I am not much of a drinker. In fact, I doubt if I can even classify myself a drinker at all. Clubbing rarely appeals to me unless the company's real great. And of the relatively few times I find myself in a bar, I am almost never seen with more than one drink on hand -- you know, that one drink served free and sayang to decline. Miss goody two-shoes, I am indeed.
Having said that, you may find it odd that I'm writing about Celsius Gastrolounge - one of the latest bars among many rooting in Quezon City. I may rarely appreciate the smoke, the buzz and the drinks of party places, but good food, which I found at Celsius, is and will always be a different story.
Celebrities frequent, partyphiles recommend, and chefs approve of this new concept bar on Scout Rallos. Chef Sean McSavaney, an ISCAHM instructor and one of the share-holders of the restaurant described Celsius Gastrolounge as their humble attempt to roll posh ambiance, great food, and good drinks in one. "Fine dining, at a very reasonable price," he explains.
And posh it really was. The two-floor restaurant sitting a few blocks shy from the bustling Tomas Morato bedazzles in comparison to its humble residential neighbors and the folksy canteen in front of it. My friend and I braved the lunch traffic to this place. "I hope this is good," we said to ourselves before we walked in.
Upon entering the dim dining space, the fluorescent-lit open kitchen at the other end immediately demanded our attention, as if inviting to the us to peek first and see some kitchen action. If not for the greater appeal of comfort offered by the cream-colored cushioned seats, we might have found it hard to resist looking.
I am sure I'm not the only one who agrees that a decently designed restobar is a dime a dozen here in the metro. The beautiful interiors immediately gained our approval - a sign that we're far away from overly breaded calamari and hot-sauce dunked chicken wings type of food that rule in presumably half of the restobars in the area.
And thank heavens we're right. Among their menu (which is helpfully organized into the courses), we picked the Sesame Coated Prawn and Lemongrass Aioli (P225) and the Seafood Putanesca Pasta (P395), both of which are said to be relatively popular.
Sesame Coated Prawn and Lemongrass Aioli
We were served a deconstructed salad impeccably arranged on the rectangular plate. Two deep fried prawns, pimpled with black and white toasted sesame sat on the far left. Mesclun greens took the center position, while a sliced tomato took the rest of the space.
I wasn't really that attracted to sesame until I tasted this. The ingenious use of the seeds as breading gave it a different spunk and redefined tempura. That, and the mostly sweet Asian dressing used for the greens pretty much defined the dish already.
Our main course, which we intended to be light, came right after our salad was swept clean. The fragrant capers wafted so strongly even before the dish was put down in front of us. That somehow assured us of a flavorful meal to come.
Seafood Putanesca Pasta
Served in a huge plate, the pasta mix indeed stood out. The bountiful jumble of scallops, shrimps, squid, and fish is entangled among the black and white fettuccine and topped with another tomato half and carrot strips.
As expected, the dish as a whole tasted as varied and vibrant as it looked. Capers were all over, hence the sour flavor. But the anchovies and olives kicked in every so often, thus the variety factor in flavor, making it not 'nakakaumay.'
Satisfied, we decided to order what seemed a strangely crafted dessert: Curacao soaked Baba with Lemongrass Panna Cotta and Coconut Shaved Ice (P150). We have long been food lovers and restaurant hoppers but no extent of our imagination were we able to picture how all of those would combine into one edible dessert. Coconut and curacao for one's strange... we wonder how everything else will fit in.
Curacao Soaked Baba with Lemongrass Panna Cotta and Ginger Coconut Shaved Ice
Our curiosity was answered when we were served with the same rectangular plate, where three separate desserts are placed. After our "aaaahs" and "oooohs," we dug into the prettiest among the three: Curacao Soaked Baba.
Curacao Soaked Baba
This eye candy, to put it simply, is a fruity spongecake - kind of what you'd get when you soak a spongecake into an extra sweet shot of orange syrup. Being sweet and citrusy at the same time, we found this perfect tastebud cleanser after our savory pasta meal.
I decided to skip the Coconut Shaved Ice, after my friend, who tried it first related how this would click with salabat (ginger brew) lovers with its strong taste. I'm no salabat lover, so, no thank you to that item.
I proceeded tasting the Lemongrass Panna Cotta, which I found as my perfect meal ender. Light and subtle, the dessert further subdued the also strong saccharine flavor of the baba.
Lemongrass Panna Cotta
And just like how good girls are ought to be, the alcohol came in after we've filled ourselves up with food. We headed to the main bar upstairs to get ourselves a little kick at the end of the meal: Blue Navel (P130).
Our Celsius feast ended fairly well, with us sitting comfortably on the stools, sipping our tropical drinks and admiring the well-designed bar. How we wish all party places were like this, with plenty (and not to mention remarkable) of food choices downstairs, and variegated kick-ass drinks and pulutan (their hoppers/frog legs, I have yet to try!) for upstairs. If bars were just like this, I may find myself frequenting them one night at a time.