update january 2007-restaurant closed as of 12/2006 (?)
[note: in the middle of an island-wide power outage, in a rainstorm. if i seem a little...punchy, i'm hot, being bitten by bugs and can't sleep....]
ah, i'll bet you didn't know the blog had a restaurant, did you? well, that's because it really doesn't, but i couldn't help but stop in, as a sort of homage to ms. cathy's kitchen.
i'd never been in before, but it's a very inviting space--mostly white, with apple green walls, blackboards with the day's specials, and (some) slipcovered chairs with either the initials M, Y, L, or K (My Little Kitchen, geddit?) around clean white tables. gave me a bit of a country living vibe, ya dig? edgy martha.
or a really hip see's candies store.
the kitchen really is tiny, but that doesn't stop the menu from being extensive. in fact, we were handed a spiral-bound notebook sized menu, which was really sort of daunting. i honestly don't remember if there was an emphasis on any particular type of dish, which is probably a bad thing. i do recall that a lot of people were ordering pasta and salads, but the menu was all over the map. also, a server sort of hovered over us impatiently, waiting to take our order, so i felt obliged to hurry it along. hovering, in anyone's books, is usually a bad thing, but i had heard that the service sucks here, so actually i was a little relieved to see her there.
we started our meal with ostrich salpicao--strips of lean ostrich meat pan-fried in generous amounts of garlic and olive oil. i've only ever had ostrich once, and it was tender, pale and tasted like chicken livers. this was not nearly as tender, (but in no way tough), dark, and tasted like beef. ? "ostrich--the incredible morphing meat"? i was assured it was ostrich, from a farm in the philippines, so make your own conclusions.
next we had the baked apple salad, which consisted of half an apple filled with cashews and gorgonzola mousse, then baked until golden, and served with a vinaigrette dressed salad. i thought that the gorgonzola would be overwhelming, but in fact it was quite light. the sweetness of the apple blended well with the rich, nutty cashews, and the creamy mousse. overall, though, i was surprised that this salad didn't hit me over the head with flavour. all the flavours were definitely present, but with the volume turned way down. neat trick. no stinky cheese breath for the ladies who lunch.
chicken chimichurri was my cousin's entree, an argentinian-inspired dish of lean grilled chicken breast and an herby, spicy, garlicy olive oil dip. the chicken was grilled perfectly--juicy, tender, and unlike a lot of this sort of thing in the united states, the chicken actually tasted like chicken. the olive oil dip had a lovely balance of flavours, but again, that weird volume level bringing everything down to a 6 (driving level radio, you know? enough so you can still hear the sirens).
the chicken had a very atkins/south beach diet-friendly feel. the chicken isn't served with any sides, so he ordered a side of garlic rice, because in the philippines, they really know how to fry something with garlic. trust me on that one.
i had the braised lamb shank with a mushroom risotto, which was lovely. i order a lot of lamb when i eat out in manila, because the locally-raised lamb is tender, flavourful, and does not taste like old sweaters. this was braised in wine, orange zest, shallots, and just a hint of anise, packing more flavour in there than most of what we ordered; it was also quite a generous portion, compared to the size of the other dishes.
come to think of it, with the 'dainty' but adequate portions, the safely spiced but well-prepared food, the setting, this place is probably quite popular with the ladies-who-lunch crowd. not necessarily a bad thing, but the presentation and service need some work--besides the helicopter hostess, the starters staggered to us, then our entrees were rushed on us as we were still working on the salad. server lady was nice, and kept our water glasses filled, but then disappeared for the rest of our meal. not a bad thing as i was in good company, and the ambiance was relaxed and comfortable, but probably not something i'd want to happen often.
L2, greenbelt 3