What’s New at Restaurant Tapenade?
When invited to sample dinner at a restaurant famed for its salad bar, I could not help but assume it would be a delicate but flavorful meal. Little did I know, that Chef Luis Chikiamco had left Tapenade’s salad bar exactly where it was and dove straight into what would become one of the most satisfying comfort food adventures I have ever had the pleasure of taking part in.
Light and delicate are not the first adjectives that come to mind when recalling the new additions to Discovery Primea’s Restaurant Tapenade. From the starters on through to the main courses the flavors were robust, smoky, peppered with exotic chiles, creamy with cheese and even featured a delicious tapenade fulfilling the restaurant’s name.
After a quick skim of the new menu, it was very apparent to me that I would not have any desire for the salad bar that evening! Chef Chikiamco brought out courses and courses of sausages, mushrooms, jamon, chicken, pizza, pastas and of course decadent desserts! Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised with the dinner spread whilst growing increasingly disappointed in my choice of skinny jeans!
The evening began with a refreshing carbonated virgin cocktail complete with delicate purple flowers which I gladly sipped while awaiting the introduction of the four new “tapas and antipasti” menu additions. The first two dishes to come out both paired exceptionally well with the house bread. The bite sized Spanish sausage of the “Chistorra Frita” came with grilled house ciabatta, while the “Setas con Jamon” was a fantastic assortment of 3 types of mushrooms sauted with garlic and topped with thin succulent slices of Jamon.
It was hard to turn my attention away until the arrival of the “Fritto Misto” platter of crispy fried shrimp, squid and snapper arrived with fresh lemon wedges and lemon-garlic mayo. The final dish out in this course was undoubtedly my favorite, chicken wings “Alla Diavola” cooked crispy in a spicy Italian Marinade and paired with a cooling mint yogurt dip.
The second course was a feast of Italian favorites but with a very new twist. Out came a parade of six different pastas, pizza and lasagna. The lasagna was covered in a layer of satisfyingly stretchy cheese and filled with crab bisque in a glorious béchamel sauce. The “Pimenton” Linguine was rich with roasted bell peppers, garlic, thyme and Spanish chorizo. The “Goat Cheese and Scallion Ravioli” came on a bed of black olive tapenade and topped with a rich butter sauce. Then as if all that was not enough three beautiful pizzas came out fresh from their brick oven all with a crust of perfection yet all varying drastically in flavor and profile.
The “Piccante Dolce” was sweet and spicy due to the combination of honey, spicy salami and provolone cheese. The “Vongole All’Oreganata” appeals to those who dare to combine seafood into their pizza and was topped with clams, garlic, mossarella and oregano. The third was the “Truffle & Sage” pizza made with fontina cheese, mozzarella, crema tartuffata and Italian sausage. By this point I was persistently having to remind myself that we were only halfway through this sampling and that if I wanted to try the most important course of all, dessert, that I would need to sacrifice a few pizza crusts to save room for the main courses.
For the main course menu additions, there were only 3 dishes, but allow me to assure you, these mains were not for the faint of heart and most certainly were worth saving space for. First out was a very innovative “Seafood Arroz Caldoso” a play on the Filipino arrozcaldo but far far grander both in flavor and technique. Comprised of Spanish rice, shrimp, snapper and clams, it was brothy but with a lovely saffron-shellfish essence. The next dish was by far the most comforting as Chef Luis carried it out himself and it reminded me of any traditional family dinner would. Restaurant Tapenade’s “Whole Roasted Chicken” was a beautifully constructed platter of mushrooms, asparagus, carrots, potatoes, garlic, shallots surrounding a golden crusted perfectly whole chicken sitting pretty on a lemon-thyme jus complete with decorative fresh sprigs of thyme. It truly made me feel like we were in a Norman Rockwell thanksgiving painting.
The final dish to represent the mains was a classic dish of U.S. baby back ribs complete with grilled corn and a scallion risotto but spiced up a bit with a sweet and spicy Calabrian glaze. It was only out of my pure love and passion for dessert that I managed to force myself away from having a second helping of these exceptionally fine main courses.
After a culinary journey around what felt like every delicious corner of the globe, I had finally made it to my resting place, the position I had dreamt of being in, the final course, dessert! With so much anticipation you would expect me to be destined for disappointed or too full perhaps to fully appreciate it, but no, the exact opposite occurred. It was as though every dish I had sampled and every delicious note had only existed to lead me here, facing four gloriously constructed, devilishly decadent desserts! The first of which was the “Bittersweet Chocolate Tartufo” which offered me something I had never tried before, olive oil gelato topped with chocolate glaze and crispy bread chips. Second was a very welcomed Italian cannoli complete with Sicilian shells traditional chocolate ricotta filling but with a citrus sauce twist.
For those who prefer their dessert in cake form, we sampled a moist orange and almond cake with a Mediterranean chocolate glaze, pistachio cream and vanilla gelato, because the only thing better than cake is cake and ice cream. Last out but not first forgotten was the “Butterscotch Budino”, a salted caramel pudding topped with light whipped cream and a flavorful crisp sesame cookie.
I must admit, though I did not know what a “tartufo” was before this dinner, I most certainly will never forget it after what Chef Luis Chikiamco did to both the tartufo and to me.
Exceptional does not begin to describe how unforgettable it was. For any chocolate lover out there, please do yourself a solid and try that tartufo! I am not an expert on food nor am I an expert on fine dining, but I do know what happened that fine night at the Tapenade and all I can do is recommend you try it and emphasize to you that even now, long after this dinner has gone, I still long for those dishes and more than just that tartufo haunts my foodie dreams.
Before I conclude this review, I must honestly and sincerely include this disclaimer, eating Chef Luis Chikiamco’s new additions to the Tapenade’s dinner menu will most certainly have you craving things you did not crave before and dreaming of flavors and dishes not easily found outside of this culinary artist’s studio.
You have been warned fellow foodies, you have been warned! Happy eating everyone!
Restaurant Tapenade is located at the G/F of Discovery Primea and is open daily from 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM. For inquiries and table reservations, please call Discovery Primea at (63 2) 955.8888 or visit http://www.discoveryprimea.com/barsrestaurants/tapenade/