As we all scramble to plan our holiday gatherings with our nearest and dearest, we’re all hard-pressed to find the best place to enjoy a memorable meal with those we love. If you’re looking for an extra special location for a dinner date, an intimate family reunion, or any formal occasion, it’s always good to turn to famed restaurants that have satisfied the most distinguished palates.
One of the establishments that can claim to have given birth to such iconic dining destinations is The Manila Hotel, whose premier steakhouse, Cowrie Grill, first opened in 1997 and continues to be a preferred spot for diners 20 years later in its new location in Greenhills. In 2011, the iconic Cowrie Grill gave way to the expansion and renovation of the hotel’s Café Ilang-Ilang, an international buffet restaurant. However, with its strong following, its reopening was but inevitable: It was relaunched in 2013 at its new home in Promenade as an off-site restaurant managed by The Manila Hotel. Its new location is central to its clientele and has further expanded the hotel’s reach.
Since attending the opening in Greenhills back in 2013, I was only able to return a few weeks ago, and I’m glad I did: I’m currently looking for places to suggest for holiday dinners, and its delicious steak and signature dishes coupled with luxurious interiors make it a great venue for romantic dates and special family gatherings.
The restaurant retains the Grand Dame’s iconic lavish display of original cowrie shells cast in a soft amber glow, further adding a dramatic touch to its lighting fixtures. This beautiful backdrop and understated elegance make for a dining experience to remember.
Must-try set menu, outstanding tableside service
Dining at Cowrie Grill is a gastronomical journey with its signature premier steak selections and seafood favorites. Start with the Fresh Mushroom Cappuccino (P310), then order a signature main dish, such as the US Angus Beef Rib (P1,600) or classic combinations such as the Surf and Turf (steak with seafood, P2,300). Cap off a fine meal with the Baked Alaska (P420), a classic favorite dessert that is flambéed artfully as you watch before it is served.
The best way to experience the best of Cowrie Grill is to avail of their Set Menu, which includes Soup (choice of French Onion Soup or Fresh Mushroom Cappuccino), their special Deconstructed Maitre D’Caesar Salad, Main Course (choice of Surf and Turf A, with slipper lobster tail and Angus beef rib; or Surf and Turf B, with sea bass and Angus beef rib; both are at P2,550 net and served with mixed mushroom risotto, baked garlic, and garden vegetables), and their famous Dessert, Baked Alaska. They also offer coffee or tea along with chocolate crinkles at the end of the meal.
Fresh Mushroom Cappuccino
I had the Fresh Mushroom Cappuccino, made of wild mushroom and truffle foam, served with a slice of crispy bread. It’s light tasting with a rich texture and a certain smokiness to it. The truffle flavor is just a hint.
Caesar Salad, prepared table-side
The Deconstructed Maitre D’Caesar Salad is quite a spectacle created by their Maitre D’ Arthur, who boasts that he makes the best Caesar dressing, right beside our table while we watch. I may have to agree. He also warns weight watchers who think that Caesar salad is diet friendly: It’s not. Again, I have to agree since I saw just how much olive oil is poured into that dressing. But if you really just want to eat a salad you can enjoy, this is it, as you’ll see and taste for yourself all the fresh ingredients that make up the rich and thick sauce that’s not runny like other instant Caesar salad dressing. It also has egg yolk, salt, and pepper to keep the flavor interesting and savory. The table-side preparation is social media-friendly, too. The salad itself is made of Romaine lettuce, capers, grated parmesan, a strip of bacon, buttered bread stick, and baby tomato in a bread ring. I enjoyed this with a glass of sauvignon blanc.
Plating of the Maitre D’Caesar Salad, Deconstructed
For my main, I chose Surf And Turf B, since I haven’t had sea bass in a while. The little cube of fish was light and fresh-tasting; the fish meat is sweet, while the skin is savory. I enjoyed eating it with the creamy mixed mushroom risotto, which was likewise cooked perfectly, with just the right texture, and it was neither runny nor dry. You can really taste various mushroom flavors. For this meal alone, the price tag of the set menu is definitely worth it, as the portioning is great. The huge slab of delicious Angus beef rib will definitely fill you up. I got mine with medium doneness, and it was tender, juicy, and flavorful, even without sauce. But I still enjoyed trying it with all three sauces served with it: peppercorn, Bearnaise, and the light and creamy mushroom sauce. The peppercorn sauce is my favorite because it complements the steak best and it’s the most savory of the three, with a hint of spice that enhanced the steak’s flavor. The Bearnaise was very creamy yet had a hint of acidity from white wine vinegar, which balanced out the palate. Order a glass of red wine to complement your steak!
Surf And Turf B: sea bass and Angus beef rib
No matter how full you are after the main course, you have to leave room for Baked Alaska, which is both a visual treat and a delight to eat! This dessert made of sponge cake and strawberry-vanilla ice cream covered in strawberry compote and browned meringue is flambéed with brandy right by your table, and it’s a real fire show! Consuming it is also quite the experience, as it’s warm on the outside, cold inside, sweet and sinful and delectable through and through. It’s not cloying, however, and the brandy actually balances out the sweetness rather than overwhelm you. I personally loved tasting the brandy in this one, as it gives the dessert a kick similar to that of my favorite fruit cake.
It’s actually Cowrie Grill’s renowned tableside service that makes dining at the restaurant extraordinary. Specific dishes are prepared with flair in the midst of diners for a sensorial treat like no other. If you enjoy this kind of dining experience, ask them when their next Flambé Night will be held.
Baked Alaska, flambéed table-side
You would think Baked Alaska is the sweet note to end your evening, but they actually serve decadent chocolate crinkles with your choice of coffee or tea for your night cap. You have a choice of chamomile, lemon & ginger, and peppermint if you want tea. I loved how soothing the lemon & ginger tea is, like it’s something you’d drink in a spa. I was immediately relaxed, I wish I could go to bed right after.
Every Thursday, the Cowrie Grill offers its Beef Rib Rush promotional initiative. It’s a carnivore’s dream, with all-you-can-eat premier Angus beef ribs, available for lunch and dinner at P3,500 net per person. A standard side dish is included.
Cowrie Grill is located at the new wing of the Promenade Shopping Center, Missouri St., Greenhills, San Juan City. For reservations and inquiries, call (632) 527 0011 ext 1262 to 1264 or 463 1993. You may also visit the hotel’s website.