Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King
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comments

Finally, Cyma

posted by in Others, Restaurants

flaming-saganaki_rs.JPG

I never forgot about Cyma after I enjoyed it in Boracay a year ago. I was overjoyed when the restaurant was brought to Manila, setting up digs first in Shangri-la Mall and then at Greenbelt. But joy quickly turned to frustration when Cyma-lovers as impassioned as I crowded the restaurant day in and night out. It was difficult to nab a reservation and when I did, it was often at a table that was much less desired.

So, as I often do when it comes to restaurants-of-the-moment, I wait and the opportunity to dine there presents itself soon enough. I’m not the type of person to slug it out with crazy foodies just for bragging rights at new eating joints; enjoying my meal is of infinitely higher priority.When my sister’s birthday comes around, our party of 12 descends on Cyma at Greenbelt. We are many and we are hungry, so faster than the waiter can say, “Opa!”, we’ve ordered eight dishes, most of them family size. Cyma encapsulates Greek dining in its family-style way of serving dishes — food is meant to be passed around and tried by everyone at the table. Most of the items are available in three portions: solo, to share, and family.

saganaki

The Saganaki (P180) is – visually and audibly – the flagship dish of Cyma. An enthralling presentation, it’s a flaming appetizer in which slices of cheese are soaked in alcohol and then flambéed. With a cry of “Opa!” it makes a bewitching presentation that tranfixes the three kids at our table. Opa! is a proclamation in this restaurant, and roughly translated, it’s an expression that Greeks use when they are out for an evening and having a good time. The saganaki reminds me of raclette cheese, a Greek fondue, but I learn that it’s Kasseri cheese. Greek in origin and made from sheep’s or goat’s milk, it’s sharp and salty and cheddar-like in texture, a perfect pair with the grilled, crusty bread.

dakos, Greek bruschetta

Another appetizer, the Dakos (P220) or Greek bruschetta, is a watercolor painting of sorts with the errant splotch of wild color. Little towers of bread hold aloft crowns of crushed olives and feta cheese while sitting in a pool of crushed tomatoes, capers, parsley, and olive oil. It’s a meze that has echoes of the Mediterranean.

pastitsio, Greek baked mac

Large in scale is the Pastitsio (P220/P290/P480), a monstrous baked macaroni, although that term doesn’t do it justice. The Greek form of the Italian word, pasticcio, which means, among other things, hodgepodge, pastitsio is a tri-layer baked pasta dish. A bottom layer of tubular pasta bound with cheese and egg, it’s “piggy-backed” by a layer of ground meat mixed with tomato and cinnamon, and what I distinctly make out as nutmeg. Another layer of pasta, and then it’s topped with béchamel. It’s satisfying and the kids think so too, because it’s the only thing they eat the whole time we’re here.

monstrous moussaka

My sister, Charley, has always been a great fan of eggplant. She never fails to order a dish that has this nightshade vegetable as one of the main ingredients. And so here comes this Moussaka (P235) moseying to our table and taking residence in front of her. I could swear it’s another serving of the pastitsio – they’re béchamel twins, as far as I’m concerned. What most people think of when they think Greek cuisine, moussaka is also claimed by the Turks and the Arabics, especially since the word “moussaka’” in Arabic means “soaked,” because this dish has to be eaten with all the rich juices of its vegetables, meat and olive oil.The Greek version consists of layers of sliced eggplant, ground lamb, and that thick swath of béchamel. Order either this only or the pastitsio because they practically taste the same.

Cyma’s head chef, Robbie Goco, learned the intricacies of the cuisine from a Greek woman while working at her restaurant. Greek cuisine is a dining lifestyle that is one of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet, seen as healthful – with a surplus of olive oil, vegetables, and beans –and also rich as well – hello, béchamel!

tonnos salata, Greek salad

The Tonnos Salata (P280/P390/P540) is in itself, a salad buffet: mixed greens, feta, baked onions, roasted peppers, olives, marinated potatoes, green beans, and boiled eggs, it boasts of seared Ahi tuna and Gavros, homemade anchovies. Bathed in a summer herb vinaigrette, my family enjoys picking out their desired ingredients to make their own salad, instead of just scooping out large chunk-fulls and dumping it helter-skelter onto a plate. “We ordered the to-share portion for four people last time, and we were so bitin,” birthday girl Tricia says in between bites. So good is this salad that even this gigantic family portion is not enough for our party of 12.

Greek burger

My dad is attracted to the Greek Burger (P250) made from Wagu (could this be a menu misspelling?) Brahman beef patties. It comes with peppered feta cheese and tzatziki sauce, a Greek yogurt condiment made from cucumbers and mint leaves. Ordered medium well, I find it tough since I usually like my meat medium rare. Despite the disparity in desired cooking times, the burger smacks of bovine glory with delightful spurts of salt from the feta. I’ll come back for this.

Cyma has an open kitchen and while the main ding room is packed and frenzied, and on a Monday night at that, the kitchen maintains its own rhythm. Service is satisfactory, and our waiter, Cayo, is handling the onslaught of orders very well. I can’t complain. The noise level on the other hand, has my nerves on edge but hey, elegant tearoom this is not.

paidakia, Greek chargrilled lamb chops

A big seller are the lamb chops, or Paidakia (P490), charbroiled and served with potatoes. Great fun to nibble, they’re a good balance between meat and glorious fat. Though a bit rubbery tonight, they’re highly flavored and very peppered.

seafood shish kebobs

It’s a no-brainer to order shish kabobs when eating Greek food. It’s one of those must order things. Called a Souvlaki, we order the seafood version (P275) but end up not being too happy about it. The fish is overcooked; not only that, it’s malansa (overly fishy tasting), and the tzatziki sauce overpowers it. Perhaps I’ll fare better next time with a meat version.

chicken gyros

Gyros (how do you pronounce this?!) (P125/chicken version), upon first bite, is a blast of parsley, though not unpleasantly so. Crunchy with red onions, it oozes with tzatziki sauce and the juice of succulent tomatoes. Nowhere near in taste what we Filipinos think of as shawarma, this one has large chunks of chicken with a side of hot sauce to kick up the heat a little. Opa!

Cyma Estiatorio

1/F Greenbelt 2
Ayala Center, Makati
(632) 729-4837

6/F, The Ledge
Edsa Shangri-La Mall
(632) 637-3090

Boracay

39 Responses to “Finally, Cyma”

  • I love Cyma more at the Shang than at Greenbelt. Standards are not always maintained. Go figure.

    But I still love Cyma…enough said.

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  • Long time lurker, first time commenter from Los Angeles. Love your blog and photos.

    Looks like you had quite a feast. As a Filipino expat living abroad for more than two decades, it’s a pleasure to read about the various quality eating establishments in the Philippines nowadays, and you certainly describe them with such panache.

    I love Greek food (and anything Mediterranean, for that matter). By the way, it’s pronounced yee-ros. =P

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  • Gyros is pronounced as “Yee-ros”

    The waiters also always pronounce “OPA” wrong. :)

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  • i absolutely LOVE Cyma’s Fillet Mignon with feta and herbed potatoes!
    napapikit ako sa sarap! truly orgasmic!

    people have mixed feelings about Cyma (about service, resto lay out, standards, and what not), but i personally don’t mind paying because i truly enjoy the food :)
    worth every centavo to me :)

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  • Cyma has been consistently good all the times I’ve been there, but also always really full and crowded.

    On GYROS — I’ve read of several different ways to pronounce this. In order of my personal preference:

    - GEEH-roh
    - JAY (rhymes with “pie”) – roh
    - YEEH-roh

    I think #3 is the most correct, but with a silent “G” your server may not hear you correctly so I’d prefer to go with #1 or #2. Or you could just point at it on the menu and say I want one of THAT. =)

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  • ahahaha….was it more like “ooofaah”. like loofah. yeah, cyma just has to give more consistent service. its kinda getting there

    “Gyros is pronounced as “Yee-ros”

    The waiters also always pronounce “OPA” wrong. ” quote from jenn uy

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  • i believe raclette cheese is a swiss fondue

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  • my mistake, swiss raclette cheese and swiss fondue are different from each other pala

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  • Yuuuum… The dishes sound diviiine. I’m a fan of Mediterrenean food myself, so Cyma’s going to the higher priority level of my to-try list!

    Wonder if I can get my parents and sister reservations on my Dad’s birthday while I’m away. Is placing a reservation now for the 25th enough lead time?

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  • Tried the Shang branch when I missed the Bora one ast December. Liked most everything, especially the chicken souvlaki (very tender, flavorful and juice was running down my chin) except: the calamari (too chewy at that time) and the lamb chops (rubbery and tough, with the bitter taste of burnt meat on the sides. 2x means it might actually be served that way more often than not).

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  • You had me at Saganaki.

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  • I love CYMA! I just adore the moussaka! So many dishes to try =)

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  • Where’s the dessert??? There’s a truckstop greek diner type restaurant near the California-Nevada border called “The Mad Greek Cafe”, where I usually stop on my way to Las Vegas from San Diego or vice-versa. They have a lovely pistachio baklava. I don’t really care for most Mediterranean or Middle Eastern desserts, but this I can have a whole plate full!

    Mad Greek doesn’t serve the best Greek food, but it’s a nice change for road trip food. They used to serve a nice “Greek Dinner” plate, with a variety of meats such as gyro, lamb/chicken/beef kabob (souvlaki) and kefte (meatball), with some rice, pita, salad and tzatziki. They no longer serve the kefte which was my favorite, so I just order the gyro plate.

    They are also known for their fresh strawberry shakes, YUMMY!

    My most favorite Greek dish was a lamb shank I would order from a cafe in Pasadena (LA) that had an outdoor “garden” dining area, which was actually an alley in the rear!

    Your pics at CYMA make me drool! I wish I was there!

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  • omg! i love greek foods ;)

    hey. what’s your camera? i love the quality of your pictures :)

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  • Must order the saganaki to fully experience your Greek dining at Cyma. Love their moussaka. The chicken kebabs are also very good. ;)

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  • this is torture! im salivating already.. :)

    baket? how do the waiters pronounce OPA?

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  • Was in Greece last year, and the locals all pronounced “gyro” as YEE-RO. Here in Manila, I’m just hesitant to keep insisting it’s pronounced as such since my friends might think “ang yabang naman nito!” if I say “When I went to Greece….” :)

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  • or if i say “Hindi ganyan sa Greece…”!! :)

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  • I always have a multiple foodgasms everytime I eat there. My faves are the roka salata (arugula salad), kotopoulo lemonato (greek adobo), pastisado (greek osso bucco with spaghetti), and the totally divine yogurt with honey and pistachios.

    I have been to Greece many times and I swear Cyma food taste better.

    Robbie Goco… are you sure you’re not Greek????

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  • Nice of you to write about the different eating joints in the metro to inform people like me. Personally, I am not aware of this restaurant or even Greek food but i’ll definitely go there with my friends and try the dishes. Pictures are really salivating! Looks so yummy!

    One more thing, do we have to make reservations first or can we just walk in the restaurant? Thanks!

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  • I love CYMA! I celebrated my birthday there last February and we enjoyed the food immensely, we have been going back ever since. Sadly though, service is not consistent.

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  • I absolutely love Greek food!! Cyma is also a restaurant I love. I especially love thier Osso Bucco Pasta and their Hummus!!

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  • It was fate that you came out with your blog on CYMA the same day my friends and I were going to try it out that night. Being one of your obedient readers, we ordered everything you recommended. We sooooo loved it! My mom tried it last Saturday, and she loved it too! This week I’m bringing Shing and my dad.

    Mabuhay ang Gyros!

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  • I LOVE Cyma! I always order their artichoke appetizer (i forgot what it’s called). Hehe. But yeah, their service is inconsistent. they have to improve that since they’re always full of customers.

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  • Tried it for the first time last month and it will definitely not be the last! I was very impressed with our food attendant when I asked her to recommend items from the menu. She was nice enough to recommend yummy items from the menu. The arugula salad with the sugar walnuts was absolutely divine!!! I enjoyed that together with a cheese fondue with pita bread. We went a bit over the edge with a plate of grilled lamb chops with mint sauce. I am not a big fan of lamb but Cyma definitely made me a convert!!!
    I think I gained 5 pounds when I left the table but boy, was it all worth it!!!

    I applaud the owners and the chefs of Cyma for coming up with a great place and for letting us Pinoys learn to enjoy Greek food. Can’t wait to try everything on the menu on my future visits.

    Five spoons to you all!!!

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  • Shocks…should have tried Cyma yesterday! yummy picss

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  • Been to Cyma Greenbelt for the first time last Thursday evening, April 26. Prior to that, I get to satisfy my big fat Greek food craving by feasting at their Boracay outlet which I’ve visited for about five times already since it opened last year.

    After my Greenbelt visit, I just have to say this: the food quality quite disappointingly pales in comparison to what we’ve consistently had at their island branch. Among others, the Saganaki here turned out too gummy and oily even immediately after it was flambeed. The Pastitsio tasted bland and too starchy – in Boracay it was hands down my kids’ favorite, they who want their pasta really cheesy and savory. The Tonnos Salata was also bland – we had to ask for additional vinaigrette – and the seared tuna was discernibly not fresh anymore. A saving grace though was both the Lamb and Mixed Meat Gyros which were as garlicky good as I remember them.

    Making matters worse was their quite inefficient handling of customers waiting to be seated – the receptionist waiter at that time didn’t even bother to jut down names on a waiting list (claiming that he can remember well the order of arrivals) so that first-come-first-serve basis is strictly observed. As we feared, a group that came later than us ended up getting a table first just because they positioned themselves nearer the door (my wife ended up reprimanding the receptionist for his apparently unreliable memory).

    I really hope this experience is just a fluke and that our future visits will be more pleasant. Yes, we still plan to patronize Cyma inspite of their blunders at Greenbelt – I am quite wishful though that we won’t regret it.

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  • got to try their gyros…also didn’t like it with too much parsley, worse, the oozing tzatziki sauce. Their lamb was sooo good as well as their salad

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  • Cyma is for Pinoys who have never had Greek food before. I take the food for what it is but cannot call it authentic. The portions are generous and the food is tasty. Its pinoy cooking Greek.

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  • We had dinner at Cyma last night. We all liked gyros. It was really tasty. Pasta with salmon though is not as I expected. I liked the bechamel layer of the pastitsio but just the bechamel layer.

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  • Cyma is great but after 4 visits. Everything just taste like lemon. MY son who loves lamb says the place is too sour for him. Even the lamb chop and potatoes has to much citrus taste in it.

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  • Hi Lori!

    This is my first time to reply to your blog entry and I must say, I LOVE your site. I was especially thrilled when I read your review of CYMA.

    My boyfriend and I had lunch at the TriNoma branch of CYMA two weeks ago, and we thoroughly enjoyed our dining experience. Good food, good service, and the prices where reasonable, considering the generous servings.

    My boyfriend wrote his own review of CYMA in his foodblog, please do check it out :)
    http://bangusbelly.blogspot.com/2007/12/cyma-see-mah.html

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  • hi lori!

    i want to try the dishes you described!!!!

    i finally tried cyma for the first time today after hearing so many, many good things about it from different friends. i must admit when i saw the menu , i wanted to order one item from each section except there were only two of us dining.

    i loved the salad with sundried tomatoes, romano cheese, candied walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette dressing. i could have probably finished the whole gigantic dish of it as it was quite light. the blend of tastes (sour/ sweet/ salty) was wonderful.

    but i was disappointed with their service. i ordered the swordfish fillet which the menu describes as MOIST and SOFT. the waiter, chico (of greenbelt), insisted i order the swordfish set with pita which he confidently reassured me was exactly the same except it’s complete with accompaniments. when it came, it was DRY and HARD. after eating 1 out of the 6 fish pieces, i told a nearby waiter about it, he said i should have ordered the fillet instead! i called chico and he said that it was dry and hard because the airconditioning of the restaurant caused it to harden. he said the stand of management is they wouldn’t replace it nor take it off the bill. we did pay for it with no complaint after hearing their stand. i’m just curious why despite the obvious wrong claim on the menu, no effort at all was made to live up to the captivating promises on the face of the menu. well, that’s part of food tripping :)

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  • Opa! Cyma is one of the few reasons why provincial based citizens of the north visit the metro =)

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  • Hey,
    how do you pronounce Moussaka? Is it Mous sa KAH or is it Mous sa KAI?? I have been told it should sound like an I at the ending???

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  • I love to taste some greek foods because they are very spicy.**.

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  • I like how you write of your dining experience. Perceptive, vibrant and hmmm…classy. You know your stuff :) I haven’t tried Cyma (I know. So huli sa balita, right?) but I’ve always wanted to, buti na lang there’s already a branch in Rob Ermita. And just reading your post compels me all the more to go experiment with Greek food!

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    Lori Reply:

    Thanks for reading. Yes, Cyma’s been around a long time but you should definitely go. There’s also a new Greek place along P. Guevarra that might be worth checking out also.

    –lori

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