Dining Out in 2021: My Thoughts on The Cellar at the Grand Hyatt Manila

The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila

The pandemic has changed our collective eating and drinking habits in a lot of ways. I, for one, transformed really quickly from someone you would find in a packed, loud neighborhood bar at least thrice a week into a solo drinker who hoards bottles and whips up cocktails himself; from someone who loves sharing bites with friends into a person who vehemently refuses every invitation. Call it paranoia, cautiousness, overreaction—whatever you want to call it. But one thing is for sure, these new habits would take a while to return to old ways.

Recently though, I’ve been slowly trying to go out and check places—attempting to get a feel of how things are, of the “new normal” as you might say. Although I cook almost every day since the pandemic started, I must admit that I do miss restaurant food, not just because of the food, but also because of the ambience, experience, and the fact that you are dining with your favorite people. I could easily order online if I just miss certain dishes, but the truth is, that’s not all you want all the time.

Here’s my personal rule: if I’m simply craving for something and I don’t care where I eat it, I would just order online and support my favorite establishments. But if it’s something that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the same way as I would in a restaurant, then I’d consider dragging my lazy (and paranoid) ass out of the house. This thinking actually led me to say yes to some friends who invited me to visit The Cellar at the Grand Hyatt Manila last week. The restaurant just recently reopened to the public, and I was keen to try their food, as well as how it’s like to dine there, "COVID Era" style.

The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
If you’re concerned about safety protocols and sanitation, hotel restaurants are probably some of the top places to visit during this time. I mean, they already have much of these protocols and best practices even before the pandemic hit. Which doesn’t mean to say that regular restaurants do not. But what probably differentiates hotels and gives you that extra confidence is the fact that they communicate this very clearly to their guests—they want to prove it to you.

Upon entering the Grand Hyatt itself, our temperature was checked. Before entering the restaurant, we filled out a health declaration form (printed and QR both available). Sure, it’s a standard protocol followed everywhere else. But I guess it’s the manner by which everything was conducted—from entering the hotel premises to getting to our seats—that made me feel like it was very safe to dine here.

The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
At The Cellar, we were led to a private dining space—a cavernous nook with wine displays and a huge table that could only accommodate up to 6 persons for now (social distancing measures; like other restaurants, they are allowed to operate only at 50% capacity). I absolutely adored this space. It gave off a sense of intimacy despite the fact that we wore masks most of the time and were 1 meter away from each other. Also, that feeling of being surrounded by wines just made me want to get started eating right away. Hahaha.

The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
Soon enough, the wine list was brought out, and it was a long one so thankfully their resident sommelier came in and made recommendations. Our group chose a bottle of Riesling and a smooth and light pinot noir, which complimented the food we had that night amazingly. (Note: the local government of Taguig is imposing a 2-drink limit to each guest.)

The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
The first thing I noticed—and I deliberately observed this, I guess—was the service. I liked how professional it was but not intrusive. The staff is prompt and attentive while maintaining their distance. It’s as if they are even more cautious than the diners. It’s like they are avoiding interactions as much as possible but still anticipating your every need.

Everyone who handles food wore masks (of course) and gloves. The tables were laden with covered glasses, disinfectant wipes, and envelopes for the face masks. It is also worthy to note that all high-touch areas are disinfected with hospital-grade solutions every hour, not just in the restaurant but in the entire hotel itself. Kitchen equipment are disinfected with food-grade products. 

The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
We started with a selection of their small plates, which are perfect accompaniments for wine. The Grilled Portobello Mushroom instantly stole the show—a whole portobello sitting on top of raclette and rösti, topped with more cheese, garlic chips, cornichons (pickled cucumber), and pearl onions. It’s the Swiss cheese and potato tandem, reimagined—and I’m all for it!

The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
And then there’s the Korean Fried Cauliflower, which came in a delicious batter that made the vegetables look almost like meatballs. They are coated with a sweet-spicy gochujang glaze that will make you think of your favorite chicken, except that this might be even better. The Salt and Pepper Squid is another table favorite—perfectly tender squid served with aioli and an addicting green harissa sauce (which I’m tempted to try to replicate at home, LOL).

The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
Do you like cheese like I do? Well, we were quite lucky that night because the chef told us about their special for the day: Goat Cheese Churros. Did we say yes? You bet. It’s my first time to eat savory churros—that whipped goat cheese dip drizzled with truffle honey is everything I ever wanted in life!

The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
As if these appetizers aren’t impressive enough, in came the next dishes and I was simply floored. The US Scallops with Oyster Mushrooms are divine—expertly cooked scallops (they just melted down into my throat) with a smooth eggplant puree. I’m not sure if there’s anything with mushrooms that I wouldn’t like, PLUS THESE ARE SCALLOPS. HELLO.

The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
The Seabass with Sauce Vierge is another favorite of mine (it’s hard to decide, really). The fish is flaky and delicate, perfect with the light sauce and the flavor of capers. There are some clams as well for good measure. I love how subtle and balanced the flavors are. I usually like spicy food and bold flavors, but I do appreciate this kind of food—I love how you could still taste the elements.

The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
You would think that with these dishes, we would be fully satiated already but no—we still had to demolish some Suckling Pig. This is the dish to splurge on, seriously. The pork was slow-roasted, resulting in meat so incredibly tender that you won’t even need a knife. It’s juicy and delicious but doesn’t feel so sinful—and perfect with the pinot! Actually, I’ve been avoiding pork for almost 2 months now but it would be a mortal sin (and stupid) not to eat this! This dish gave me daydreams that linger ‘til today.

The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
The Seafood Paella is one of The Cellar’s signature dishes, but to be honest, I was so engrossed with the other dishes that I just had a few bites of it. Which is not to say that it’s not yummy—it has the best of everything too: prawns, mussels, chicken, and chorizo.

The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
As for the desserts… oh my, the desserts. BOY, WERE THEY GOOD. I’ve been eyeing their Basque Burnt Cheesecake ever since the hotel’s head pastry chef shared a recipe on Facebook. I totally don’t have the patience to bake so I’ve just been dying to try Grand Hyatt’s version. It’s exactly how I love this cheesecake—with creamy and melted, almost oozing insides. The raspberry sauce added a much welcome tartness, which I love in desserts.

The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
The Cellar’s Tiramisu, I declare, is the best I’ve tried so far. It has the perfect amount of sweetness, coffee-ness, and creaminess. I would’ve wanted a shock of liquor as well, but I was too busy having spoonfuls to actually mind. The Miso Crème Caramel is light, soft, and luscious, with an edge of saltiness from the miso. The Japanese-French combo reminded me of the miso crème brulee with strawberries and soy sauce powder that I had at La Maison de la Nature Goh in Fukuoka sometime back—one of the best desserts I’ve had ever. But you know what? For the desserts alone, I’m coming back to The Cellar in a heartbeat!

The Cellar - Grand Hyatt Manila
I guess you could tell that I tremendously enjoyed my dine-in experience at The Cellar. And yep. Planning to drag my lazy ass out again soon. As for trying out other places, I am definitely open to doing so. I guess that while the pandemic is still here, dining out will never be 100% safe—and so we have to rely on a combination of a restaurant that prioritizes food safety and sanitation*, and a personal commitment to be responsible and to adhere strictly to prescribed guidelines.

* Grand Hyatt Manila is accredited by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR, a "performance-based accreditation program that helps facilities demonstrate that they have the work practices, procedures and protocols to prepare, respond, and recover from outbreaks and pandemics". Read more about it here.

The Cellar
2F Grand Hyatt Manila (beside The Grand Kitchen)
8th Avenue cor. 35th St., Taguig City
Lunch: 12:00PM - 2:30PM | Dinner: 6:00PM - 11:00PM | 
drinks available 12:00PM - 11:00PM
Dress code: smart casual
Reservations are recommended.
Private rooms available for groups of 4 to 8
Budget: PhP2,500 up

Have you been dining out a lot? How was your experience? Have you tried The Cellar at the Grand Hyatt Manila?

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