Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Happy Hour(s) at La Cabrera Manila

It is always such a pleasure joining Carlo Lorenzana for a meal because you know you’ll be in good company. So when I received his invitation to join him for lunch at his restaurant, La Cabrera, I immediately blocked off my calendar and arranged for my husband to take our daughter home from gym class so that I can go straight to 6750 Ayala Avenue for lunch. We were joined by Anton of ourawesomeplanet and his lovely wife Rachelle a.k.a. mrsawesomeplanet.

Carlo wanted us to try some of their new dishes as well as some old favorites, and also introduce us to their first proudly Filipino chef, John, who trained in Buenos Aires.

These are all the delicious goodness that we had for lunch. Actually, we ended up having more because Carlo wanted us to try some specialties not included on the list.

My old favorite provoleta can now be had with pancetta instead of ham. Even better, right? Bacon just makes EVERYTHING better. Bacon with jam? Yes. Chocolate? Yes. Monggo? Yes, yes, yes! But I digress.

Not surprisingly, their bestseller is the rib eye. It was a smart move to add it to the menu because I have yet to meet a Filipino who doesn’t love this cut.

When in La Cabrera, I prefer ordering the cuadril because what it gives up in fat, it makes up for in flavor, and the tenderness is still there. 

I also like the entraña, which is the leanest cut. It gives your jaw a little more workout than it’s probably used to, but again, flavor – and I suppose, less guilt.

The steaks are served with a wide selection of cold and warm sides, of which my favorite is the caramelized garlic.

For dessert, I am partial to the rogel (a consistent favorite) and the pavlova (a new discovery).

This is the perfect time to visit La Cabrera Manila because they’re now offering the signature Happy Hour promo of La Cabrera Buenos Aires. Enjoy 40% off on ALL items on weekdays (including Fridays) from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Want to know more about Argentinian steaks? Here’s my article that originally came out in Mabuhay Magazine about my first visit to La Cabrera Manila.

Note: This meal was courtesy of La Cabrera but all opinions are my own.

La Cabrera Manila: Steaks That Will Make the Argentinians Proud
By Joan C. Bulauitan

Dining at La Cabrera Grillado & Bar is not for the faint-hearted. The whole point to coming here is the steak, and the different cuts are often served in half a kilo hunks. Come ravenous, as I did, which allowed me to do justice to the feast that was served on our table.

Foodie as I am, I knew very little about Argentine steaks except by repute as one of the best in the world, thanks largely to beef from cows that graze freely on the endless pampas. Argentine beef, however, is very hard to come by outside of Argentina (see sidebar) so La Cabrera imports their grain-fed USDA Prime beef from the United States. The way they prepare them, however, is as Argentinian as Eva Perón, or, in this case, Juan Barcos, La Cabrera’s Argentinian chef, who watched over our steaks until they were cooked to perfection.

We had a fun, instructive chat with one of the owners, Carlo Calma Lorenzana of Cellar de Boca Argentinian Wine in Davao (not to be confused with his co-owner and namesake, Carlo Lorenzana, who also owns Shi Lin), at the main dining area of La Cabrera, which was charmingly decked out by Carlo’s mother-in-law with black and white images of Argentina, iron horseshoes (a subtle nod to the gauchos), custom chandeliers dangling with ladles and cooking implements, and a chalkboard menu. We talked mostly about Argentine beef and steaks.

To many Argentinians, eating steak is a birthright. They were, at several points in their history, ranked number one in terms of per capita consumption of beef. Their recent losses in this regard to Uruguay and Hong Kong have prompted a cry of national shame. So if an Argentinian talks to you about beef, you listen.

To begin, they have their own prime beef cuts, such as the vacío, flavorful flank that is lean but rimmed with a thin layer of fat; tira de asado, thin strips of tasty shortribs; and entraña, a gamier cut with outstanding depth of flavor.

There is a marked difference between Japanese steak and Argentinian steak. While the former is famous for its velvety richness due to marbling (which, simply put, is intramuscular fat), the latter is

known for the exquisite flavor of its meat, which is enhanced by smoking over hot coals in extremely high temperature until it reaches the ideal doneness, that is to say, a punto (medium), unless you specify otherwise.

Our meal that night was a carnivore’s dream come true, the type I could imagine having at the original La Cabrera in Buenos Aires, named one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America. It started out with provoleta con jamón crudo, provolone cheese bubbling on a hot plate topped with translucent prosciutto. It was a standout and a portent of things to come. It was followed by two crunchy treats, the mollejas crocantes con manteca (crispy sweetbreads) and chicharrones (beef chicharon).

Carlo was considerate enough to serve a salad for the less indulgent members of our party, a course I decided to skip because I needed all the room for the steaks and desserts that were to come.

The first steak to arrive was the entraña (skirt steak), two lean cuts of beef that were surprisingly tender even sans fat. I expected it to be chewy but it gave way to my knife without resistance, and the meat absorbed all the smokiness from the hot grill.

The bife de chorizo is a steak with substance, conceived for those who love meat and make no excuses about it. This sirloin cut was big and bursting with juice, the way steaks should be. I picked the choicest bite by cutting from the side that had a layer of beautifully toasted fat.

I was convinced this would be my favorite for the night but I quickly switched allegiance when I tasted the cuadril, known in English as the tri-tip, which is cut from the sirloin. It had a nice brown crust and each bite was a flavor kick. Carlo said it is Pope Francis’s favorite type of steak, and I wasn’t surprised, wise man that the pope is.

This was followed by the ojo de bife madurado, a succulent rib eye steak wet-aged for 12 days. Rib eye is my favorite cut and my default choice at any steakhouse. I am happy to note that it has achieved a transcendent incarnation at La Cabrera.

At that point in our meal, my steak of choice was a toss-up between the cuadril and the ojo de bife. I was on the verge of making up my mind when out came the asado del centro, bone-in beef shortribs, which packed so much flavor that it almost stole the thunder from the ojo de bife in terms of umami.

Each order of steak comes with ramekins of accompaniments, such as chimichurri, sweet garlic confit, tapenade, and mushrooms. Truth be told, I scarcely touched the sides and dipping sauces as my attention was fully on the meat.

While steak is La Cabrera’s main reason for being, it has a solid lineup of postres or desserts. My favorite from a previous visit was the rogel de dulce de leche (layers of biscuit and Argentine dulce de leche topped with meringue). This second visit simply reinforced my choice. But what earned the raves that night from our group was the chocotorta, Argentinian birthday cake made of creamed dulce de leche layered between a chocolate cookie crust. Carlo’s personal favorite is the alfajores. For a darker chocolate flavor, opt for the pot de crème.

Having an intolerance to red wine (the tannins give me migraine), I enjoyed my meats with a glass of Torrontes, a white that was light and easy to drink. But if you can manage the reds, order your carne along with an inky Malbec and your palate might just tango with the pairing.

About Argentine Beef Exports

Barely 10 years ago, Argentina was the world’s third largest beef exporter. This despite the United States government’s ban on imports from 2001 onwards due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in South America. Global demand drove prices up, even locally. While this pleased the farmers, the locals were upset. They wanted to have their beef and eat it too.

In 2006, former President Nestor Kirchner did something about it. He raised the tax on beef exports from 5% to 15% and banned exports for 180 days. Exports fell dramatically. Even after it was reopened, it has been difficult for Argentina to recover the confidence of the global market.

Recently, the U.S. announced it is lifting its ban on Argentine beef. Perhaps this will raise the outlook on this prized commodity.


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