The Tasting Room at the City of Dreams Manila

Manila is truly stepping up in the culinary game. In a city where what used to be the trends were buy-one-take-one burgers, unlimited rice, and simple buffets, who would have thought that Michelin-starred establishments would one day arrive here and give us a taste of the art and science they have perfected? The choices are so plenty nowadays that choosing one might sometimes feel like a chore, but with both homegrown rising stars and adopted brothers, we must be proud that Manila can compete with neighboring Asian countries in terms of the diversity and quality of the restaurant scene. 

City of Dreams Manila is one of the newest players in this game—bringing to our humble coast the lavishness of Macau. The newly opened entertainment hub not only carries with it a first-class casino and gaming center, but also three luxurious hotels and of course, some of the finest restaurants we will ever see in Manila—one of which is The Tasting Room.

Along with the privilege to taste the oldest, finest cognac ever, I had the pleasure of sampling the 5-course degustation menu of The Tasting Room during the LOUIS XIII Quest for a Legend event last week. This restaurant is based on the original, Michelin-starred one in Macau—a local edition, so to speak. A reinterpretation that still aims to recreate the European fine dining experience you can get from the original.

Tastefully done interiors greet guests upon entry—showcasing muted tones, subdued lighting, and understated elements. A lot of flowers, whites, golds, and shades of red. The Tasting Room looked elegant without trying too hard.

At helm of the kitchen is William Mahi, a French chef who used to work at a two-starred restaurant in Athens, Greece (Spondi) and trained with world-renowned chefs like Joel Robuchon. He let us a peek into his creative talent with his Amuse Bouche composed of a trio of goat cheese, foie gras and limoncello. However, this was no ordinary appetizer: the goat cheese is covered with caramelized pork flakes, which I thought were some kind of truffle; foie gras came wrapped in a dark chocolate ball, configured like a lollipop—one bite is all it takes to unleash an orgasm in your mouth; limoncello sat on a mini-spoon, and served in jelly form. They were so good I could hardly wait for the REAL dinner. Up to now I’m still dreaming of the foie gras lollipop!

As we waited for the next course, servers went around carrying trays with an assortment of bread. I tried the rosemary bun and the mini-baguette, both very good, but even better with the nori and truffle butter. The nori butter was light and delicate—and the truffle butter? OMG. Please don’t make me throw cusswords right now.

And then the first real appetizer came: the Duck Liver Terrine. This was foie gras terrine wrapped with spicy red wine jelly which I mistook as chocolate. A mesh made of apple and honey sat on top of it. Port wine reduction, raspberry powder, strawberry sauce, blueberry fig compote, lychee jelly, and mini-macarons dot the plate—making it both fun to poke at and enticing to look at.

Duck Liver Terrine. Photo credit: Margaux Salcedo
PS: In my excitement, I forgot to take my own photo of this dish. LOL
I thought it couldn’t get any better until the 52-Degree Egg was brought in. Here, an egg poached in olive oil for 1 hour at 52 degrees Celsius demanded our attention—the tastiest egg I’ve tasted in my life. Which is not to say that the minor characters in this dish were left in the shadows: Iberico ham, caramelized onions, mushroom dust, and fresh winter black truffle shavings swam in a creamy potato mousse and threatened to steal the show. I’ve tasted a similar dish somewhere else but this was … what? 10 times better? This was unbelievable!

Next came the 36-Hours Norwegian Salmon. Fresh salmon marinated for 36 hours, served raw, alongside a fish stock sauce mixed with green herbs, then garnished with pickles, shallots, capers, dill, salmon roe, and caviar. It was delicious albeit a bit too small—almost just as big as a KitKat.

My taste buds were so fired up from the previous three courses that I could hardly wait for the entrée. Shortly after, servers came around putting freshly cooked French Lamb Saddle into our plates. The smoky smell of what seemed like burnt rosemary was intoxicatingly good! The lamb was tender and perfectly cooked—and tasted very clean. There were turnips on the side in case you found the meat overpowering—as well as some amazing macaroni smothered with truffle sauce and topped with shaved truffles! After dish, I didn’t know what to do with my life anymore!

Finally for dessert, we had the Guanaja Chocolate. Shaped like half a dome, it was a plate of dark chocolate ganache, espresso ice cream, spicy cocoa, and dark chocolate mousse. That glistening yellowish thing is an edible gold garnish. This dessert was served with a shot of hot chocolate (of which I’m not a fan) but a more playful way of enjoying this is by pouring some cognac into it. Damn, it was an awesome way to end our dinner!

I’ve had a lot of nice meals in my life but only a few are unforgettable—and the one I had at The Tasting Room was one of them. It wasn’t just the exquisite quality of the dishes we were served with, but also the over-all experience: from the seconds spent admiring the impeccable plating, to the eager anticipation for the next course, to the first-class treatment received from the very efficient and friendly wait staff.  Admittedly, not everyone is fortunate enough to get to taste food like this—I myself would only consider going here for occasions of utmost importance—but every once in a while, if you feel like splurging, you better do it in a restaurant worthy of your hard-earned money.

Indeed, The Tasting Room took me a gastronomic journey that lasted for only a few hours but lingered in the memory long after it was done.

The Tasting Room
Ground Floor, Crown Tower, City of Dreams Manila, Roxas Boulevard, Parañaque City
For reservations, call 02.800.8080
6:00PM – 11:00PM
Degustation Menu: PhP3,200++ (5 courses); PhP3,600++ (6 courses); PhP4,200++ (7 courses); PhP4,500++ (8 courses)
City of Dreams Manila Website | Facebook | Instagram

My meal was sponsored by The Tasting Room, City of Dreams Manila. All opinions, however, are my own. Special thanks to Yen Dreyfus for dragging me along. :p

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