Eating for the Experience

Some restaurants are for eating a straight meal. Other restaurants are for the experience. Gaudí belongs to the latter.

Named after the Spanish architect and designer, Antoni Gaudí i Cornet, the restaurant strives to be a testament to the man’s genius. Gaudí’s work in Barcelona led to the creation of some of the city’s most notable landmarks. He was also at the forefront of the Art Nouveau movement in Spain.

Formerly along Jupiter St. in Makati, Gaudí is now comfortably ensconced at the fourth floor of Greenbelt 3, where Famous restaurant once was. As far as locations go, Gaudí may have hit the jackpot. The place offers a view of the fountain below and at night, the starry skyline. Inspired mosaics decorate the walls, all original creations of Nicole Cacho. There is also a full service bar, and a menu devoted completely to various libations.

But of course it’s the food that we’ve come for. On a Monday, traditionally the slowest day in a restaurant week, the place was packed and the waiters were hustling.

We began with the plato de Ibericos (P415): a platter of serrano ham, salami, chorizo, and manchego cheese that went well with the basket of warm bread given to us. There are glass containers of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the table for dipping too.

As we nibbled, I spied a large mountain of salt nearby. Excitedly, my mom said that that was the Pescado a la Sal (P1300/kg), a whole fish baked in salt. We would’ve had that too, but it needs to be ordered a day in advance. One of the best ways to cook a fresh fish is in salt: the salt seals it, preventing the juices from escaping as it cooks, while the skin keeps the salt from penetrating the fish. The result is extraordinarily tasty and tender. It’s done for chicken too, though not at Gaudí.

I watched the server scrape the salt away, though hack was more like it. Hardened by the cooking process, large chunks of salt crumbled off, revealing the treasure buried within. I was so tempted to ask the table across from us if they’d consider making a “donation” to our table. They didn’t look particularly friendly, so I kept my mouth shut.

Then came the Chuleton de Villagodio (P2450/kg), and all was forgotten. One of the house specialties, these are slices of US Angus grilled prime rib cooked at table on a heavy, heated ceramic plate. The only seasoning supplied is rock salt, which appears meager to a generation raised on Maggi seasoning. The salt makes the meat sing – its subtle enhancement brings out the succulence and savor of such delicious sin. Truly, even the fat on the steak was cause for celebration. So immersed was I in pleasure that the two side dishes of potatoes and tomatoes almost seemed like afterthoughts.

Since Gaudí is a Spanish restaurant, it’s muy importante to order the paellas (P650-P1300). We had two kinds: the squid ink paella and the seafood paella. I’m not too picky with my paellas, but I was disappointed with the ones

at Gaudí. The squid ink didn’t taste particularly fresh, compounded by the unpleasant fishy smell and taste (malansa). The seafood paella had lots of shrimp and clams, and was a little better. As far as paellas go though, I find the one at Alba’s can’t be beat.

While Gaudí is an expensive place, go there at least once for the experience. It’s a fun, convivial place. Everyone was laughing and talking loudly, perhaps because of the alcohol or the good food or both. It’s not a place to have an important business lunch or romantic dinner because of the noise level, and the tables are close enough to each other that someone could lean over and ask you if you’d like to share some of your Pescado a la Sal. Heheh.

4/F Greenbelt 3,
Ayala Center, Makati

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