Withe the success of fine dining establishments like Aubergine in Bonifacio Global City and Sala in Makati, I was delighted to discover a newly opened French fine dining restaurant called Caviar Restaurant & Champagne Bar in Alabang.
Feeling rather celebratory last Saturday night, I decided to get out of the house, dress up, head over there for dinner, chug down a lot of wine, and just forget about the rest of the world for the rest of the night. After making a reservation and ruining Jericho’s plans for the night with the promise of good food, off we went with a steely determination to have the time of our lives.
Owned by brothers Bastiaan (the General Manager) and Frank (the chef) van der Walle, Caviar Restaurant & Champagne Bar is tucked away inside Westgate in Alabang. The building is pretty simple, with a carbon black façade, natural wood accents, and green bushes making it look more like a modern house than a restaurant on the outside. I love the gold plaque that proudly shows off the restaurant’s name – refined, sexy and luxurious.
The space is divided into a lounge-bar and a restaurant. There is also a patio outside with a vertical garden for those who would rather enjoy the fresh air. I love how the couches and booths brighten up the space along with their cool turquoise accent pillows. I had reserved one of the four booths for added privacy that night – and so we don’t blind the other guests when Jericho pops the flash.
The restaurant was more than half full when we came a little after half past eight. I didn’t expect it to have so many people, but there were families celebrating birthdays and friends sitting down to a steak dinner and started to drool when the table in front of us ordered a ginormous cowboy steak.
After getting settled, a server came by with the bread basket that had a selection of phyllo flatbread, a nice sourdough, and brown bread rolls. Everything is baked fresh in the kitchen and is served with an olive oil dip with a touch of balsamic vinegar, creamy butter, and green olives.
The chef sent over an amuse-bouche that looked like a little cherry. It was actually made of goat cheese wrapped in watermelon with a side of Hawaiian salt. This was very creamy, with the sweetness of the watermelon offsetting the cloying taste of cheese and the black salt rounding out the flavors and went really well with the sourdough and the olives, too – such a lovely start to the night.
The service at Caviar is exceptional! Archie, the waitstaff that took care of us that evening, was very knowledgeable and thorough when explaining the origins and cooking techniques used for all the dishes that came out. To start off, we started our night with a glass of Prosecco (Php 450/glass) – a lovely sparkling wine to go with our hors d’oeuvres .
We paired our glass of Prosecco with Fines de Claire (Php 175/piece), which were a real treat. Caviar flies in the delicate French oysters from Marennes-Oléron, in the Southwestern region of France. As this is dependent on whether or not there are oysters to fly in, they don’t have this every day. We were very lucky to have enjoyed it that night. This had a fresh, clean, slightly briny taste, and a few drops of lemon juice just lifted everything up and made the oysters slide down my throat a whole lot smoother. I could probably go through a dozen of these, easy.
To pair with our appetizers, I was presented with a mellowrobust Ohau River 2011 Pinot Noir (Php 320 for 125ml or Php 420 for 187ml), a crisp and slightly acidic red, while Jericho had a glass of the smooth tasting Sileni 2012 Sauvingnon Blanc (Php 290 for 125ml or Php 380 for 187ml).
Jericho’s Sauvingnon Blanc went perfectly with the Cocktail de Crevette à la Hollandaise (Php 690), basically your shrimp cocktail on steroids – and one of the best I’ve had in this country thus far. This British favorite is put together using sweet Dutch grey shrimps, which are quite rare and – similar to the fines de claire – have to be imported fresh from Europe. The Hollandaise sauce is made using Macallan 18-year-old whiskey, giving it a nice hum at the end, and you can opt to sprinkle Uahi Black Hawaiian sea salt on top after spritzing in a few generous drops of lemon juice. Fantastic, fantastic stuff! And this was just the appetizers!
My Pinot Noir was paired with Caviar Restaurant’s Escargots Aux Truffle (Php 650) – vineyard snails decked with double-smoked bacon, a black truffle cream sauce, and wild forest mushrooms in a puff pastry pocket, topped with burnt leeks for garnish. This was creamy, with a lot of bite, and absolutely delicious. The only way I can describe what snails taste like are like mushrooms with the consistency of mussels (kind of) – they absorb flavor, which is why they’re usually served with butter, but in this case it was served with a truffle cream which is eons better. Although I’m not sure my hips would agree.
I would highly recommend this if it would be your first time to give French cuisine a go and you want to give one of their more classical ingredients a try. I promise you will have a new appreciation for snails by the time you’re done with the dish!
To cleanse our palate before our main course, our server came by with a small scoop of Tropical Sorbet with a balsamic reduction. I could taste a sweet summer melon and hints of tangerine in my tiny glass. This was a nice intermission, cleansing our palates and getting them ready for the main entrées.
Le Plat Principal
I had mentioned to Bastiaan about how I love my whites, and so he paired a lovely crisp, fruity Rhiengau Riesling to go with my fish dish. Jericho had a lovely 2010 Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina that had a nice tobacco finish to go with his dinner. And since he was driving us home that night, I promptly helped him polish off his glass – a real friend, he is.
My Tomate Croûte Moure (Php 850) was visually appealing, with the firm, tomato-crusted Norwegian cod fish laid out on an orange champagne glaze and ginger speculaas bed surrounded by dollops of homemade pistachio pesto with a slice of smokey prosciutto on the side.
Norwegian cod can only be caught three months out of the year, which is why this fish is so highly prized. This is also the same type of cod Norwegians use to make lutefisk – that salted fish thing whose taste (and smell!) can rival our local bagoong.
I was surprised at how meaty this felt in my mouth. All the flavors of the sweet tomato, citrus-y orange, the bubbly champagne, and the nutty pistachio all went together beautifully. I was so happy with the food, all the wine, and the attentive service that night. I couldn’t stop smiling!
Jericho, had Caviar’s tender Veal Cheeks (Php 950). The cheeks are braised in what I’m guessing to be a red wine reduction and served with creamy polenta and wild forest mushrooms. This was perfection – I cannot even begin to describe it. The veal would literally fall apart when Jericho would attempt to cut it with his fork, it was sweet with a hint of gaminess, and the mushrooms and polenta complemented the young cow nicely. I took a taste of his dish and kept trying to sop up the sauce with the polenta and meat.
In lieu of dessert, we went right for the cheese board with a glass of 2010 Dulong Reserve Sauternes to enjoy it with. The establishment orders new cheeses from France every month so cheeseheads like myself don’t get bored with the ever changing selection.
As I had mentioned previously, Caviar is still pretty new and is in the middle of ironing out its kinks – one of them being there isn’t enough room in their kitchen for the guys to go crazy with dessert. They make up for it with a wide array of delicious French cheeses though, and in my book, that’s way better than a boring old soufflé.
Frank – the multi-talented chef/entrepreneur that he is -also has a furniture business up in Pampanga, and he uses that to his advantage, showing off his imported cheeses with magnificent cheese board made of mango. This is so heavy it takes two people to bring this to your table. What is is, is such a visual delight, watching intently as our server cut each block of cheese, meticulously arranging it on a plate for us.
To say I thoroughly enjoyed the Cheese Sampler (Php 600 per person) that comes with crostinis, nuts, and dried fruit to complement the cheeses and wine, is an understatement. This is actually pretty affordable, considering your range of cheeses and where they’re sourced from: Bleu d’Auvergne, Goat Cheese from the Basque region, Montrachet, Secret du Couvent, Le Mothais sur Feuille, Pommeau, Saint-Marcellin, Tomme de Savoie, and Valençay.
The Le Mothais, Valençay, and Secret du Couvent were my favorites. The Bleu d’Auvergne, Pommeau, and Tomme de Savoie I enjoyed immensely with a drizzle of honeycomb. Oh, I was so happy! Did I mention how happy I was? I was so happy!
Our server also brought over two glasses of Limoncello for us, chef’s treat! This is something they like to give their guests to every now and again, and now they’re doing us one better and making it themselves out of their family farm in Pampanga. So, not only do their pick the best wines to serve at the restaurant, but they make them, too? How bloody awesome is that?!
I would usually retire with a cappuccino before going home for the night (they use Lavazza!), but at this point, I was just so full from all the cheese and had a nice buzz going, I walked around and admired the place instead. The lounge area is super cozy, the highlight being the big square coffee table that Frank designed. There are a few designer coffee books like Harry Winston and Bulgari on the table, perfect for perusing while enjoying a hot cup, with a komodo dragon watching over you as you turn a page.
If coffee isn’t your style, Bastiaan may entice you with a bottle of champagne, maybe. They are a Champagne bar, after all! Whether it be Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot, Ace of Spades, Bollinger, Cristal, Perrier Jouet, or Krug – they have it. They even have a special edition luminous Dom that has a button at the base that makes the label light up. Pretty cool, huh? If a glass of bubbly doesn’t tickle your fancy, Caviar also has a very nice selection of single malts, like this super sexy 2003 Chateau Petrus Pomerol – and the Cohibas to go with it!
My whole dinner experience at Caviar was amazing – I stood up in the middle of it to go and give Bastiaan and Frank a big hug. This is by far the best dinner I’ve had in Metro Manila – I loved the place, the service, the attention to detail, the wine, and the food. The only restaurant I can probably compare it to is Daniel’s in NYC, and that’s a world away. Also, I got to chat with Archie a little bit before I left, and he let me in on some of the stuff they plan on improving on in the next couple of months. It is, after all, a very new restaurant, so things should be getting better and better from here. Not that I have any complaints!
If you’re planning a very special dinner, dine to impress at Caviar Restaurant & Champagne Bar! I strongly suggest you come in expecting to pay twice of what you initially estimate to spend, as it will be very hard not to order at least two kinds of wines to go with your meal. Even the house wines are a bit pricey, but if you think about it, these are also the type of wines that other restaurants would only uncork if you pay for them by the bottle. If you’re looking for something more affordable, Caviar also offers executive lunches and Sunday brunch, which is a treat for the family.
Caviar Restaurant & Champagne Bar is located at Unit A-206, Westgate Centre, Alabang, Muntinlupa and is open daily between 11am – 2pm and 5pm – 10pm. For inquiries and reservations, please call +63 2 552 7930 or +633 917 868 3080.