30 ounces of rib-eye
There’s nothing more primal than eating a steak. There is also perhaps, no other food that I feel more macho eating. It’s incredibly empowering to be able to stare down a hunk of meat and know that I can take it on. Steak is only for the brave, both in character and appetite.
The Highlands Steakhouse at the new Mall of Asia is where I go to pledge allegiance to my carnivorous desires. Its much-coveted location at the corner of the mall affords diners an expansive (and expensive!) view of the bay. While it may strike some as kitschy, the wood interiors and tables along with the hanging deer heads are completely appropriate for a steakhouse. It contributes even more to the “manliness” of meat-eating.
As I enter the restaurant, I pass through an uncharacteristically long hallway. I’m told by Executive Chef Robert BolaÃ±os that the entrance serves as a showcase of the restaurant’s ingredients. Thus, the various organic greens and tomatoes and meats and seafood in the chiller. There’s a display case highlighting the desserts, a signal to all to leave space at the end of the meal. I, of course, need no reminding.
Looking at the menu of a steak place is an exercise in redundancy for me because I know what I’m getting: a rib-eye steak, please. Medium rare. My desired state of doneness (or under-doneness) as my Bin likes to point out, induces squeamishness in my super-macho husband. He prefers his steak well-done, a sore point of contention for me, since I feel that it’s akin to bludgeoning, pounding, slamming the meat against the wall and setting it on fire. Here, have some charcoal.
Nonetheless, I have my steak thick and medium rare, and my Bin has his thin and well-done. At Highlands Steakhouse, I ask Chef Robert what he recommends for first-timers. He replies, “Depends on how they eat their steak. Of course, they should like beef to eat here. If they like their meat medium-well and above (hello, Bin!), go for the prime rib because it’s slow roasted. It’s a more forgiving method of cooking and the meat stays moist longer.”
“But I like my meat medium-rare,” I pipe up, visions of fatty steaks reeking of charred goodness dancing before my very eyes.
“Then go for the grilled rib-eye,” says Chef.
Highlands Steakhouse carries two types of steak, frozen and chilled. Both are from the US and are Certified Angus Beef (CAB). The Prime rib (10 ozs. P900 / 13 ozs P1,300) is bitingly tender and meaty with a large section of fat. The rib-eye steak, (10 ozs. P1080/ 14ozs. P1420) is thick and succulent: magnificently marbled, it has an intense, almost buttery flavor. Ah, perfectly paired with macho me.
The steaks are served with a side of assorted vegetables that are surprisingly crisp-tender, and not the usual mixed veggies-from-a-bag. There’s also a scoop of honest-to-goodness real mashed potatoes (with lumps!) and a side of corn on the cob that really shouldn’t be dismissed. I just pick it up with my fingers, sprinkle some salt on and nibble away.
A novelty is the cowboy style steak, named for the outdoor style of cooking with cast-iron pans. Here, imported Wagyu rib-eye steak (7 ozs./P3,200) is slightly seared in the kitchen and finished off at table on a small burner with cast-iron grills. Cooked in a cast-iron pan to the diner’s desired degree of doneness, the heat is sealed in quickly making for increased eating pleasure. While we don’t have the Wagyu, what we do have is the 30-ouncer rib-eye which we sear on the pan. It is, in a word: eyeball-rolling good. Shameless person that I am, I trim off the fat of the rib-eye and grill it on the pan, not minding the mock-horror stares of my companions. Envious people, they are. The fat sizzles in complaint at the heat of the pan, and then simmers down, its bovine glory perfuming the air. Rich, fatty, melting, knee-weakening… I eat with gentle, satisfied grunts.
Steakhouse classics haven’t been forgotten at this restaurant, such as the Surf ”˜n’ Turf (P1,480). Imported filet mignon is paired with baked lobster on which a blanket of hot Emmental cheese melts, its nutty, mellow flavor binding together meat from sea and land.
And don’t forget that steakhouse classic, barbecued baby back ribs (P680), a full rack of it lashed with bourbon, a flavor that flits between sweet and slightly sour. Put your utensils to the side and dig in.
Offering reprieve in between meaty bites is the deep-fried goujon of Chilean seabass and sea scallops on grainy Dijon mustard sauce (P395). Goujon (goo-ZHAWN), roughly translated by Chef Robert as “nugget,” is the combination of seabass and scallops in a nugget of smoothness interrupted only by the crunch of the coating.
Meanwhile, making good use of the vegetables displayed at the restaurant’s entrance is the Greenhouse bistro salad (P195). An artistically arranged plate of three kinds of organically grown lettuce ”“ lolo rosso, green ice, romaine ”“ is accompanied by a medley of fruits and nuts served on a long white plate for one to mix and match at will. House dressings include a balsamic vinaigrette, honey mustard, French, and blue cheese.
I’m nearing my point of satiety. I actually feel a bit sad because I don’t want to stop eating, but my stomach is about to burst. I haven’t even had dessert yet. The Pennsylvania Dutch have a saying that goes, “Better a burst stomach than wasted food.” Right to the point, those people. Ah, the price I pay for eating so well.
2/F Unit 213 Entertainment Mall
SM Mall of Asia, Bay Blvd.,
Open Mondays-Sundays, 10am-10pm