Whenever I mentioned to friends that I went to Manila, one of the most asked questions was “Did you try balut?” and my answer was a disappointing “No”. It’s not because I did not dare to do it, mind you, but our schedule was really packed that I only had the final day to look for balut, to no avail. 🙁 On the bright side though, I managed to dine in the Top 5 Best restaurant in Asia (according to the Miele Guide) at Antonio’s Garden Restaurant, Tagaytay.
Entrance to Antonio’s
It was right after we witnessed the amazing Taal Volcano from Tagaytay that we were told that we would have French cuisine for dinner. The route to Antonio’s passed through a long and narrow road lined with houses upon houses, so much so that we kept slowing down and wondering if we had missed a turning along the way. It didn’t help that it was dark at night, with the rain just subsided earlier on. We continued driving anyway and looked for the occasional signboard that showed us the direction to Antonio’s. And then we saw it. Hidden in the midst of houses and what appeared to be a mini jungle, was a huge bungalow with a tall iron gate, closed. It was only after we mentioned that we had a reservation that the gate was opened to let us drive in. Yes, apparently they do not let you in unless you’ve made prior reservation.
Huge dining area of Antonio’s
Parking was complimentary, just at the compound of the bungalow. We walked to the majestic colonial building with high ceilings and were shown to a table just by the garden. Best of all, being located at a higher altitude, the place was cool and breezy, naturally. The temperature was perfect even without a fan or air-conditioner. We enjoyed the complimentary bread and butter first, served warm with hard crust and soft bread.
Complimentary bread and butter
The menu was only one page, and we were told that only set menu was available that night. The set came with a House Salad, Soup of the Day, a choice of Entree, Dessert and Coffee/Tea. The price of the set was determined by the choice of entree. What made Antonio’s unique was that they try to use fresh produce as much as possible. The House Salad, for example, used vegetables grown in their own farm in the garden. We could taste the crispy freshness of the green leaves, the sweetness of cranberries and the sprinkling of glazed walnuts, giving this such a wholesome combination. I never thought salad could be this good.
House Salad – farm fresh mesclun
The Soup of the Day was carrot soup with a nice foamy top, sprinkled with chunky croutons. It was exceptionally smooth and sweet, with a nice velvety touch due to the addition of foam on top. The chunky and crispy croutons were just that – chunky and crispy, even after being soaked in the soup for a while. Lovely.
Soup of the day
Creamy and smooth
What are these for?
Of course, the main star of the night was our entree, Grilled Certified Angus Prime Rib eye Steak rubbed with Cardamom and served Antonio’s Steak Sauce. Just look at the 700g piece of gorgeous meat! It was definitely more than enough for 2 persons, not to mention we got to choose 2 side dishes as well. The piece of glorious meat was done medium, with the insides still pink and juicy but not entirely bloody. What was even more lovely was the charred exterior of the steak that gave out an irresistible aroma – literally salivating! When you cut inside, the contrast of the bright pink meat was such a welcoming sight that one could not resist biting into it right away.
Grilled Certified Angus Prime Rib eye Steak rubbed with Cardamom
Side dish: Antonio’s Black and Green Olive Rice
The outer layer of the rib eye was lined with a thin layer of fat that melted in my mouth, blending together with the tender meat to give it a sort of juicy bite. I’d never had steak this tender nor juicy before, and the taste of cardamom was distinctive but not overpowering, bringing the steak to soar new heights. Both Saucer and I agreed, it was the best steak we’d tasted in our lives! And both of us polished the 700g slab of meat clean, wishing there was room for more. 🙂
Medium cut rib eye steak
The huge piece of steak had both of us filled to the brim, but as they say, there’s always room for dessert! While waiting for desserts, we all had our choices of coffee or tea. I chose tea since I’m the type of person who can’t sleep after coffee at night.
Our dessert started with the Dark Chocolate Souffle with Cardamom Creme Anglaise. Served hot and sprinkled with icing sugar on top, the aroma of this dessert was the strongest of all, making us hungry all over again. The souffle was light, chocolatey and not overly sweet. Coupled with the rich and smooth creme anglaise, the combination was just heavenly. Fluffy, moist and simply decadent – we agreed that this was our favourite dessert that night.
Dark Chocolate Souffle
Creme Anglaise on chocolate souffle
My choice of dessert fell short comparatively, I ordered the Chocolate Mint Parfait, which was served cold and decorated with a mint leaves on the side. Only the outer layer was mint-flavoured, with the interior was filled with rich chocolate parfait, with a very smooth and dense texture. Too dense and rich, in my opinion, that we had problem finishing this.
Chocolate Mint Parfait
Our dining partner Aubrey, chose Felchin Maracaibo Chocolate Terrine with Double cream and Roasted Pistachio, and it looked like a piece of foie gras pate to me, don’t you think? 🙂 I thought the chocolate terrine tasted pretty similar to the chocolate parfait, except that this had probably a harder and denser texture, something in between the texture of chocolate bar and parfait. Truthfully, at this point we’d had too much chocolate to stomach for the night.
Felchin Maracaibo Chocolate Terrine with Double Cream and Roasted Pistachio
At the end of the dinner, we were all more than satiated with the amazing food from Antonio’s, coupled with the cool ambience and of course, how could I miss out the wonderful company of our friends from Manila. It was thanks to them that we were introduced to perhaps the best restaurant in Philippines if I might say so.
Us with our friends from Manila
Picture taken at the garden
Dining in such a fine restaurant would usually burn a big hole in the pocket, but our set of rib eye steak (for 2 persons) came to 4,900 pesos (~RM350), which included salads, soups, desserts and tea for two, so I thought it was quite a good deal compared to many other restaurants which charge much higher but were less impressive. It is no wonder this restaurant is listed as the 5th Best Restaurant in Asia in 2010/11, we certainly hope it will go up next year! Better still, if dining in this restaurant can be included in all inclusive holidays packages, it will be icing on the cake. 🙂
Room filled with pictures
Antonio’s Garden Restaurant, Tagaytay
Antonio’s Garden Restaurant
Purok 138, Barangay Neogan,
Tagaytay City, Cavite,
Contact No: +63 46 413 0975 / +63 917 899 2866
Opening Hours: 11am – 2pm & 5.30 – 8.30pm daily except Mondays