Alta by Chef Margarita Forés in Ascott BGC Changes the Game in Philippine Hotel RestaurantsJuly 28, 2015
Flying off to another country for a family trip has always involved gaining a few pounds. You’d think from all the walking and sightseeing we’d burn enough calories to at least burn off breakfast, but this wasn’t the case. Most people would assume that all my weight came from the delicacies and rare treats only the vacation destination had to offer. Again, this was also not the case. It was never that cone of matcha ice cream from Japan, that slice of pizza from New York, or those noodles from Hong Kong. For me, it’s always been the hotel food.
On a weeklong getaway, hotel breakfast buffet is basic bait we’ve allowed ourselves to fall for over and over again. I will admit, I enjoy the unlimited tater tots, the bottomless tray of scrambled eggs, and all the bacon my heart could possibly desire. My experience with hotel food has always been pleasant, but it can get a bit boring at times. It’s more or less the same standard menu wherever I go. But Ascott in Bonifacio Global City has changed the Philippine hotel culinary game.
On the second floor of Ascott BGC, guests would find what would look like your standard hotel restaurant—an all-day buffet found on a large, clean, accommodating space furnished with simple, minimalistic chairs and tables. But with renowned Chef Margarita Forés by their side, Ascott wasn’t about to serve their customers familiar, yet typical hotel fare. The hotel was able to bring about a restaurant with a quality menu that matched the hotel’s sophisticated interiors: Alta.
Forés’ background with Italian cuisine, her passion for pushing for the use of local produce, and her participation in the furthering of Filipino cuisine, helped develop a world-class selection at Alta that caters to international palates. The chef confesses that the hotel restaurant business is very different from what’s she’s used to, and requires a lot of time and attention. Nonetheless, she tries her best to bring the element of her cooking into every recipe.
We started off with the Asparagus Appenzeller Gratinée, served with grilled flatbreads that came in three flavors: squid ink, red beet, and natural. The strong-smelling cheese melded with the earthy undertones of asparagus create a pungent, savory dip for the light flat crackers.
Next, we tried the two mains that Alta prides itself most of: their 24-hour Sous-vide Pork Chop, and their Parmigiano Veal Scallopine. The pork chop looked almost like a huge slab of lamb in the way it was plated – and seemed to be as close to lamb’s tenderness as pork could be. It was served with a side of smoked mashed potato, with the singed skin crumbled on top to add to the smokiness.
What we couldn’t keep our forks and knives away from was the veal. With foie gras smoothly spread in between the meat, and a Parmesan cheese crust, the dish was a winner. The sweet sauce on the side complemented the subtle gaminess of the veal.
Afterwards, we were treated to two pasta dishes: the Paccheri Al Telefono and the Pappardelle, Brased Beef Belly-Funghi Ragù. The freshly cooked paccheri pasta was left simple, and unstuffed in a creamy, light tomato-based sauce, with smoky speck, basil, and chunks of mozzarella. This took us back to Forés Italian forte. The braised beef ragù, on the other hand, was so beefy, it was almost like an elevated, Italian rendition of beef noodle soup.
And for dessert, we had Crepe Millefoglie—a cake made out of layered crepe slices, with double cream sandwiched in between each layer—served with poached fruit on the side. But our favorite was Malcolm Lee’s Coconut Cream Panna Cotta, a dish in honor of the renowned Singaporean chef who was present during Ascott’s opening back in November. The white, creamy panna cotta was soft in texture, milky in taste, and melted in your mouth. The Gula Melaka (palm sugar) glaze, and pandan jelly completed the recipe, and made the dish stand out as a coconut dessert.
Alta, just like all young ventures, is a work in progress. Forés says they’re still working to add more to the menu, tightening the screws with regards to their cooking operations, and looking to find ways for the hotel restaurant to improve. But, just as it is, I wouldn’t mind checking in for a staycation and have some more of that veal.