Christmas is the perfect excuse for having parties, reunions and get-togethers. Unfortunately, everyone else is thinking the same thing -- so you have congestion and traffic, not just on the road
but even in restaurants, bars and hotels.
It was a therefore a pleasant surprise that an early Christmas party hosted by our Amigo Gerry was
at a quiet and private place that we (amazingly) had to ourselves. During the holidays, you would expect every restaurant to be full. But not tonight, and not at Maria Luisa's Garden Room.
Maria Luisa's Garden Room is the small but exquisite restaurant that is exclusively for the
use of members of the Makati Garden Club. I had never been but had been told that I was in for a truly marvellous dining experience.
Maria Luisa's Garden Room is named after the founder of the Makati Garden Club. I had never noticed this place but it is located right at the corner of EDSA and Ayala Avenues.
The interiors are furnished in a very classic and tasteful way. There are two separate rooms in this charming "cottage" -- the main dining room is cozy with chintz covered chairs and interesting art
on the walls. I looked at the empty dining room with disbelief. How could this delightful place be empty in the middle of the Christmas rush?
We were seated in the smaller room off to one side. The decor is a bit more "country" with wicker chairs, curtains, floral tablecloths and painted white furniture. This area seats about 24 people and can be reserved for private functions.
The restaurant has a very amiable and hospitable Swedish chef. We were taken good care of --
he came to talk to us and made suggestions for our dinner. Of course, we all put ourselves
in his very capable hands. To start with, we had the house specialty -- mussels in a wine and cream sauce. This was divine! The sauce was flavourful and light -- not at all what you would expect from a cream based dish.
Breads are baked in the restaurant everyday. We were given a basket of sliced french bread which went very well with the mussels. Their bread is wonderfully crusty and chewy -- certainly much better than what I have tried in some 5 star hotels.
The house salad was an appealing mix of flavours and textures with salty olives, sweet sun-dried tomatoes, crunchy walnuts and soft creamy cheese.
This was the view from our table -- fairy lights illuminated the garden. It was hard to believe that noisy, congested EDSA and Ayala were just beyond the garden walls. It was a relief to be
so "far away" from the noise and bustle of the holidays.
The chef had recommended that we all share the Seafood Cioppino, which is a tomato based stew with an appetising assortment of fish, shrimp, crab, shellfish and other delicious morsels. Cioppino
is a healthy dish -- it is not deep fried, there is no meat and seafood is rich with HDL or good cholesterol. This was guilt free eating for the holidays!
After ingesting that good cholesterol, we needed to even up things with some LDL or "bad" cholesterol. The chef recommended entrecôte for our main course. It was served the traditional
way with a side of frites and some haricot vert. The entrecôte was tender, perfectly medium rare
and had bits of charred irresistible beef fat. It warmed my heart ... and clogged my arteries.
birthday pancit would be out of place in this restaurant but the chef whipped up a vegetarian pasta with just fresh tomatoes, herbs and a generous amount of melted cheese. We all thought we were
too full -- from the bread, the mussels, the cioppino and the steak but one forkful of this rustic and simple pasta had us eating some more.
Thank you to our Amigo, Jefe Gerry for this singularly enjoyable evening. Superb food in a lovely and restful setting -- truly the best way to celebrate the season and the bonds of friendship.