Stepping into Discovery Primea is a different, almost surreal experience. The staff is so eerily polite that I’m trying my best to recall service like this in any other hotel in Manila. It’s a little daunting to step inside just because I’m not used to this level of hospitality in the city, but I digress. This is about the month-old restaurant located on its ground floor, after all. Combining that stunning service with equally stunning food, Discovery has added another deliciously winning concept to their roster of restaurants. I’m usually never disappointed by any of their culinary offerings, from 22 Prime in Ortigas to Sands in Boracay, and Tapenade is no exception.
The aim of Tapenade really is to change people’s perceptions about hotel restaurants. They are often seen as too high-end, exclusive, or unattainable, which in this day and age of exceptional restaurants serving high-quality food at much cheaper prices, gives people a reason to look for alternatives. This is why Tapenade is so approachable, with a menu full of options that are never too different, and a dining room that is both beautiful and far from intimidating. Instead of the usual buffet, Tapenade offers a salad room with offerings that almost anyone would love. There are farmed oysters which you could hardly believe were local, because they are so plump, and almost as sweet as French ones. Parma ham is carved from a leg to-order, and there are even fresh micro-herbs which you can cut yourself from a little patch to put on top of your salad.
Save yourself lots of room though, for the Mediterranean a la carte, where almost everything was a crowd-pleaser. The stone-baked feta was a serious revelation. I’ve never had feta like this, and it’s an idea that I’m eager to mimic at home. Slabs of feta are covered in Greek Metaxa brandy, a bit of honey, then garlic, peppercorns and sun-dried tomatoes. Baking it in the oven cooks of the alcohol and creates a heady, sweet liqueur that is intensely aromatic, and the heat gives the feta a caramelized crust. Believe me when I say that this should not be a shared starter. It is something that should be kept to one’s self alone, with a glass of the same brandy in hand, and an infinite amount of good bread to spoon both dairy and liquid over. Writing this only makes me recall how unabashedly delicious this thing was.
I love a well-edited menu, and the fact that Tapenade only has 4 pages of savory items means that they are confident in what they have to offer. Greek Shrimp Risoni was intensely tomato-y, with the sharpness of feta provided a decent contrast. Crowd-favorite agnolotti was made with homemade pasta, and we understood the hype that came with it. Filled with sweet squash, and topped with a generous amount of rosemary brown butter and crisp prosciutto it’s the kind of warming bowl that people will come back for often.
Mains were successful too, with the lamb kebab another crowd-pleaser; it retained all the bloody gaminess of the meat after being grilled over charcoals, and the spice rubbed all over it never apologized for its pungency and heat. The tagine was as authentic as I think I’ll ever have around these parts. Instead of preserved lemons, they were confit, lending a bitter sweetness that enhanced the whole thing. It was meltingly-tender, and was a little close to reminding me of a stall in the middle of the souk in the Grand Medina. Porcini rib-eye was also well-cooked, almost-rare in the middle just like I like it, and its savory crust was hard not to love.
Really, Tapenade is the sort of hotel restaurant we need these days. No pretension, impeccable service, and something that sticks to tried-and-tested formulae. You need not to overcomplicate things sometimes, and offer a hundred different dishes in order to satisfy your customer. This place proves it.
Have you tried Tapenade in Discovery Primea? What’s your ideal hotel restaurant? Tell us below!
Address: GF, Discovery Primea, 6749 Ayala Ave., Makati City