A spacious, dimly lit restaurant with a setting that is in between fine dining and casual, but still has that cozy vibe—that’s the old Casa Marcos that I remember. It used to be one of our family’s favorite restaurants back then, as it was our go-to place to satisfy our cravings for mouth-watering steak. We always used to order steak ala pobre, and my parents also loved the pan de sal. My mom cannot forget how crusty it was on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. Food can really evoke a myriad of memories, and Casa Marcos gave us a lot of nice ones.
Casa Marcos is famous for its bread
The culinary world was never the same when Casa Marcos went out of the scene in 2000. It was one of the oldest restaurants in the country, having been around since 1945. Casa Marcos was an institution.
The new face of Casa Marcos
It was a pleasant surprise to see that it re-opened last February along Burgos Circle at Fort Bonifacio. Although it is smaller now and has a different setting, it still serves the classic favorites that Casa Marcos is known for. Of course my family and I couldn’t wait to try it out so we had lunch there one day.
Casa Marcos: Then and now
The restaurant had an al fresco section but we decided to eat more comfortably in the air-conditioned area. The first thing I noticed as we entered the place was the bar counter located at the ground floor. There were more tables upstairs to accommodate bigger groups, but it would be best to arrive early or maybe call ahead to reserve to be guaranteed a table, as the space is limited.
The bar area at the ground floor
Unlike the old Casa Marcos, the new one looked more simple and laid back. The wooden theme seemed apparent throughout the restaurant’s interiors and furnishings. The warm muted brown tones of the interiors and the occasional brick décor made the restaurant more welcoming and comfortable.
The second floor dining area
As we were given the menu, I noticed that the history of Casa Marcos was written on the first page. I’ve always wondered who “Marcos” was. I found out that Señor Marcos de Guisasola was a true-blue Spanish national who decided to open a restaurant during the 1940s. When he had to go back to Spain, he passed the business on to one of the restaurant’s loyal patrons, Ben del Rosario. The one running the restaurant now is Jigger Galvez, who is from the clan’s third generation already. I had a chance to meet him on a separate occasion and learned the unabridged story from the owner himself. He manages the place with his business partner, Kevin Khoe.
It was through their other business venture called The Bread Bag, where the idea of reviving Casa Marcos was taken more seriously mainly because of the clamoring of the customers. Luckily, Jigger kept a copy of the old menu and his family has perfected the recipes from Casa Marcos throughout the years. He was also able to find the original cook from back then.
Traditional Spanish fare and more
My three-year-old niece enjoyed the basket of complimentary soft dinner rolls. It was warm when it was served with some butter. For former patrons of the old Casa Marcos, a menu is not even necessary to order. Old customers would know the must-haves already. One of the bestsellers is the Almejas (P190), which are baked clams that are topped with melted cheese and crunchy garlic bits. The melted cheese provides a creamy component that complements the savory garlic morsels. This is one dish you shouldn’t miss. Another must-try appetizer is the Gambas (P235) or otherwise known as garlic shrimps. If you like garlic, you should get a bite of the garlic clove to accompany the shrimp.
Each of us had a different order for the main dish so we can taste our favorites from before. One of us had to get steak because our Casa Marcos experience just wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t order it. It was my older sister who ordered the local Tenderloin Steak (P450) that was cooked in oil and garlic and served with a side of veggies. The meat was cooked perfectly—brown on the outside and with a little hint of pink on the inside. It was tender to the bite and juicy as well. The garlic toppings gave that familiar flavor that we have come to associate with Casa Marcos. Steak orders do not come with rice; you may order it separately, but we decided to get some Paella Valenciana (P460) to share.
Tenderloin Steak ala pobre
The paella was a meal in itself. The hearty rice that is seasoned with paprika was peppered with toppings like chorizo, chicken, clams, green peas, bell pepper, and slices of lemon. It looked like the chef didn’t scrimp on the sauce for the paella either. The serving size is good for approximately four people or so. Take note—this takes a bit long to order so do decide early if you want to.
The other dishes worth sampling are the Kalderetang Baka (P295), which is beef stew with spicy tomato sauce. The beef here is fork tender and best eaten with just good ol’ plain rice. Another notable dish is the Lengua Sevillana (P295), a somewhat exotic dish that is made with ox tongue cooked in mushroom gravy sauce. It’s another very tender meat dish that’s ideal to eat with either plain or garlic rice.
Seafood lovers need not worry since Casa Marcos has some good seafood dishes. One of the specialties is the Baked Fish (P395)—either pampano or lapu-lapu, which comes with fresh slices of onions and tomatoes. Another light and healthy option is the Fish Moliniere (P295) that is actually fish fillet cooked in a delicious butter sauce and then served with fried potatoes, blanched tomatoes and mushrooms.
Healthy Baked Fish
It was another gastronomic feast for us on that fateful day we ate at the new Casa Marcos. Next time, I’ll go there during nighttime. I hear it turns into a bar later at night after the dining crowd has come and gone. I guess it’s about time that I make a new set of good food memories.