Let’s talk about the top three grades of steak in ascending order of quality: Select, Choice, and Prime. Grade is dependent on several factors, but what’s essential is the more marbling in the meat, the higher the grade. Prime is hard to come by in Manila but it’s worth seeking out since all that marbling translates to bounteous flavor.
At 22 Prime ”“ the restaurant is at the 22nd floor of the Discovery Suites, hence the name ”“ only meat that’s been graded Prime is presented. While meat of this caliber is usually attached to a snooty, skinny waiter with a fat bill, the atmosphere here is anything but. It’s casual and easygoing with touches of class that make it suitable for a date or special family dinner. Segmented dining areas afford privacy but also make it difficult to catch the waiters’ attention. Of course being at such a high vantage point, there’s a view of the Ortigas skyline during the day and a muted scattering of lights at night. Little ones are tantalized by the mini fishbowl at the center with lively goldfish swimming about.
Prime steaks span the range from Rib-Eye (P1195/400 grams; cover photo) to T-Bone (P1195/350 grams) to Grilled Wagyu Beef Medallions (P1100/180 grams). Surprisingly affordable, expectedly divine. The “ooh” factor comes in when the waiter proffers a selection of steak knives. Set in a lacquered box with a glass cover, it’s mighty impressive.
The knives not only gleam, they ”“dare I say it? ”“ cut through the meat like a hot knife through butter. Whether that’s testament to the sharpness of the knives or the indubitable quality of the meat or both is besides the fact. The steaks at 22 Prime are so guileless, so straightforwardly good that all table conversation is replaced with scattered moans and quiet mmm’s of deeply personal joy.
There are several sauces (tarragon béarnaise, three peppercorn, forest mushrooms, etc.) to adorn the steak or do as I do and do without ”“ I want to taste the meat’s beefy-ness, the tender bite that almost makes chewing obsolete. Steak this good is something I don’t think about so much as feel, and the ardency it provokes reminds me why I love being a meat eater.
There is a palpable difference between the Grilled Wagyu Beef Medallions (above) and the other steaks. The former is more delicate, its grain barely perceptible against the tongue. Its fatty-ness (reputedly unsaturated) scintillates in flavor and memory. One taste and I understand the hullabaloo over Wagyu.
22 Prime prides itself on their sides ”“ accessories, as they’re called on the menu ”“ go-withs for the steak. A plethora of potatoes: twice baked (P140), garlic roasted (P80), hand cut fries (P80), gratin (P140), etc., as well as vegetables too. But do order them at the same time you order your steak and not any later otherwise your sides may not arrive in time to pair with your main course.
Executive Chef David Pardo de Ayala primes diners’ palates with starters, notably the Savory Soup Sampler (P220), a tasting trio of the Asian Lobster Bisque, French Onion Soup, and the soup of the day; tonight it’s a potato potage. I recommend ordering the single portion of the bisque or onion soup (both P220) instead of the Sampler because the complexity of the flavors is more apparent, not to mention more visually striking: the single portion bisque is presented at table and poured over an arrangement of cut lobster.
Chef Rick’s Cheese Bread (P140) is also popular, but this is a case of my expectation overriding reality. I’m expecting some sort of warm loaf studded with cheese but what arrives are three slices of soft sun-dried tomato bread with a four-cheese topping that’s been broiled on. My first thought on first bite: pizza. Not bad, but again, not what I’m expecting.
For those who eschew steak, there’s a Salad Bar option (P450), though limited, or pair it with any of the mains for P225. Of course there are non-beef options available as well, like the lamb chops, above.
For dessert, the Valrhona Chocolate Cake ”“ the lofty almost flourless crumb with a lick of whipped cream ”“ the same one as at M Café sits on display at a table. Positioned nearby are a chocolate sansrival and a pandan sansrival, sweets not part of the main dessert menu. Anything with the words “peanut butter” has an irresistible pull on me, so I order the Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cake (P195) while my Francophile mom and sister opt for the Apple Tarte Tatin (P195).
Without mincing words, I’ll just say that one should come to 22 Prime for the steaks. You won’t be disappointed. But the desserts are so-so; or as my sister puts it, “hotel desserts,” however you want to translate that.
22/F, Serendipity Lounge
25 ADB Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City
(632) 683.8222, locals 3702 / 3722
Open M-S for lunch (12nn – 2:30pm) and dinner (6-10pm)