IT'S always exciting to start something completely new, but sometimes it makes more sense to rekindle the past.
That seems to be the idea behind Casa Amparito, a mingled revival of the former Pino’s classic Filipino ambience and of the celebrated Amparito’s Continental Cuisine, a restaurant located in Mango Avenue that made a big splash in the ‘80s and early ‘90s.
As the name suggests, grand dame Amparito Lhuillier herself is at the helm. Of her former restaurant in ‘80s, she says, “We were always full then, so I want to bring it back.”
Her husband challenged her to revamp the old Pino, and she readily accepted. With Pino as the backdrop and Amparito’s Continental Cuisine as her inspiration, the indefatigable Mrs. Lhuillier sought to revive the best of her gastronomic exploits, selectively recreating what was memorable and notable in both ventures.
It took a year and a half of careful planning and selection of the right team before the entire concept was set. The impressive lineup is led by general manager Marina Codina, an internationally trained restaurateur with degrees from the Hotel Consult in Brig, Switzerland and the Schiller International School in London, as well as a diploma in culinary arts from Le Cordon Bleu in London.
Chef Dino Guingona was handpicked by Amparito, having already worked as the executive chef in her son Charles’s restaurant in Manila, Brasserie Boheme. Chef Guingona has vast international experience, with a culinary arts degree from the California Culinary Academy and a stint at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. Upon his return to the Philippines, he put up his own culinary school, Moderne Culinaire Academy.
Chef Guingona’s contribution to the menu is unmistakable. He has introduced exotic flavors and unique experiences including stuffed crocodile and ostrich steak. For the less adventurous, the restaurant has kept the former Pino’s all-time bestsellers such
as the crispy pata, laing and the tenderloin steak.
During the launch, heavy cocktails were served, featuring a sampler of the restaurant’s extensive menu, including balut a la pobre with roasted nuts and crispy garlic sauce, laing in phyllo pastry, Casa Amparito seafood kilawin, crispy pork binagoongan, sashimi and even Chinese dim sum.
Reflective of the Filipino’s eclecticism, Casa Amparito is a unique experience and a must-try. The interiors of the restaurant itself are a study in contrasts: while the main dining room retains the antique Filipino design of the former Pino, the piano bar is a modern lounge in stark white with coral-shaped chandeliers in flaming red.
Like the lady of the house, there is a hint of the bold and unpredictable, yet like her too, even the unpredictable can turn into a classic. (Michelle Varron)