The Cazuela Restaurant is a food haven of Spanish cuisine in bustling Ortigas Center Business District. One of Sapphire Block’s (along Sapphire Road) best dining options, the Cazuela serves beyond the traditional Spanish fare that showcases local ingredients of various countries involved in the Spanish galleon trade to produce Spanish flavors. And it’s easy to see why it has become a local cause célèbre among the sociable office workers at Ortigas center.
Cazuela, we learn, is a clay pot used in cooking and serves as a vessel for combining ingredients to make sumptuous dishes. References to the mother country are plentiful: Dali-like paintings adorning its walls, a map of the old world, vintage-like wrought iron chandeliers and wine shelves that adorn the walls. Displays of Machuca tiles, Cazuela vessels and cup lanterns herald what is a reliably impressive modern bohemian feel.
The menu is solidly grandioso as the food is serve in imaginative variances, revealing a good deal of culinary expertise and sophistication, not to mention enthusiasm in the kitchen. Their main Chefs, Mon Urbano, Day Salonga, Andrew Espiritu and Cristina So are stars of their stage as they work out on the orders, grill, fry and plate up their creations in their smallish kitchen.
The pan-seared mackerel served on a bed of mashed potatoes was a surprisingly nice take on a traditional fish; the Costillas Asadas is grilled pork spare-ribs, deliciously browned on the outside and tender on the inside. The Callos or ox-tripe was stewed to perfection bashed in flavorful tomato sauce while the Ox Tail Estofado was stewed in red wine, so tender you could feel it melt in your mouth!
Their signature main course dish, the Veal Caldereta is a 400g veal shank, stewed and simmered in rich tomato sauce served on a bed of potatoes had a richness and subtlety worthy of much fancier venues. Muy delicioso!
Tapas make excellent companions to lovers of wine and other spirits. Their selection are prepared with flair and creativity, and peppered with local niche ingredients (clams, home-made chorizo, truffled mushrooms, fresh baby squids and shrimps) with Pinoy influences. I took on the Sangria which were served with the classic tapas and nearly finished a pitcher-full of it!
The Gambas and Baby Squid al ajillo came in small cazuelas, roasted in garlic-infused olive oil while the Tuna Ceviche came in a large platter covered under heaps of sliced greens and cucumber in vinaigrette dressing. The Paella Negra, a paella rice in squid ink and clams didn’t have the punch to stand up to the preceding dishes however, as the color must have been a turn-off to those not in the know but would be appealing to the more adventurous! And it tasted good!
For dessert, the menu included the mouth-watering gypsy cake (Brazo De Fernando), the ultra-rich, ultra-“umay” Kesong Puti Cheese cake and the all-time favorite, Churros Con Chocolate.
There are a few options for vegetarians here which is often the case for meat-centric Spanish restaurants but their Enselada Cazuela, topped with assorted greens, watermelons, candied wallnut tossed in chipotle cranberry dressing is a very good entree.
Similarly looking was the Orange and Crispy Duck Salad with Citrus Vinagrette. I tried this out mainly because it came with the promise of shredded duck. A promise it remained – whether they forgot to add it or sliced it too thinly it’s hard to say, but any iota of its taste was completely lost on me. Anyway, i’ll just try to concentrate on eating the greens, next time!
Cozy, relaxed, and not taking itself too seriously, Cazuela exudes the true spirit of Spanish dining. Food prices, like the overall quality, are a little above your average restaurant but you’ll be having such a good time, it won’t seem to matter.
The restaurant is located at G/F The Sapphire Bloc, Sapphire Road, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. It is open from 11:00 am to 12:00 midnight from Mondays to Wednesdays and at 11:00 am to 2:00 am from Thursdays to Saturdays.
For inquiries and reservations, you may call (02) 590 5460 or (0995) 5510424.