shanks atop the delicious Saffron rice was a whole Bone Marrow with the fatty marrow on top. The marrow had an unbelievably crunchy outer crust and a melt in your mouth center. I've never eaten marrow with an added crunchy texture like this, truly amazing.

Deconstructed Osso Bucco

The Vegetarian second course was Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Panko Crusted Goat's Cheese with Truffle Honey and Roasted Red Beet and Spinach Risotto. The Portobello Mushroom was grilled perfectly, I just wished that they served it whole and not chopped. The goat's cheese croquettes paired with the honey truffle nicely, the sauce mellowed out the goat's cheese strong pungent flavor. I found the Risotto more sweet than savory, I felt that adding red beets wasn't really a good idea.

Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Panko Crusted Goat's Cheese, Red Beet and Spinach Risotto

For the Dolce (Dessert) course a simple Vanilla Panna Cotta was served. The Panna Cotta was done really well, simple and smooth. I like that it wasn't clawing sweet like the other Panna Cottas I had before.

Vanilla Panna Cotta

The proper way to end an Italian meal was with a shot of a Digestivo or a digestive. A shot of a cold and sweet Limoncello.

After the meal, I felt happy and sad. Sad because I wished I got to dine here before the Martinel's sold the place. And happy because the new owner, Ms. Tina Pamintuan has kept her promise to keep serving great tasting Italian food.

Adress: 207 Nicanor Garcia (formerly Reposo) Street, Makati City
Tel No: 02 899-0635 / 899-0638

Monday 2 April 2012

Spices: Kai

When it comes to food, I can be considered a 'purist', I'm not a fan of fusion cooking. Some would consider it as being snobbish but sometimes I feel that the true flavors from its origin gets lost with fusion cooking. I'm particularly very picky about Japanese Restaurants. When I heard great things about Kai, a Japanese resto who does fusion cooking, I dined there and tried to have an open mind.


During that weekend, there was an on going wine dinner organized by Wine Depot. There was a four course dinner with two kinds of wine that goes with the dishes. Since I went with a vegetarian friend, we asked the resto to substitute some of the dishes to make it vegetarian friendly. The meal costed less than Php1,500 per person.

Kai Wine Dinner Menu

The meal started with the Roasted Grapes and Tomato Salad. Sweet plump grapes lays on the side of a pile of lettuce leaves with a Sweet Spicy Sesame Dressing and the incredibly delicious Shitake Bacon. The thick slices of mushroom was delectably crunchy and it tasted like real bacon.

Roasted Grape and Tomato Salad

The starter was an Asian Scallop Tempura, I really got excited with the dish because on the menu the phrase 'red pepper dynamite' was printed below the starter. I love spicy food, the spicier it is, the better. Though the Scallop Tempura didn't provide enough heat to satisfy my craving, the crunchy battered perfectly cooked juicy scallops doused with red pepper sauce was astounding.

Asian Scallops Tempura

For the vegetarian starter, we requested for the Cucumber Portobello Mushroom Sushi. The Sushi tasted ok, I felt that the Nori and Sushi Rice overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the Portobello Mushroom

Cucumber Portobello Mushroom
The resto uses Real Wasabi and not the powder with water mixture.


When I saw 'Inaniwa Sichimi Pasta, Mushroom, Asparagus Infused in Truffle Oil' on the menu, I raised my eyebrows. The words Pasta and Truffle doesn't seem to have a right place in a Japanese Restaurant. I was doubtful of the dish until I had a whiff of Truffle Oil on the bowl of what looked like Yakisoba. The Yakisoba or fried noodles was divine, it was perfectly seasoned with the Truffle Oil.

Inaniwa Sichimi Pasta, Mushroom, Asparagus, Infused in Truffle Oil

For those who love the aromatic earthy flavor of Truffle Oil, this is a must try. 

'Truffle Japanese Pasta'

The Vegetable Teppanyaki consisted of slices of carrot, squash, eggplant, potatoes and corn on the center topped with string beans. It tasted really simple and how its supposed to be, grilled vegetables.

Vegetable Teppanyaki

The fruity Reisling went well with both the Salad and Starter. The fruity semi-sweet flavor of the wine complimented the grape salad and it brought out the sweetness of the scallops in the tempura dish. 

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling Pairing

The main course was the Wagyu Kalbi Ishiyaki. Cook your own thin slices of Wagyu Beef on top of a huge hot stone. The marbled slivers of beef looked really pretty and yummy.

U.S. Wagyu Kalbi Ishiyaki

With this kind of quality, I liked my meat with just salt and pepper on it. But upon tasting the three sauces that came with it, I was blown away on how good the sauces where. From what it tastes like,  the sauces were Ponzu, Pepper and a Sesame based sauce. The sauces was so good that I found myself slurping spoonfuls of it with and without the beef.

Ponzu, Pepper and Sesame Oil Sauces

Beef dishes would usually go well with Shiraz but picking the Australian Cab Sauv was the right choice since the subtle flavor of it matched the thin slices of Wagyu Beef.

The Hundred Line Cabernet Sauvignon Pairing

I was really curious on how the Tofu Cheesecake would taste like, the inclusion of Tofu in the cake makes good sense. It turned out OK, the Tofu added a rougher grainier texture but it didn't add to the sourness of the cake as I expected.

Tofu Cheesecake

Kai exceeded my expectations, the food was prepared really well and most importantly the dishes didn't lost its identity on being Japanese. The restaurant is definitely worth another visit.

Address: Unit I-112 Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati City
Tel No: 757 - 5209