I still remember this interview that former MTV VJ, G Toengi had with Latin sensation, Ricky Martin. When G finished her spiel, which was spoken in Filipino, Ricky commented that the language is laced by some Spanish words. Well Ricky Martin, that’s just tip of the iceberg. The Spanish culture is so deeply ingrained in the Philippine culture, traces of it are still highly evident to this date. It’s in the names of the people – Julio, Cruz, Ricardo; name of places – Estrella, Geronimo, Guadalupe; language – para, importante, muebles; and also in the food – afritada, arroz caldo, menudo. Even so, I have yet to meet someone to answer Spanish when asked for his favorite cuisine. In fact, go ahead and try asking some people, I bet your A you’d get Italian, Thai, Japanese or Chinese. Now take these people to Alqueria Tapas, Paellas Y Bistecas and then ask them the same question again.
Alqueria, formerly known as Boqueria, is one of the latest ventures of the SumoSam Group of Restaurants also known as the group where actor, Marvin Agustin is one of the founders. Alqueria in Spanish means “farmhouse,” so I was sort of expecting the place to look like a farmhouse. What I came to though is a posh-looking space that uses dark hues, pale lighting, gold-tinged wallpaper, and plush seating arrangement. There is even an open kitchen where you can see the apron-clad crew busy wielding some gastronomy magic.
One of Alqueria’s specialties is the tapas. I was able to sample three of them starting with Gambas Al Ajillo (PHP375), it’s fresh white river shrimps sauteed in olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and paprika finished with white wine and butter. Shrimp makes me thankful I am not allergic to seafood, in short, I love shrimps. Despite knowing there were other dishes ahead I couldn’t help myself from picking gamba off the hot plate. It has a strong garlicky and peppery taste.
Salpicao (PHP 445) is cubes of sautéed imported tenderloin marinated with garlic, Spanish paprika, and olive oil. I picked and gobbled a piece and thought, so this is how Salpicao should be like. I couldn’t count the times I had the same dish before and couldn’t distinguish it from adobo. Apparently, Salpicao should be generous in garlic and it should be swimming in olive oil not soy sauce. The next time I see a Salpicao that doesn’t look or taste anything the way Alqueria’s version is, I’ll send the cook a picture of this.
Because the plate of Pulpo a la Gallega (PHP 288) was sitting away from me, I almost missed the opportunity to taste what I believe to be, the best tapas there is. The word is “almost,” because fortunately I had the mind to extend my reach on the other side of the table.
Octopus gratin topped with mashed potatoes and manchego cheese. You read that right, octopus, and I swear I didn’t know that octopus could taste this good. It has a strong cheesy flavor and if you’d been paying attention in my previous posts, you should know already that I love cheese. A thin layer of mashed potatoes sits beneath the plate. It made this tapas more interesting because the potatoes absorbed the flavor of the spices. If there is one thing you shouldn’t miss at Alqueria, it’s this dish.
The tapas are served with bread.
For the bistecas category, I was able to try Prime Ribs Solo (PHP 1,499). It was cooked medium rare so you could see a tinge of pink in the meat. I personally prefer my steak cooked well done so I wasn’t able to fully appreciate this dish. Even so, the meat is quite flavorful and juicy.
Now let’s talk paella, the most famous dish in Spanish cuisine, or the only dish that I know of Spanish cuisine, hahaha… We were served two kinds of paella, first one is the Paella Valenciana Grande (Small: PHP 560/ Medium: PHP910/Large: PHP 1,480); simmered rice in saffron-infused stock topped with clams, mussels, shrimps, and chicken.
Paella del Carne (Small: PHP 480/Medium: PHP 715/Large: PHP 1,150) is simmered rice in saffron-infused stock topped with chorizo, chicken, smoked bacon and pork spareribs. The chorizo flavor is strong in the aroma and the taste of this paella. This may appeal more to the meat lovers but to compare it with Valenciana, I personally favor the latter.
If you love lechon you will definitely love Vientre Extra (PHP 905). It’s pork belly (slow roasted for four hours) and fork tender meat topped with gremolata served with a side of fresh greens. Go easy on this though because aside from the fact that it’s pork, the dish is quite oily.
Caldereta Cabrito is the least noticed dish on the table, just because we were already full. I still managed to taste it a little bit and I wasn’t disappointed. The sauce is very rich and the meat is so dainty, a hint of effort given during its cooking.
For drinks, there’s Cinnamon Iced Tea (PHP 98), served on a mason jar and comes with thin slices of apple.
And there’s the very refreshing Mango Shake, which I find to be a bit insipid and watery. Given the fact that the food that we had is not shy with flavors, I was able to appreciate the Mango Shake.
Apparently, the Spaniards know how to make delicious desserts. Let’s begin with their most famous offering, the Churros (Classic: PHP 158/Chocolate: PHP 198) served with valor chocolate. Churros are deep-fried and dusted with cinnamon and sugar, best eaten with chocolate dip. Alqueria’s version is compact compared with those that I’ve tried in the past.
Crema Catalana (PHP 138) is a classic Spanish dessert made with custard and caramel sauce. To describe, it’s kinda like the uncondensed version of crème brulee. There is something distinct about the taste though, which I figured to be mint. So those mint leaves on top of this dessert isn’t merely meant for presentation purposes.
And the best dessert of the night goes to, Canonigo (PHP 218). It’s a Filipino version of the French dessert ‘ile flottante or oeufs a la neige, baked meringue with caramel and candied bananas. It’s like brazo de mercedez without the custard filling. Normally, I have issues with desserts that cost more than a hundred bucks but for Canonigo I’d gladly make an exemption. It is light and fluffy and melts in the mouth. Quite delightful and unforgettable. You must order this for desserts when you visit Alqueria.
If you prefer light flavors, then the Spanish cuisine is not for you, but if the robust essence pleases your palate then the Spanish cooking may just be your next favorite. And if you are looking for a little Spanish cuisine 101, I highly recommend that you let Alqueria help you with it.
Alqueria Tapas, Paellas Y Bistecas
3/F Mega Fashion Hall,
SM Megamall, Ortigas
Telephone no.: (02) 246-9069 ext. 100