Wednesday, May 15, 2013

COVA Tapas y Sangria Serves Up New Dishes & Old Favorites

The tapas scene is making its return of the comeback in fair Manila, with haughty-taughty tapas bars springing up in Makati and Bonifacio Global City, catering to expats, the occasional  tourist, and Filipinos who want an upgrade from your usual San Miguel beer and  nachos with the boys.

Just recently, I found myself at Cova Tapas y Sangria, having a lot of laughs and even more drinks with friends as we wait for Chef Patrick Hesse's newest creations to make their way out of the kitchen.

It isn't too hard to find COVA -it's located along Jupiter street, a little after Mangetsu and next to the extremely popular Mitsuyado Sei-Men. This bar gets packed with people after 10 o'clock, most of them from in and around Makati, hanging out and having a good time with friends.

Inside the restaurant, we were greeted by a dimly lit space with wooden slats on the ceiling, giving the impression that you had just stepped into a modern looking cave. I like how the wooden slats actually brighten up the space, with the lights reflecting off of the panels, making the room look a lot more bigger that it really is. The design was innovated by Luigi Tabuena, who also designed 2nd’s at The Fort, a restaurant he co-owns.

If pretending to be a sommelier-in-training is what you enjoy doing best in your down time, you'll feel right at home at COVA. Their bar is fully stocked and their drinks menu is a little over two pages long.

What did we have to drink? We tried COVA's popular sangrias: the Cova Red Sangria, Summer Peachy White Wine Sangria, and Apple Pie White Wine Sangria (500ml- P447, 1L- P895). I liked the sweet, fruity Summer Peach White Wine Sangira. Jericho liked the Apple Pie White Wine Sangria more.

We started our tapas night with Jamon Serrano Mousse. This stuff is brilliant! Imagine salty Jamon Serrano churned into a velvety smooth mousse, without the stringy bits of meat getting stuck in between your teeth.

The Caviar Pie was polished off pretty fast- definitely a crowd favorite. Layers of egg, cream cheese, and spring onion is surrounded by thin slices of lemon and topped with a generous layer of caviar. Get a slice of pie, spread it out on a piece of toast, and place a slice of lemon on top before popping it into your gob - the tartness of the lemon cuts through the creaminess of the cheese.

The Mejillones al Vapor was excellent! Reinventing a familiar dish and turning it up a notch, the mussels are steamed in draft beer, lemon, and bacon, finished off with finely chopped parsley and garlic oil. Whoever would've thought adding bacon to this dish would make it taste even better? The guys at COVA did. We kept trying to sop up the sauce with what remained of our toast.

One of my favorite tapas was the Huevos Cabreados - a glorious mix of shoestring potatoes, chorizo, fried eggs, alioli, and salsa brava. Ask your server to mix everything up for you to make things easier.

We also tried COVA's Albondigas - beef and pork meatballs with tomato sauce. It was alright, but forgettable next to the three other tapas we had that night.

Chef Patrick Hesse pulled out all the stops that night - Stop No. 1 being his take on Paella de Mariscos. Shrimps, mussels, squid, clams, and chorizo are cooked over a wet, almost risotto-like rice. There's no toasty bottom here folks, as this is paella done the Catalan way!

Another paella crowd pleaser was the Arroz Negro - squid ink, soft shell crab, mussels, shrimps, alioli, is again cooked wet - the Catalan way. Jericho liked this a lot, the soft shell crab added a crunch to the paella.

Chef Patrick has been playing around with a couple of new dishes, one of them being Lomo Iberico Schnitzel - basically a pata negra pork loin that's breaded and deep fried, served with a balsamic cream and lemon. I loved the schnitzel, but maybe some apple chutney would compliment the dish better than the balsamic cream.

The highlight of our night (that Jericho didn't take a picture of) was the other new dish: Pluma Iberica a la Plancha. The tail end of the tenderloin of pure acorn fed black hoof Iberian pigs (pata negra), is garlic and parsley oil is seared, and I mistook it to be a fillet of beef at first glance. It also tasted like a fillet of beef! The meat is tender, with just the right balance of fat. Having this just makes you go, "Kurobu... what?"

The Tortilla de Cova was a hit and Chef Patrick's explanation on whether or not he did it right became the sound bite of the night. "If it's wet, then I did my job!" Two eggs cover potatoes, onions, and Austrian blood sausages, served with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of paprika.

The thought of eating blood sausage made me feel a bit squeamish, but hey, after trying the morcilla, I have to say, the stuff's pretty good. Chewier than your Frankfurter and more compact than your Bratwurst, I was surprised that I could taste the onions and spices more than the pig's blood.

We thought we were done for the night, until we were offered to try the Chocolate Guinness Ice Cream by Pinkerton. The taste of dark chocolate gives way to the bitter yet comforting aftertaste of Guinness. This was such a wonderful end to the night!

When mucking around Makati with your bud or the girls, why not try something new and head for COVA instead of your regular haunts? Between the excellent drinks, delicious food, and hot crowd, this is slated to be another bar to watch out for.

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Photos courtesy of Jericho San Miguel

COVA Tapas y Sangria
+63 2 478 970
22 Jupiter st.,
Bel-Air, Makati
Monday  - Saturday: 6pm - 3am