Ah, summer. It’s that time of the year when the sweltering sun transforms a sprawling metropolis into an urban heat island, and even the most hardened of city slickers long for refreshing vistas and cooler climes. Located just over fifty kilometers from Metro Manila, Tagaytay City is a popular weekend getaway for those seeking respite from simmering tempers and sweaty commutes, its famous ridge and rolling environs attracting guests of all inclinations— daytrippers, staycationers, or mere passers-by—with its robust B&B and dining scene.
Mapping apps in hand and appetites duly whetted, the ExplorePH team hit the road to discover the best time of day to enjoy Tagaytay’s culinary offerings.
Second Breakfast: Azalea Restaurant @ One Tagaytay Place Hotel Suites
“Our busiest time is from seven to nine AM, especially during weekends,” says Chef Boy Deloso of Azalea Restaurant, the in-house dining establishment of One Tagaytay Suites. Most checked-in guests avail of the buffet breakfast, so it comes as no surprise that the kitchen and waitstaff are stretched to full capacity so early in the day.
We arrive during a lull in service: too late for the morning rush, too early for the lunch crowd. Free from the constraints of the banal hospitality that typically flavors set meals, we ask Chef Boy and his team to serve their specialty dishes. We are presented with a selection of seafood, accompanied—oddly enough—by four seasons juice and a chocolate lava cake of some sort.
Tawilis is a Tagaytay food staple, the rare freshwater sardine being endemic to Taal Lake, and the restaurant serves it two ways: traditional crispy fried, and as a topping on their signature pizza. “The owners wanted to showcase a Tagaytay specialty, but with a twist. [Azalea] is the first restaurant to offer a tawilis pizza,” explains Chef Boy.
We sample the fried tawilis first. It is cooked just as it should be: deep fried, with a thin coating of batter, and lightly seasoned with salt, pepper and a vinegar dip. There are no surprises, but also no leftovers. Hotel guests would be better off sleeping in and ordering this for breakfast instead, paired with garlic rice and a tomato salsa.
Convinced that Azalea knows how to do tawilis, we eagerly try the Kesong Puti and Tawilis Pizza, served with ichimi (ground dried red chili peppers) and wasabi pesto. Guests should have this for second breakfast—hotel management rightly positions this as their signature dish. Fish on pizza is always a tricky proposition involving a delicate balance of textures (flaky is good) and flavors (malansa is bad). The Tawilis Pizza manages this well: the tawilis delicately flaked, no overpowering saltiness here, even with the addition of kesong puti. The crust is light and crisp, a perfect anchor for the pizza’s non-traditional toppings.
For those concerned with the scarcity of tawilis—there are regulations in place to prevent overfishing and the potential endangerment of the species—Azalea offers this alternative: Norwegian Salmon Steak, a fillet of salmon served on a bed of cabbage, mushroom duxelles, and sabayon sauce. The portions are generous and filling, and provide good-value for its price point.
Azalea Restaurant @ One Tagaytay Place Hotel Suites 445 Tagaytay-Calamba Road, Barrio Sunggay West,, 4120 Tagaytay, (+63) 922 8497511, (+632) 584 4111, (+6346) 483 0111 Mon - Sun:7:00 am - 10:00 pm http://www.onetagaytayplace.com/dining.php https://www.facebook.com/azalearestaurant
Linger for Lunch: Chateau Hestia
The Tagaytay dining experience can be classified into two categories. In the first, the destination takes precedence, the food firmly associated with the locale or strictly incidental; in the other, the food is so superlative, it is worth going the distance for. Chateau Hestia falls squarely in the latter category.
Chateau Hestia feels like one of Tagaytay’s best kept secrets even though it’s been around since the late ‘oughts, due in part to its secluded location, on the winding sideroads off Tagaytay’s main thoroughfare. Its website offers detailed driving directions, but the navigationally challenged may also rely on GoogleMaps or Waze. Another option, if you have the means, is to go by helicopter (and yes, there is available landing space).
Owner Johannes Zehethofer named his bed and breakfast after the Roman goddess of the hearth, who tended the fires of Olympus and kept a gracious table where the gods wined and dined. Chateau Hestia offers a cornucopia of Europe’s homegrown flavors in an inviting tropical setting. Zehethefor jets back and forth between the Philippines and his native Austria, and has left the restaurant in the able hands of Chef Natalia Moran, whom foodies may know from Boracay’s The Sunny Side Café, Spicebird Piri Piri Grill and Boracay Sands Hotel, or from her personal private dining establishment, Il Piccino Trattoria.
“We want to keep it homely and rustic, so there’s nothing extremely modern (in the menu),” she explains. There are no unconventional pairings or overcomplicated techniques at play, just quality ingredients: harvested from their own herb and vegetable gardens when possible, or—in the case of the breads and pasta they serve—made from scratch in Chateau Hestia’s kitchens.
The restaurant offers a prix fixe that changes every month, but Chef Natalia selects favorites from the a la carte menu and serves it under a garden gazebo setup. It is a veritable feast, five courses of Italian, Austrian, and French comfort food that leaves us lingering over every bite.
For starters, we are served a quintet of Italian cheeses of varying textures (hard, crumbly, or so soft it melts off the platter) and tastes (sharp, tangy, or smoky) paired with olives, cornichons, grissini, and flatbread. All the cheeses are for sale at Chateau Hestia’s deli, which also stocks sweets and instant foodstuff of European make, along with the house limoncello, made from Zehethofer’s secret recipe.
The pasta dish is another five-cheese sensation: freshly made tortellini stuffed with gouda, cream cheese, parmesan and scamorza tossed in pesto sauce and topped with red pesto cheese. Pizza Reale is for lovers of cured meat, with eight different toppings, also available at the deli counter.
Then there’s the Kummelbraten, which must be German shorthand for “really tasty pork.” It’s a traditional Viennese oven pork roast, served with homemade sauerkraut and a bread dumpling.
And for dessert, Chef Natalia serve A Love Triangle of chocolate mousse, passion fruit panna cotta, and mango napoleon; generously portioned, the dessert sampler demonstrates that sharing is caring. It’s a rare feat for a restaurant to serve equally exquisite mains and desserts, but Chateau Hestia is up to the task.
Chateau Hestia’s food demands to be savored: best to schedule a lunch reservation and block off your entire afternoon. Or better yet, time your visit for one of the many special events they have lined up. “The restaurant has a very loyal clientele, but we want to reach out to the younger generation, so we’re planning to host different activities, like cooking classes and fondue nights,” invites Chef Natalia.
Chateau Hestia Hernandez St., Purok 5, Brgy. Bukal, Silang, Cavite, 4118 0929-711-32-89 Mon - Sun:9:00 am - 10:00 pm http://www.chateauhestia.com/ https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chateau-Hestia-Garden-Restaurant/
Happy Hour with a View: The Lake Café Bar and Lobby Lounge, The Lake Hotel Tagaytay
No trip to Tagaytay is complete without a glimpse of Taal Lake and Taal Volcano. Establishments along Tagaytay Ridge provide the best views, and The Lake Hotel Tagaytay ups the ante this summer with Canapes and Cocktail Nights. The hotel’s sprawling back lawn overlooks the lake, inspiring even the least camera-savvy of tourists to capture the singular beauty of the volcano at sunset. And when summer light fades into night, they can chill at the The Lake Café Bar and Lobby Lounge and partake of drink-all-you-can cocktails and a smorgasbord of finger foods and bar chow from 6-8 pm, for an all-inclusive price of Php 588.
The drink selection is classic: diners can choose from a black russian, cosmopolitan, tequila sunrise, mojito, and their version of the pina colada, dubbed the Boracay colada. There are no restrictions regarding drink: you can sample as many cocktails as you want, or stick to your favorite untill you get buzzed. Non-alcoholic options are also available for health-conscious guests and designated drivers.
Food and Beverage manager Joiada Sinclair informs us that their chef changes the buffet selection changes daily, so no two days may be the same. The spread draws from a variety of culinary influences: our Asian neighbors are represented by spring rolls and satay wings, while the spanish omelette squares and pork loin would not be out of place in a tapas joint. There are even finger sandwiches and bite-sized pieces of cake, if you’re the sort that prefers afternoon tea over pub fare. All they have in common is the relative ease of eating: just pop it in your mouth with one hand, drink dangling from the other. But really, it’s Happy Hour, what else does one need?
The Lake Café Bar and Lobby Lounge, The Lake Hotel Tagaytay Km. 58 Aguinaldo Hi-way, Tagaytay City (02) 584 4470 Open 24 hours http://www.lakehoteltagaytay.com/ https://www.facebook.com/Thelakehoteltagaytayofficial
Patricia Calzo Vega reads, writes, and travels for the heady rush of being caught in a story of her own making. Like Tolkien, she places her faith in happy endings. She currently works in government.
Gabby Cantero is a food and portrait photographer based in Manila. After a few years in the industry as a portrait photographer, she has finally found her true calling in food photography. This combines both her love for taking photographs and the culinary world.