“That’s impossible!” I say, my eyes narrowing.
“Eat it. Believe it.” My friend Nel tells me smugly. Apparently, there’s this hallowed steak at some watering hole that’s “… at least this thick” – Nel displays two fingers set barely an inch apart – “…is this big” – now his arms are about half a foot apart – “… and is just too good!” His eyes close at the memory. “It can’t be that cheap, it just can’t.” I protest. “It’s probably not even from a cow!” I snort, crossing my arms. “Oh Lori, you unholy unbeliever,” Nel decries, his disdain evident.
The watering hole is called Bugsy’s Bar & Bistro and while I know it has two or three locations in the city, we’re at the Makati branch tucked in some obscure corner in Salcedo Village. Blink it and you’ll miss it, the entrance is that inconspicuous. The air-conditioning is on the fritz in the main dining area so we’re ushered into the cooler smoking area where Nel and I take residence at the bar.
The menu selection at Bugsy’s is wide, which includes a roll call of requisite bar chow (onion rings, mozzarella sticks, calamari, etc.) and some supporting characters (burgers, the much-recommended Famous Cured Beef Surprise [tapsilog, but the name frightens me somewhat], and the Buffaloes [wings and tenders]). And there it is, smack center on the menu, the Bugsy Siegel. Nel points to it with his finger. “There it is,” he murmurs in a reverential hush. “I still can’t believe it’s only P595,” I mutter in return. The menu describes its superstar as “… min 400-gram, 1-inch USDA Angus Rib-Eye grilled and served with red wine sauce, mashed potatoes and buttered veg [sic].”
Behind us, some corporate drone has perched himself at one of the tables and is speaking loudly into his mobile. “Yeah pare, sige! The wings and the nachos and let’s share the Bugsy Siegel.” As if on cue, Nel and I look at each other and grin widely. “There’s no sharing of steak between friends!” I exclaim. Nel throws back his head and laughs. I assume friends’ refusal to split steaks at Bugsy’s is a common occurrence because the waiter doesn’t bat an eye at our order.
On high stools, we directly face the liquor cabinet, a live listing of libations. Bottles of varying heights and opacities glimmer in the muted noonday light, their multi-colored contents elixirs to life’s woes or an additive of amusement after an anticipated steak meal. Nel is telling me about his favorite vodka mixers and I’m eager to have one après lunch.
And then it arrives. On a plate usually reserved for family-sized portions sits a slab of steak that visually, ticks all the boxes of beefy glee: a brown burnished by heat made tantalizing by its tan lines (aka grill marks). Somewhere, something in me stirs, and, like a leopard that’s locked eyes with its prey, I stand up, ready to pounce. Nel, ever the gentleman, hands me the first platter. I brandish my knife and begin slicing the steak; I’m still standing up. “Oh my god, you’re not even sitting down!” Nel guffaws.
- Cross-section: spot-on medium rare.
I slash a single slice of the steak into submission and in it goes. It’s a beef bomb rigged to ring my every pleasure center: juice, oil, fat, beef, and above all, wonderment for only P595. Beside me, Nel is having his own series of epiphanies. We must look like a peculiar lot, Nel and I, I muse in mid-chew: all this eye-rolling and interspersed groans, and I think that the large cocktail ring I’m wearing makes contact with the counter in mid-moan several times, a result of repeated poundings brought on by bliss.
- The mashed potatoes are divine with their almost too-sizable chunks and lots of butter. Ask for salt, though.
- Steak fat: sliced and grilled again for that take-no-prisoners crispness and oily gush.
When I come up for air, I turn to Nel and clutch his arm tightly. “Thank you.” My voice is hoarse, my eyes fever-frenzied. “Thank you for bringing me here and sharing this food find with me. I’ll never doubt you again.” There’s an “I told you so” look in my friend’s eyes but instead of it finding voice, he replies simply, “Of course, hon. That’s what we food lovers do. We eat and share. Because then, what’s the point?”
- Dessert is an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie (P55; somewhat dry). Opt for the Mango Bar instead (P65) which is thick-crusted with a gooey mango center. Our cocktails to go with them are an Absolut Raspberry and an Absolut Mango Tonic (both P135 each).