Excellence is not achieved overnight. It is something that takes time and dedication to attain. And once it’s pulled off, maintaining it is a challenge. After more than three decades in the industry, excellence is something that Cowrie Grill has got down pat. Opened in 1977 as the Manila Hotel’s flagship restaurant, it has managed to sustain a level of merit that like fine wine, only gets better with age.
In 2011, the Cowrie Grill closed to make way for Café Ilang-Ilang. Last November 5, 2013 it was re-launched in the Greenhills Promenade to bring it closer to valued clients. It was a little difficult to find as we expected it to be at the front of the Promenade. A bit of walking and going around helped us discover that it sits at the back. Just follow the sounds of construction and walk past Uncle Cheffy and J.Co, turn left, and you’ll find it there in all its splendor. Before going in, I marveled at the name Cowrie Grill embossed in gold letters. Just the name oozes sophistication. I stepped in the restaurant and my eyes immediately went to the wall of shells on either side of the entrance. The interiors are, in fact, decorated with thousands of cowrie shells. The place is elegant but not intimidating with touches of local flair here and there.
A rebirth: Cowrie Grill opens at the Greenhills Promenade
Immediately after we sat down, our attentive waitress placed cloth napkins on our laps and gave us a bag stool for our belongings. All throughout the meal the staff displayed their superb aptitude for service.
Our five-course meal started with a serving of chilled butter with a selection of different breads. The butter came in two tasty flavors, Sundried Tomato and Mixed Herb.
After a bit of a wait, it was followed by a bowl of Fresh Mushroom Cappuccino Soup with Brie Croutons (P250). It was warm, a little gritty and overall pleasant with just a whisper of bitterness at the back of the tongue.
Fresh Mushroom Cappuccino Soup with Brie Croutons
A Maitre’d Caesar Salad (P290 / P460 with prawns) came afterwards. Truth be told, it tasted like your everyday, average Caesar salad. What made it extra special was the table side preparation. A specially trained staff makes the dressing from scratch while you watch. A total of 15 ingredients are carefully layered and mixed inside a wooden salad bowl. Minced garlic, anchovies, mustard, egg yolks, olive oil, salt, freshly ground pepper, bacon bits, just to name a few. The garlic is spread on the bottom of the bowl and its flavor shines through. So much so that it becomes a tad overpowering at times. But a Caesar salad is a Caesar salad. It’s clean, fresh and, in this case, very interesting to watch.
Maitre’d Caesar Salad
What came after the salad course drew a collective gasp from the crowd as it was being carted into the dining area. We were treated to a whole, roasted prime rib of U.S. Angus Beef. Cowrie Grill is, after all, renowned for its steaks. For a meat lover like myself, it was a truly magnificent sight to behold. Executive Chef Michael So Chan himself carved and portioned the meat. We were each served a 10oz. slice that I thought I could easily finish but I was sadly mistaken. I was a few bites short of consuming the whole thing. The Roast U.S Angus Beef, Prime Rib (P1, 800 New York Cut, 14 oz. / P1,400 English Cut 10 oz.) is served with a side of baked potato, vegetables and a trio of sauces (mushroom, béarnaise, and peppercorn).
Scene stealer: Whole roasted prime rib of U.S. Angus Beef
The steak was perfectly cooked to my preference (rare to medium rare). It was soft and tender with just the right amount of fat to keep it interesting. A prominent figure in the food industry who was seated in the table next to mine remarked that it was the best steak that he’s ever had in the Metro. I couldn’t agree more. Personally, I prefer steak served au jus but I gave the sauces a try as well and was most impressed by the peppercorn one. The slice of Gratin Potato (P220 a la carte) that came with the steak was nothing short of heavenly. Creamy and cheesy, perfectly baked and layered potato slices that glide smoothly along the tongue before it melts into an unforgettable food memory.
Served with Gratin Potato
The meal ended with another spectacle. Flambéed Baked Alaska (P420) was prepared tableside. We oohed and ahhed as we watched flaming brandy tossed from ladle to ladle. Strawberry and vanilla ice cream is wrapped in chiffon cake which is then wrapped in meringue and then promptly set on fire. Not only was it fun to watch, it was fun to eat as well.
Flambéed Baked Alaska
Cowrie Grill is the kind of place you visit when you want to experience dining at its finest. Manila Hotel’s Executive Vice President Dr. Enrique Yap said that, “We are offering intimate dining experiences – something that makes our patrons sit up and notice. Something that commands attention, is thoughtfully made, and is created with great attention to detail – similar to what people experience at Manila Hotel. At Cowrie Grill, we look forward to making every minute of our guests’ visit nothing short of exceptional and memorable.” And that, in a nutshell, perfectly describes the Cowrie Grill experience.