Monday , May 21, 2018

Palermo for the palate

PALERMO is Plantation Bay Resort’s Italian fine dining place, open only during evenings. One enters it through a wide doorway and is greeted by soft background music. The lights, from chandeliers, complete the mellow mood for fine dining. There’s a silent piano to the side as one enters, and behind it, an alcove with glass windows realistically painted with grape vines. At the opposite end of the entrance is a huge Galicano painting of two women, which seems to look over a table ready for guests to occupy.

The restaurant menu can be overwhelming. If the restaurant’s executive chef, Dario Roxas, happens to be around, he will gladly help diners and surprise them with a menu guaranteed to satisfy the most discriminating of palates, even if one specifies no steaks, please.

The drinks are the only things one has to order while the chef cooks up his surprise. Plantation Bay has in all its outlets what it calls its Power Drink, which is a drink made with fruits and vegetables of one’s choice. It could be a drink with pineapple, cucumber and malunggay, or carrot, ginger and calamansi, or whatever else one may fancy. They’re all good and filled with nutrients, hence the term.

Soon enough, Chef Dario came up with the first of his appetizers: Spicy gambas, prawns with parsley, chilis and white wine, cooked in olive oil and chorizo oil (the last is what makes it taste unlike any other gambas one may have tasted). Then more appetizers: Bruschettas, the topping made with sauted diced tomatoes, basil and onions in olive oil on focaccia bread; roasted bell peppers in olive oil which is spicy sweet; and Jamon Bellota which, to quote is “made from free-range Iberian pigs fattened on acorns and cured for up to three years. This is regarded by many as the finest ham in the world. It costs five times more than Jamon Serrano, but it is offered here at special price so more guests can enjoy this very rare treat.” Indeed, the ham was a rare treat, almost melt-in the-mouth and delicately flavored.

Chef Dario came up next with Ensalada Italiana, which has refreshing salad greens, aromatic herbs, virgin olive oil with lemon dressing. The resort is particularly proud of the arugula in this salad, which is from farmers the resort partnered with in Cantimpla. The arugula served was as fresh as fresh can be.

For the main course, Chef Dario served not one but three pastas: pappardelle, made with home-made flat noodles, chicken breast, porcini mushroom, leeks and mascarpone cheese. These were really delicious. And so were the Spaghettini al Nero, with squid ink pasta, mussels, shrimps and pepperoncino and Linguini Alle Vongole, which is linguini with clams and white sauce.

What’s a meal without dessert? Chef Dario made sure his guests would taste the best in the house: the Italian classic dessert tiramisu, Stonehenge Fudge which is presented like a mini Stonehenge made with Belgian chocolate and coconut cream bars, and, best of all, Gellato Alla Menta which is mint ice cream with chocolate chips in an almond basket (the basket is deliciously edible too).

That was a really pleasant way to end a fine Italian meal. The meal was so good, one forgot to order Italian coffee.