Grilla Bar & Grill in Makati isn’t exactly in my radar since it’s far from my place and I don’t like Filipino cuisine very much. Still, I had no qualms in attending Grilla’s taste-testing event last Saturday. This 2014, Grilla is celebrating a huge milestone as it remains to be standing strong in the restaurant business for 16 years. Wow! This only means that many customers are patronizing their food and are in full appreciation of their dishes which are scoured from all over the archipelago.
Below is a picture of me and Grilla Bar & Grill’s head chef. Together with the owners, he welcomed everyone heartily. We were served with some seriously tasty food on an exotic yet accessible menu that eschews the entrees for something much more than your usual Filipino food.
Review of Grilla Bar and Grill (Poblacion, Makati)
Dinner at Grilla is a dignified affair. Even with the menu comprising of mostly pulutan finds that complement beers and alcoholic drinks, the atmosphere is modern and classy. The lights are almost dim. The couches are comfortable, and the bar’s counter looks like the center of attraction upon entrance.
This branch has two floors and both floor areas are spacious. Grilla Bar and Grill must be a hit for those celebrating their birthdays, graduation, anniversaries, job promotions, etc., as it can accommodate plenty of guests on board.
The staffs were friendly and service was good and fast. I can’t comment any further as we were held in a group for the special event and I’m not sure how they function in normal day-to-day dining scenarios.
We started with Tofu and Sigarilyas Sisig (PHp 145), which unlike the regular sisig we know, did not consist of pig cheeks, ears and snout. Rather, it was more like a treat for vegetarians. Little squares of tofu and chilies abound. Squeeze that calamansi to make each bite more flavorful. It’s the kind of “pulutan” dish that’s easy to love.
Next was Ilocos Dinuydoy (PHp 300), a traditional Ilocano dish made of mashed squash and ampalaya with bagnet on top. When anyone at your table cries out with squeamishness, feel free to ignore them and order this to complete your meal with veggies and meat in one go. I didn’t eat the pork part. I can only comment that it smelled really good, one that would take you straight to “pork heaven.” The mashed squash was nice and the taste was not overbearing.
There are times when you’ll want something more then just a sour soup that warms the soul. In these situations, if you’re fond of Filipino food, pretty much you would end up getting a bowl of sinigang soup. But check this out: Beef Kansi (PHp 345) is a cross between a sinigang and bulalo soup that’s famous in Bacolod. The taste of sinigang x bulalo indeed is super strong, so eat it with rice. A soup like this shouldn’t be relegated to just in the rainy season. You may be happy to enjoy it during summer, too.
Inihaw na Manok sa Sinampalukan (PHp 225), or in English, grilled chicken in tamarind stock, is another dish that needs to be paired with rice unless you want that sourness and saltiness to emanate and rejoice in your mouth. The texture of the chicken was a knockout; its taste was just like fresh from the grill. After it’s put into the soup, the combination was structurally sound.
Of the offerings, Inadobong Tilapia sa Gata at Sili (PHp 225) is the one I vote as best. The crisp fish came bathed in a pleasingly salty, buttery-coconut broth laced with some spice. The delicacy in the layering of texture and flavor was apparent. It’s good to eat the tilapia together with rice and those greens in a mouthful.
Poqui Poqui (PHp 145) is simply eggplant torta cut into small strips. It’s a relatively light option among all these dishes. I prefer it with tomato catsup. 🙂
Lechon Liempo ala Cebu (PHp 850/kg) looked so fatty so I didn’t bother to taste it even a bit. I thought the pork actually went overboard on the oily cravings upfront. With visible pools of grease, the meat might have lacked the wealth of flavor that serves as a lifeline for many of health and diet-conscious folks. It’s okay to give it a shot if you’re really a huge fan of lechon liempo.
Cebu is known for its chicharon and Grilla Bar and Grill’s Chicharong Cebu (PHp 160). The pork skin was freshly fried and it had all the right textures: crispy, crunchy and bubbly. It gives you much more than your average snack. It’s obviously not the healthiest or most sophisticated, but just the best when you’re hungry, broke drunk or all three.
Pork BBQ and Salted Egg Triangles (PHp 185) had a sheer contrast of salt and sweet tastes. Dip the fried triangles in vinegar and you might find yourself gasping in awe. However, again I warn you: the dish is quite oily. Soak it on tissue paper to rid some excess oil.
Grilla-a-Palayok (PHp 695) consisted of maya-maya, mussels, shrimps, clams, thinly sliced beef and pork shortplate cooked over very hot stones served with pork lemongrass broth, sinamak, grilled eggplant and nilasing na mangga. The soup base, poured from the kettle, was lightly sour. I don’t know what the kitchen was trying to imply but we found that there were still sands inside the shells (clams and mussels). Did they purposely wanted to retain the sands? Of course, there’s the natural saltiness we tasted. On another regard, the presentation of food was unavoidable. I mean, look at that smoke from the earthen pot!
Okay, let me take back what I said… More than the Inadobong Tilapia sa Gata at Sili, the Halo Halo Spring Rolls (PHp 135) which was made of jackfruit and banana wrapped in spring roll wrapper (lumpia/turon) topped with ube ice cream was the one I liked best. This dessert came as a delightful surprise. With warm spring rolls and decadent cream, it’s the perfect ending to a scrumptious Filipino meal.
Price for Value: ★★★☆☆
We walked away really stuffed. Grilla Bar and Grill in Makati is an all-time good restaurant you’d want to visit for a good bonding with friends, especially those who want to get high at night. With entrees ranging from over PHp 100 to PHp 400 on the average, the prices are friendly. It’s wise to share small plates as food’s portion sizes are generous.
If you’re into drinking alcohol, their menu is perfectly set up for it. My only advice is to order rice because almost all the dishes are very salty. Probably that’s what Ilocos cuisine is primarily about.
Thanks, Aldous, for the invite!
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