(This feature was published in GMA News Online last November 11, 2013)
One of Enrique Yap’s most memorable dining experiences as a young boy growing up in the 1980s was eating at the Cowrie Grill with his family. “Back then, there weren’t a lot of places to go to eat and experience fine service,” he said. “My parents would tell us we have to dress up for the occasion and put our best behavior forward. When we get there, I would be astounded by the feel of the place and ambience. What really mattered to me, as a kid then, was the tableside service.”
Some 30 years down the road, the young boy has become part of the management team that is involved in the revival of the establishment. The Cowrie Grill has been an institution in the Manila Hotel ever since it opened in 1977, but it had to give way to the expansion and renovation of Café Ilang-Ilang in 2011. “We realized that Cowrie Grill had a strong equity and following so we decided to re-launch it and bring it closer to our clients,” said Yap, who is now Manila Hotel’s executive vice president.
Unlike him, I didn’t have any childhood story starring the iconic grill house, but I thought that it wasn’t too late to create new memories since Manila Hotel’s signature restaurant re-opened recently. Although it’s not located within the hotel premises, the establishment has retained the Grand Dame’s iconic cowrie shell in its interior décor, which also added drama to its lighting fixtures. I thought it provided a nice backdrop for an unforgettable dining experience.
Tableside service like no other
There were private booths in the posh restaurant, but I decided to get a comfortable seat under the cowrie-shell chandelier. With the dramatic lighting, I whet my appetite with some sesame-crusted bread and herbed butter. I veered away from getting another serving of bread, as I know that I was in for a rich meal.
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