Tasting Notes

More Than the Unlimited Wine and Gambas, Order These at This Bistro

By Sol Vanzi 

One of the childhood antics that often made our parents and yayas chase us around the kitchen was snacking on powdered chocolate drink Milo straight from the can. Just thinking about those carefree days brings a smile, so it’s not surprising for a chilled dessert called Milo Dinosaur Cheesecake to be a bestseller among generations of diners at Alta by Relik, a trendy new bistro in Santolan, San Juan.

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Molten S’mores Lava Cake.

Molten S’more Lava Cake is another runaway sentimental hit: a large bowl overflowing with warm melted dark chocolate topped with roasted marshmallows and crunchy graham crackers. The flavors and textures evoked campfires and family picnics. Our serving was more than enough for two hungry grownups. We licked the bowl clean.

Mahatma Ghandi Mural,
Mahatma Ghandi Mural.

WELL-CHOSEN MENU

The restaurant owners’ experience with Relik, a successful drinks-and-food joint at BGC, proved useful in crafting a menu that provides everyone with a comfortable selection of unpretentious dishes that are well prepared, satisfying, and generously served.

Crispy Bagnet Kare-kare
Crispy Bagnet Kare-kare.

Take the Crispy Bagnet Kare Kare, two dishes in one: first, there were several large chunks of Bagnet that are crisp outside, juicy and tender inside. Under and alongside the pork were cooked slices of eggplant, young green beans, pechay leaves, and thick karekare sauce made from scratch. The accompanying Ginisang Bagoong was so good all the diners asked for seconds.

For diners who prefer seafood, Alta has the freshest, most luscious Salmon with Creamy Capers Sauce, topped with orange segments and served with French beans and buttered mashed potatoes. Another crowd favorite is Baked Scallops flown in daily from the south. They are smothered with garlic-butter and blanketed thickly with melted cheese.

 Salmon with creamy Capers Sauce
Salmon with creamy Capers Sauce.

CHAMPION BAR CHOW

Our starter of Fried Calamari was so fresh there was nary a hint of fishiness. Deep-fried ever so briefly, the squid rings were neither chewy nor dry and went well with the freshly made aioli dip. Good as appetizer or pulutan. 

With a giant brandy snifter filled with fruity Red Sangria, we ordered Nachos and got a huge bowl overflowing with light homemade flour tortilla chips smothered in a savory meat sauce topped with shredded lettuce, tomato salsa, and cheddar cheese drizzled with sour cream.

Baked Scallops
Baked Scallops.

Our third pulutan was an Alta original: Chorisig, which has chopped pork and garlicky chorizo married on a hot sizzling plate, topped with an egg drizzled with Relik’s Chorizig mayo. Very meaty, Chorisig is a far cry from the ordinary sisig that’s mostly ground fat, skin, and gristle.

Very reasonably priced are the other appetizers: the Street Platter (Alta’s version of “tusok-tusok”), Tuna Kilawin, and Baby Squid Al Ajillo. 

FAMOUS SPECIALS

Bacon Cheese burger
Bacon Cheeseburger.

We will have to return to try Alta’s specialties, which we did not have room for in our bellies during our first visit. We are particularly intrigued by the Slow Roast Beef Belly, bathed in a generous pool of black pepper gravy served with mashed potato and buttered vegetables. We would also like to try the Rosemary Grilled Chicken with either creamy garlic pasta or garlic mashed potatoes.

SPORTS BAR

Photo courtesy of Alta by Relik.

Alta is a favorite hangout for sports buffs who never miss Pacquiao bouts, NBA finals and championship games, Super Bowl, PBA, UAAP, and the Olympics. Four giant HD screens strategically mounted inside the restaurant provide everyone with an unobstructed view.

LIVE ENTERTAINMENT 

Alta encourages local talent by staging live shows on Fridays and Saturdays. Seating 120 patrons comfortably, Alta is the perfect venue for bands, singers, and stand-up acts. The shows normally start at 8:30 p.m.

UNLI WINE AND GAMBAS 

Billy Gin, Tien Mimi, Red Sangria
Billy Gin, Tien Mimi, Red Sangria.

A unique promo that’s back by popular demand is the Unlimited Wine Plus Unlimited Gambas. Special mixed drinks are sometimes available on Buy-One-Take-One offers. Ask the staff for details.

Photos by Noel Pabalate.

Banner photo courtesy of Alta.

The original article was first published in Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.

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