(This feature was published in GMA News Online last September 12, 2013)
Tagaytay owes its popularity to the picture-perfect Taal Volcano and its cool climate. Apart from that, it has also become a destination for foodies who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and treat their taste buds to a delicious journey with its wide range of world cuisine offerings.
The challenge that comes with this is finding a spot to enjoy your food with a view, as the ridge-side restaurants could get crowded, especially during weekends and holidays. My most recent foodie adventure was in Bistro Ibarra, which came with a good view of the Taal Lake.
Although it has been around since 2011, I was only able to dine there recently. The restaurant offers a combination of Filipino and Spanish dishes, and is situated inside Villa Ibarra, a bed and breakfast along the ridge.
I visited this place on a weekday and was able to get a table by the window. The area had air-conditioning but it didn’t need opening because of the chilly, fresh air. The bistro was simply decorated with wooden furnishings in blue upholstery, and a dainty blue and white chandelier hung in the center of the room. The vibe was intimate—I felt like I was inside a dining area of a nice house.
The event and venue manager, Portia Enrico, told me that the restaurant can accommodate around 25 people. “Bistro Ibarra is where you can dine with a 180-degree scenic view of Taal Volcano and Lake.”
The cool and comfortable atmosphere was the perfect ambience for an indulgent lunch.
A feast for the senses
For me, the eating experience begins with the sense of sight. I was pleased to see the Sopa de Ajo served in a small, bright ceramic pot, which reminded me of my toys during my childhood. When I opened the lid, I saw floating croutons in a sea of light broth made cloudy by the egg and garlic bits. My sense of smell was awakened by its wonderful aroma and made me heartily finish my soup down to the last drop. The garlic soup was tasty and a nice way to warm my stomach.
I also sampled the Caesar Salad, served with healthy fresh greens, but I made sure to save space for the main course. Bistro Ibarra’s Paella Valenciana was a sight to behold. I could hardly see the saffron-flavored rice as the pan was full of toppings like pork, chicken, chorizo, shrimps, squid, veggies, and a small crab at the center of it all. The serving size was good for sharing and the seafood taste was strong, perfect for those who enjoy the taste of the sea.
I also tried Filipino favorites like the Kare-Kare, ox tail and tripe cooked in a rich peanut sauce. The dish didn’t look like a hodgepodge of brown meat and sauce but was presented in a more artistic way with the assorted veggies taking the limelight. It was served with sautéed shrimp paste, the traditional condiment for it.
For me, the dish that stood out was the Hickory Pork Belly Barbecue, oven-baked pork marinated in special sauce and grilled with smoked barbecue sauce. I’m not sure how long they cooked the meat but it was really tender. I didn’t have to use a steak knife to slice off the meat, which was had a nice charring on the outside and a yummy mix of flavors that ranged from sweet to smoky and a bit spicy. I even forgot about the rice and steamed vegetables that came with it. I would definitely go back to Bistro Ibarra just for this dish alone.
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