There’s quite an absence of good Spanish restaurants in my regular rotation lately, so when I received an invite to visit Tapella by Gaudi in Greenbelt 5, Makati to test out dishes by Executive Chef Robert Spakowski, I felt excited about Spanish cuisine again. 🙂 Tapella specializes in tapas and paella.
It was interesting to learn that while Chef Robert looked totally like a foreigner (Polish-Kapampangan on his father’s side and Spanish-American-Lebanese-Chinese on his mother’s side), he speaks Filipino fluently without a weird accent. He shared that he was born and raised here in the Philippines and has earned his Diploma in Culinary Arts and Technology Management from the Center for Culinary Arts Manila (CCA).
How did he become the executive chef in Tapella? The former executive chef of Tapella (his family friend) decided to return to Spain and asked if he can take her place. To prepare and equip himself better, Chef Robert took an intensive Grand Diplome in Spanish Culinary Arts course at the International Culinary Center in New York, USA and the rest, as they say, was history.
Review of Tapella by Gaudi (Greenbelt 5, Makati City)
Tapella by Gaudi has been established since 2009. The rectangular dining room is well appointed and large enough, so getting a table should not be a huge pain in the ass, especially if you have reservation. Ambiance is pretty cozy, one that’s great for a date night or an amazing hangout with friends.
At the back is a rack of wine bottles that serves as a good focus point of the interior design, versus muted brown walls bordering neutral beige that accentuates class.
There’s also an al fresco setting which houses the bar, a change of pace from the inside. Grab a seat here to experience a more informal and chiller vibe magnified by the beautiful landscapes and garden in Greenbelt.
I have a love-hate relationship with salads, and Tapella’s Mixed House Salad Drizzled With Special Dressing (Ensalada Tapella) (PhP 200) fell somewhere in between. Usually for me, salads are not exactly a can’t-miss-item from the menu, but it’s worth to mention that the ingredients of this house salad formed a good combination not just on the plate but also in the stomach. Mixed up with olives and corn kernels, the lettuce leaves were well seasoned with the dressing, ought to help you survive the meat and heavy rice dishes later.
The Octopus with Paprika, Sea Salt, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Pulpo a la Gallega) (PhP 525) may look like a large order and intended for sharing between a group, but sometimes you need to overindulge a bit even for a party of two. As the star, the octopus was delicate and tasty, fork tender and not at all chewy.
Fluffy and generous with filling, the Open Faced Omelette with Chorizo (Tortilla Abierta con Chorizo) (PhP 235) was wicked good, one of the best versions of omelette I’ve ever had.
As something to whet the appetite, the Garlic Sauteed Shrimps (Gambas al Ajillo) (PhP 325) would be an excellent choice. It’s basically shrimps in garlic. What could go wrong? The shrimps tasted great and simple enough. I also noticed how the dishware was beautiful and meticulously selected for the course.
Another appetizing dish was the tender and juicy Basque Chorizo Sausage (Chistorra Vasca) (PhP 235). The chorizo sausages in oil were packed in so much flavor that eating a piece will make you reach for some bread for plate cleanup.
Next, we had Croquettes of Ham, Salami, and Mushroom (Croquettes Variadas) (PhP 175)—crispy turnovers with a variety of fillings. They looked great as finger food so I ditched the utensils to get proper-sized mouthfuls. Tapella’s croquettes were a bit salty and comforting wrapped into one.
As pitch-black as coal, the Squid with Black Ink Batter (Calamares, el Bulli) (PhP 385) was cooked well, however I didn’t think there’s anything distinctly special to it other than how it looked differently from the regular fried squid in golden brown color. Simply put, there was no hint of complex flavor from the squid ink.
Beef Salpicado, Chef’s Way (Salpicado a Mi Manera) (PhP 375) was oily but very delicious, so it would be hard to turn it down. I bet the chef used the juiciest morsel and used the choicest cut of beef for this.
If there’s one item that you can order with confidence at Tapella by Gaudi, it’s their Prime Rib Grilled Villagodio Style (Chuleton de Villagodio) (PhP 300/100g). Arriving on a clay dish heated by a burner on the table, the certified prime angus beef that’s only speckled with sea salt and quickly seared to preferred doneness was a revelation. Yes, it was really good! For steak lovers, it can be impossible to eat it without making faces of satisfaction. This piece of meat hits home, a rightfully celebrated stroke of “steak genius.”
Now, featuring the different kinds of paella…The Black Paella (Paella Negra) (PhP 595) was not the most outstanding, but it’s a special treat that can be best paired with gambas. I just thought that a variety of seafood to complement the squid ink would make a better contrast rather than chopped squid alone.
Soft and risotto-like, Rice with Chicken and Vegetables, the Valencia Way (Arroz a la Valenciana) (PhP 450) came as a one-dish meal of poultry and veggies. For the most part, the bell peppers’ taste was responsible for the depth of flavor. Give it a shot if that sounds good to you.
Made with elements that create appealing color, Paella de Cocido (Cocido Paella) (PhP 400) was loaded with a good assortment of meat and vegetables as well. It’s a must-try, as it’s one of the national dishes of Spain.
Out of all the paella we tasted, Chicken, Asparagus, Shrimp, and Manchego Cheese Paella (Arroz Manchego) (PhP 675) was the best! I’m all for seafood and veggies any day, and this rice dish blew my mind a bit—with cheese on top! I’m counting down the days till I can get another. 😛
After tasting the previous winning paella, the Seafood Paella (Paella de Marisco) (PhP 600) failed in comparison. It was still good but not one I would be thinking about for days to come.
For desserts, we had Tarta con Lave de Chocolate (PhP 150). It was sinful, with warmed rich chocolate oozing out of the cake. Checking all the criteria of a good chocolate lava cake, this was indeed calories worthy.
Smooth and luscious, the Leche Flan (PhP 75) was equally enjoyable. It was creamy but still firm.
Drawing contrast from the traditional leche flan, Bacon from the Sky (Tocino del Cielo) (PhP 75) from South of Spain was thicker and it was made with a whole bunch of egg yolks, sugar, and water (and not whole eggs, milk or cream as in leche flan).
If you like cheesecake, go get the Tarta De Queso Dulce De Leche (PhP 150). A heavenly marriage flan and cheesecake, this dessert was so yummy that I could hardly resist the indulgence. 🙂
We washed all the food down with cocktail drinks: Ronin Lychee Sangria (PhP 295) (sake with lychee) and Don Roberto Sangria (PhP 225) (red sangria with red wine and fruits that have been marinated for 24 hours). Both sangrias tasted bright, refreshing, and fruity, but I prefer the red over the white.
Price for Value: ★★★★☆
We came in for lunch and after the end of the meal, I can say that all the food we tried were solid and reasonably priced. Items on the improved menu are not a crazy departure from familiar Spanish plates but are just more interesting.
Chef Robert has done a fantastic job with the restaurant and with his creative menu of culinary excellence. If you’re looking for some good Spanish comfort food in Makati, I suggest you hit Tapella by Gaudi right quick for a hearty pile of food with tons of different flavor going on.