The original Mario’s began in Baguio some thirty years ago. It became synonymous with fine dining and the place to go for the country’s best Caesar salad and good paella and lengua (ox tongue). Today, the only fine dining Mario’s is located on Tomas Morato.
I visited Mario’s Kitchen in late 2001 when it opened its first branch at Greenbelt 1 near the cinemas. It was a move to make Mario’s Restaurant food available to a larger market. The dishes served here are practically the same as that served in the original Mario’s, with some pleasant changes and additions.
Four years later, the four Mario’s Kitchen branches have been whittled down to two. There is a branch at the Metrowalk in Ortigas, where I was at today. Metrowalk itself is quite bland â€“ there is not much to do or see, although I hear the tenants upstairs are doing brisk business selling pirated DVD’s. Some of the bigger names in the restaurant industry are here â€“ Dencio’s, Coffee Beanery, the ever-ubiquitous Starbucks, and Mario’s Kitchen.
Walking into the non-descript place, the first thing that greets me is the lighted up chiller displaying the desserts. I just love blatant displays of dessert. Anyway, Bin and Boo started off with sopa de mariscos (tomato-based Spanish seafood soup) this version had noodles, while we all nibbled at the famous Caesar salad, which was still good and distinctly Mario’s.
Our main meal consisted of gambas (a Spanish appetizer of shrimps cooked in olive oil, garlic, and chili); garlic rice; a T-bone steak (medium, please) with mashed potatoes; and for Boo, an order of arroz a la cubana (rice topped with a fried egg and eaten with ground beef and bananas). As you’ve noticed, Mario’s serves plenty of Spanish dishes, and they do them quite well. Good food with sizable portions that don’t leave you feeling bitin (lacking). I admit to sneaking a few spoonfuls of Boo’s arroz a la cubana. I’d forgotten how comforting this dish is for me, and how good saba bananas (plaintains) and ketchup are together. Mario’s Kitchen is also the only place I know that serves its rice in a pyramid-like mold. Check out the photo above.
Mario’s Kitchen serves plenty of tapas, Spanish side dishes, so that you can have a happy tasting meal. The soups are good here, try the French Onion or the Clam Chowder served in a bread bowl. Of course you can’t go wrong with their paellas or their callos (Spanish tomato-based tripe stew with garbanzos and green peppers), and their wealth of Filipino favorites. I used to have a favorite pasta dish here which I don’t see anymore on the menu. It was called maccarones con chorizo, a truly tasty dish of noodles doused in a spicy tomato-olive oil sauce with lots of chorizo sausages. Truly lip-smacking good. It you come to Mario’s Kitchen, ask for this pasta dish and don’t hesitate to order it if they say they still make it.
Dessert at Mario’s usually comes down to cheesecakes and their peach flambÃ©, if I’m not mistaken. Me, Bin, and Boo shared the toffee sansrival and the butter sylvannas, which are both meringue based desserts loaded with buttercream. I never say no to a banana cream pie, this one had a coconut crust and its filling was very light and creamy. Very good and very different from mine. Their other sweet offerings include tiramisu and leche flan (Spanish egg custard).
G/F Metrowalk Mall
Meralco Ave., Ortigas Center
**The other branch is at Robinson’s Place, Ermita.