Admit it. You have, once or twice, suffered from the "Hoity-toity Restaurant Panic Attack Syndrome." For those who have memories of regularly having their childhood cereals, pancackes, and omelets in Ritz Carlton or, okay, even Manila Hotel, and have trotted halfway around the world at the tender age of seven, kindly skip this part. You, clearly, are too sophisticated for this humble intro of mine.
You know, the time when you've finally walked into the restaurant-- that one you've saved up for a couple of months. You were welcomed and escorted by the host to your reserved table. It felt good, right? You instantly felt very important. You've waited long enough for that ultimate occasion that would justify a dinner worth a good portion of your paycheck. The excessively polished wait staff handed over the phone book-sized menu; you obliged and browsed through it. After making up your mind, you opened your mouth, and bam! You froze. You already Googled how mirepoix and concassé are pronounced before the date, but you panicked that the eloquent waiter will laugh and shoo you out when you say it wrongly. But, you somehow managed to utter your order softly for him to note. You felt proud that he didn't correct you. You've got them skills in French! You looked at the well-set table and shrugged at the sight of the 8 pairs of utensils. You knew that you're supposed to work your way inwards as your as your meal progresses. Easy. Until... the wait staff returned and handed you another menu. The wine menu. Oh no. You forgot to allocate a budget for this. You politely browse through the, again, phonebook-long, list of wines when in truth, you're only looking for the price with the least number of digits. Your supposedly good dining experience has been riddled with so much worry that early. Is that what they call fine dining?
Well, yes. Sort of. But don't worry. You'll get over it in time. I did.
I admit, though, that it took me many a luncheon to get over that chi chi restaurant panic attack. But I wouldn't say I've already mastered "fine" dining just yet. Truth is, I still feel hesitant every time I get invites to formal events, cocktails, and ahh, my least favorite of all: wine tasting parties. Aside from the fact that my wardrobe isn't in the likes of what's required for those occasions, I just am not excited for a toothpicked ham as much as I am for, say, a gooey super-sized pizza. Plus, I always feel conscious dining in that set-up. So imagine my reaction (or the lack thereof) when I was invited by a friend to check out the newly-launched Muruve(pronounced 'Moo-roo-veh').
From the mention of that name alone, my mind instantly pictured people swirling some wine glasses while biting off teeny-tiny sausages from the toothpick skewers. "What's that?" I asked my friend. "A restaurant and wine bar," she replied. Is my intuition great or what? I was tempted to conjure an excuse right away. My dog is sick or something. Thankfully, I managed to ask one more question, whose answer would eventually interest me enough to check it. "Where's it?" "Sa Ortigas Home Depot daw." Now, I'm a fan of that complex simply because it houses a great selection of restos and bars. I love that on one end, I can eat a haute version of the lowly, but much-loved, pandesal (See Bea's feature on Bread Bag Pandesal Bar) and on the other, binge on the awesomeness that is the Buffalo Wings And Things. There's a Thai kitchen, a beer haven, and an 80's themed bar, and a whole lot more of interesting concepts the yuppies from Ortigas enjoy. Who on their right mind will open up a wine bar in a place where San Mig buckets reign? It was then that I decided to investigate further and pay the brave wine bar a visit.
I've been in the Home Depot area a couple of times already so I thought we'll easily locate Muruve. Together with my friend, we went through each of the mini-streets looking for it. Onto the last street, I asked her, "Are you sure it's in "Ortigas Home Depot?" She nodded. We were on the last street in the complex-- the farthest from the main home depot. The sight of the side by side stalls which mostly sold auto parts wasn't that encouraging. We figured that if we continue further, we'll be back to the parking area where we first started. And at last, the last space before we reach the parking had "Muruve By Pino" hanging high atop. On it's entrance, a tarp read "Now Open" "In front of Pier One" We turned our heads to the building embraced by vines. Oh, so there's Pier One.
I was glad as soon as I stepped inside, not because it was strikingly beautiful, but because its interior wasn't as bare as how it appeared outside. I get the intention of the owners of wanting Muruve's customers feel like they're inside a wine cellar. The terracotta-colored paint, bricked wall, and ceiling to floor wine display racks gave that impression.
I'm only concerned, though, how most wines are left out there in the open. I'm no sommelier but aren't they supposed to be kept in a controlled environment? I hope that a) I'm wrong and not all wines require that special treatment; b) they keep the place air conditioned 24/7; or c) they store them someplace else at the end of the day.
A bottle can go as low as P445
As soon as I got over that concern, I seated myself and the friendly waiter approached the table. I asked if the "by Pino" in the name refers to Pino in Malingap St. (they were in Maginhawa before) Quezon City. He nodded in accordance. So the question I've posted earlier (Who in their right mind will open up a wine bar in a place where San Mig buckets reign?) has been answered. Muruve is Chef Edward Bugia and his team's other venture. I love Pino, now Muruve's up to some high expectations.
Just like in Pino, artworks add a dash of playfulness to the resto's walls
First ordered was Jalapeño Cheese Sticks with Chili Guava Sauce (P210), which we shared as appetizer. I've been craving for Murray and D'vine's Jalapeño Tempura ever since I tasted them, and this being listed in their menu reminded me of that craving. Naturally, I ordered for it.
The 8 pieces of finger-long cheese sticks that are arranged in a stack reminded me of Pino Choco Turon, dressed playfully the same way. I wonder if Chef Ed played Jenga a lot during his childhood.
Jalapeño Cheese Sticks with Chili Guava Sauce
At a glance, the serving looked more than what we usually get for appetizers. But the moment we started on what we thought of as an unassuming dish, we hardly stopped! Each piece was like a dynamite. Upon first bite, the soft cheese which occupied the bigger space in the roll proved itself endearing, but come the end of the wick, the bang of the jalapeño blew us away. Its accompanying guava sauce, thick, sweet and fruity, was also inventive enough to add a whole new dimension to the already dynamic dish. Needless to say, we finished off all 8 of them.
Since we ate more than what we planned for our appetizer, we decided to order and split the Paella Negra (P380).
Muruve's Paella Negra is entirely different from the rest of the paellas I've tried before. Actually, it echoes Italian risotto more than Spanish Paella. Someone who takes their "Spanish-Filipino" fusion menu strictly might give this a raised brow. But pass that technicality, one would discover a dish that is impossibly moist and indulgent. In my book, paellas are meant to be soul-warming and nourishing. Muruve's Paella Negra was, so I've got no reason not to approve of it.
Since Muruve is a wine cellar, we of course needed to try their wines right? But I suggested to postpone wine pairing for the next visit as soon as I'm able to pull Chef Ed from his hectic schedule.
It took a week or so before we went back. Thank God we're past the "seek for Muruve stage," and we very easily found Chef Ed in the resto. It has been a long time since I've met him at Pino roughly two years ago. Over some glasses of his recommended Kumala Wine, we refreshed ourselves on the progress of his first venture, Pino, and talked about his vision for Muruve.
"Wine shouldn't be just for "fine dining," you know," Chef Ed said when asked why run a wine bar in a complex frequented by beer-loving barkadas. "We want to bring wine closer to people. We want them to think that wine is for every day dining. You can see how low-priced our wines naman," he added. It was my turn then to relate how I really don't see the joy in too-stiff wine parties. I'm almost allergic to them, I mutter. My list of favorites comprises of food that I find comforting, ones that are usually shared with people close to my heart. By the way he speaks of Muruve being a very casual wine place, I'm pretty sure he shares my point.
Halfway through the wine, which was great by the way, I looked around Muruve and was happy to be proven wrong. The relatively young crowd on the other table, which painted typical picture of a barkada having fun, proved to me that not all wine parties need to be formal, boring, and pricey. I'm glad that I've worked past my wrong stereotyping, and sought Muruve. They have wines, yes, but Muruve is not your typical "stay away from me, I'm too fine for you" dining. Wine prices are affordable; hearty meals are served. These, for me, are enough to make my dining "fine."