Sitting in the heart of Old Makati, along what used to be called Reposo St. (now called N.Garcia) lies a quaint little italian restaurant. I had already heard about this resto from some other foodies and was delighted to be invited over for a special lunch with traditional press people over at L’Incontro.
Reposo, which means repose or rest, was so adequately named that I sometimes wonder why they even changed it. With trees looming over the narrow street, and rows and rows of tiny restaurants just waiting to be explored. This place had some mystique over it. I guess the area is/was really pleasant as it was called Plesantero or pleasant place during the Spanish times. It was even believed that the famous composer Nicanor Abelardo wrote his famous La Perla del Pasig, the Mutya ng Pasig in his rest house near the river along Reposo.
L’Incontro which means “The Meeting Place” is aptly called so because at first glance, the place just fees homey. There was a certain comfort that usually dissipates with top grade food which just feels downright intimidating. The high ceilings and the decor did provide the air of sophistication, but the knowledgable and friendly staff just made me feel at home and comfortable with asking questions about the menu. (Half of which I couldn’t pronounce!) The place was just subtly beautiful. I would look out the huge multi-paned windows and just feel like I’ve been transported into Italy as the entire feel and look was just about right. Nothing overboard, there was no hard-sell, the place just spoke for itself. Although, I was one of the last to arrive, we still had to wait for some people of the media to arrive. Apertif’s (Something usually enjoyed as an appetizer before a large meal, such as Campari, Cinzano Prosecco, Aperol, Spritz, Vermouth) were being passed around. I was glad to say that I enjoyed my Peach Bellini. I was definitely eager for more.
When the entire press core (yes, the blogger me is part of a press core!) arrived, we were ushered into the lanai as a group table was prepared. We all took our seats and the gracious host and owner Ms. Tina Pamintuan just expressed her gratitude in taking the time out to try out her restaurant. (Little did I know, that it would be OUR pleasure!) We all took our seats and gladly engaged each other in small talk. The first course arrived which serves as our Antipasto. (Literally it means before the meal, hot or cold appetizers) Insalata Caprese (Zonin â€“ Prosecco Special Cuvee Brut) was served to me. I don’t usually eat tomatoes in whole or cut form, but this was just too appealing to pass up. Layered of slices of pomodori & mozzarella di bufala drizzled w/ olive oil lay on my plate and I just devoured it. I enjoyed the sweet juiciness of the tomato with the saltiness of the cheeses. It definitely set the mood right for the upcoming dishes.
As the last remnants of the Antipasto was consumed, wine was quickly poured into one of several glasses that were laid out in front of us. Kendall-Jackson 2007 Camelot-Chardonnay was a bit of a sour wine and was bubbly. I don’t usually drink wine, but I enjoyed this particular one because although it hinted at alcohol, the taste was subdued and it was quite refreshing.
The wine was paired with the first course or primo as they call it. Crispella Tartuffo was served. At first glance the dish seemed unassuming. It sat there like any other dish, ready to be consumed. But upon first taste and closer inspection (with a bit of prodding) I found out that it is actualy a layer of thin crepe w/ Italian ham and Mozarella Cheese, topped w/ creamy truffle cream sauce w/ fresh button mushroom. Sounds like a mouthful right? Don’t worry it is. It tasted every bit of the way it sounded. Awesome. The saltiness of the cheese and ham, just went over well with the creamy and buttery goodness of the truffle sauce. I thought this would be the dish of the afternoon for me.
And since the trend of wine pairing was already started, Carmen Reserva 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was poured into one of the bigger glasses. I didn’t quite enjoy this wine as the alcohol taste was too strong, (obviously not a wine connoisseur here but I do know what I like and don’t like!) but I heard it was supposed to be paired with a fish.
The secondo was first brought out, showed to the diners, and then taken back to be cut and deboned for you. I actually enjoyed this bit since the reason I don’t enjoy eating fish is because of the whole deboning process you have to do as compared to just enjoying the meal. It was paired with a homemade aioli sauce. The Seabass Al Sala or Baked local seabass (apahap) covered in rock salt was just one of the best tasting fish dishes I’ve tasted. The first impression was that it would taste salty because of all the salt, but since the process was to bake the fish it locked it all the tastes of the sea and kept moisture in it making the fish tender and moist. The aioli just went perfectly with the dish adding that little bit of oomph at the end.
Just to add variety, another secondo which means second course usually the main dish which is a fish or meat was served. Roast Beef Tagliata con Rucola with the contorno (which means side dish, usually a salad or cooked vegetables) Roasted Rosemary Potatoes, Onion Gratin, & Arugula Salad was laid out on the table before us.
Being a meat lover, I knew this was going to be good. The steak or roast beef looked like it was just done perfectly. The juiciness and flavors of the meet was brought out by the perfect way of cooking. These were no amateurs in preparing their meats and it showed in their roast beef. Served on a wood slab, it preserved the juices and boy did I enjoy this dish. The texture and softness of the meat quietly masked by the simple elegance that is roast beef.
I thought the dish couldn’t get any better. I was wrong. A quick scoop of the onion gratin meant that I was in foodie heaven. The caramelized onions and the slightly toasted cheese on top just meant for such a wonderful experience. Just these two things along should make you already try L’Incontro.
Now what would an Italian lunch be without its wine and cheese right? FORMAGGIO e FRUITTA – 4 kinds of cheese w/ dried fruits were served on a special marble slab. Combination of four types of cheeses, which are Parmegiano Reggiano (dry & flaky), Caramelized Brie (sweet & creamy), Gorgonzola (creamy, sharp, & spicy) and Cheese Log (soft). I don’t know much about cheeses, but I did enjoy the Parmegiano Reggiano. But I think more than the cheeses I enjoyed the wine that came with it.
Natalie Sweet 2007 Syrah was a wine I definitely had too much off. I loved it. Not being big on wine, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. Only hinting at alcohol, it was sweet and light. Reminded me somewhat of Bellinis that I quite enjoyed.
And finally for dessert, DOLCE e CAFFE â€“ Affogato = Gelato di Nocciola + Espresso + Amaretto Liqeur + Biscotti Croutons.
This would have been awesome, but I think either I put too much Amaretto or the Liqueur was just a bit too strong for the taste. I love this dish and have it as much as possible when I go to my other favorite italian place (that I have not featured yet!)
The nice thing about affogato is the novelty of the idea. Pouring in a hot espresso and some liqueur onto a scoop of gelato was a bit of conflicting and yet it somehow melded together.
And finally just to wash things off, Digestivo Limoncello. It was like a shot of lemon vodka or tequila. I tried not having this as by this time I was a bit buzzed already.
Just like in italian movies, the italian lunch was filled with great food, some great wine, and even better company and stories. The festive mood that was lunch at L’Incontro was reminiscent of that of some great lunches in Italy. Not only was the food somewhat authentic but the overall experience and ambiance of the place was real. I thank Ms. Tina Pamintuan for not only welcoming us into her new restaurant and venture, but also for whisking me albeit for a few hours, away from Manila and into Italy. It was truly an experience worth writing about.
Lâ€™incontro is located at 207 N. Garcia (formerly Reposo) St., Makati City
For Reservations call
899 0638 / 899 0642