|Facade of Cucina Ni Chef|
Lovely waiting seats welcome incoming guests just before they reach the rustic restaurant's main door. Walls are adorned with assorted Harlequin's masks which set an initial feeling of sophistication and secretive style.
Nestled along A. Mabini Street in Ermita, Manila is this neighborhood restaurant offering wide variety of cuisines with multicultural influences. No wonder it is called as CUCINA NI CHEF Mixed Cuisines. In English, it is literally translated as Kitchen of the Chef. But who is this chef that this mysterious restaurant is talking about? Before I spill the beans let me share with you the reason how I possibly got to this side of Manila on a dinnertime.
I was able to attend a very casual, fun and inviting event because of a man named Spanky Enriquez, who sent me an invitation thru Facebook's private message a week before the Zodio's Exclusive Blogger Dinner. He was actually quite familiar to me and the organization he was telling seems legit and credible enough, so I gratefully sent him a confirmation and thank you message the moment I received his invitation. Thursday, September 6, I was caught in a heavy downpour on my way to the venue but the weather never halted my excitement and first time encounter with the group of bloggers. Fortunately, I know someone like me,who successfully made it just right on time. Her name is Guia, the one who happens to be my seatmate that evening along with Mr. Angelo and the owner of Goodies and Sweets, Chef Aileen Anastacio. I was flabbergasted with the idea of meeting and chatting with these people especially Ms. Aileen, one of the popular pastry chef here in the country.
So what is ZODIO all about? It is a social business search and reviews platform focused on Southeast Asia,and has just arrived in the Philippines. Moreover, it is about real people giving their honest and personal opinions about everything, from restaurants and bars to doctors and dog-walkers. More info here. To me it is like OpenRice Philippines but with a different kind of set-up and platform. From what I learned, the group is still young and has been actively inviting selected bloggers to join their events for the past 3 months.
Bar area looks so cozy and marked by friendly intimacy. Staff were presentable and very accommodating, making you feel at home without any feeling of intimidation.
More dining seats at the other end of the restaurant. It indeed feels like home and I actually enjoyed rambling here and there , taking lots of pictures just like what most first-timers do in a totally different and interesting place. Left image shows how fabulous the female powder room is. I wonder how the male comfort room looks like, I almost peep into it but restrained myself from doing so.
|Chef Velmor De Rona|
Cucina Ni Chef, as a matter of fact is a new dining destination restaurant situated at the historical Casa Tesoro Bldg. that was built in 1930's and one of the only remaining American Colonial structure in Manila. Such a perfect place where its not just about the food presentation but also about the experience of the meal.
Photo to your right is Mr. Velmor De Rona, the Executive Chef of Cucina Ni Chef, no other than the one who developed a wide variety of classic cuisines with multicultural influences that appeals to any palates. Every dishes at Cucina is best shared with family and friends because of its serving size and the philosophy of Chef Velmor that food is meant to be enjoyed by sharing with the people you love.
Table set up. Plain simple and elegant. Cucina Ni Chef is surprisingly at their soft opening stage or trial run so menu is expected to change from time to time yet definitely you'll find dishes that truly defines them. And there is still more to come! That night we sampled the following straight from the heart of the restaurant- the chef's kitchen.
Lemon Iced Tea
Refreshing tea flavored with lemon juice served in a tall glass over ice.
Minestrone (Soup du Jour) PhP120
Should you visit this place in the future, just ask the server for today's soup selection as it varies daily.
That night we were served with minestrone, a literally big soup made with not-so-thick vegetable stock and pieces of assorted veggies like broccoli, chayote, carrots and celery. A nice starter for an enthusiastic eater like me.
Gamberetti PhP490 (Whole Pizza)
The appetizing minestrone was followed by a slice of pizza topped with spicy shrimps, mushrooms and pesto sauce. Fresh from the oven and incredibly delicious. I wish I still had another slice ^_^
Aglio Olio with Chicken
A fine and classic pasta in olive oil with garlic topped with chicken strips. I was already full when I half-eaten this plate. With two or more spoonfuls I noticed that this recipe was cooked from the heart. Lightly flavored and nutritious too.
You definitely eat with your eyes first! Presentation was exquisite. Taste was creamy and oozing with so much flavor. I kinda like its spiciness and slight peanutty flavor- just right and not that spicy for me. It was also thick and smooth because of the addition of mashed potato between the slow-cooked, perfectly seasoned though overcooked rice and tender beef strips wrapped around pieces of asparagus. What an excellent way to concoct a dainty dish like this. Two thumbs up!!!
The Mango Royale
They said that this place has the best Mango Cake in the Metro. I honestly quite agree to that statement. This is the cake slice that I've been meaning to judge ever since I saw it in proudly introducing itself in the invitation forwarded to me, teasing my senses big time. It is a layered type of cake or seven layers thick made with sponge, chocolate mousse, and whipped cream frosting sided with tangy mango cubes with hint of cinnamon. It seems promising to me but I was kinda looking for more for it to be considered the best among the rest.
Located at the entrance is this cake display area where assorted cake flavors can be found. That night they were selling delectable-looking cheesecakes like Cookies and Mint Cheesecake, Blueberry Cheesecake, and Strawberry Cheesecake. I wish to sample all of them when I visit this place again hopefully before the year ends.
I suggest you bring in here a date or a special someone as the place is not just something that ultimately belong to the past, but elegant and promises to have an intimate moment be it with your closest pal, family or relatives while creating a foodgasm. It is still new and almost a month-old so make sure you pay a visit. It is truly worth a try.
CUCINA NI CHEF
G/F Casa Tesoro Bldg.1335 A. Mabini St., Ermita, Manila, Philippines