Monday, May 20, 2013

RELIK Tapas Bar & Lounge & It's Spanish Roots

Tucked away in second floor of the CommerCEnter is a little place known for it's good food that's been sought after by many a hipster. When you talk about RELIK Tapas Bar & Lounge, images of a dark bar with good music and quirky cocktails come to mind. But what's not to be forgotten, at least in my opinion, is the food.

To be quite honest, I have never been to RELIK until late. Whenever I try, the smell of freshly roasted beans wafting from Kuppa Roastery & Cafe downstairs pulls me in and I never seem to be able to muster the self-restraint to make it to the elevator and the second floor. But when I found out this was another culinary baby of Chef Benjo Tuason, I was kicking myself in the proverbial 'nads for not visiting sooner.

If drinks are what turns you on, then RELIK's cocktails is a must on your list. I started my night with a Mango Mojito, watched my friends enjoy their Black Russians, Red Sangrias, Perfect Cosmos, and Orange Pattys, and eventually ended my night with a Dragonberry Mojito, which ironically tasted more like a strawberry mojito than anything else. They have a nice balance of alcohol in their cocktails, so you leave happy, with a nice buzz, not stumbling out of there like a buffoon.

Chef Benjo Tuason is also the culinary mastermind behind the popular URBN Kitchen and the Shawarma Guys at the Fort Strip. This chef does it all it seems: Spanish, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern - you name it, he executes it! I love seeing a passionate chef churn out good food, especially when I get to sample it.

RELIK's Quesadillas came out first. We had the BBQ Chicken, but it also comes in beef, pulled pork, and garlic shrimp. The quesadillas were made fresh, and were still nice and toasty when I bit into it. The corn was a pleasant surprise, and made me nostalgic for my trip to Mexico.

RELIK's Sample Platter was, literally and figuratively, amazeballs! The baked Brie, drizzled with honey, was soft and pliable and still oozing out of its feel good melted center. I piled it on my toast with a piece of jamon and a bit of salsa. It was heavenly - with the crunch from the toast, the soft, buttery cheese, and the salty jamon was a great start to my night.

If you're looking for cheese with a bit of spice, the Manchego cheese delivers - the little breaded balls had a lot of attitude.

The last of the tapas, which are not at all "small plates", was the super rich Roasted Bone Marrow. You take a little bit of the marrow and spread it on a piece of toast, top with a little of the caramelized onion and a pinch of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. What you get is a rich, almost pâté-like spread that is both creamy and sweet, with the sea salt adding an extra layer of flavor. My arteries hate me for all the extra work I'm having them do.

One of the main courses I thoroughly enjoyed was RELIK's Mixed Paella. It combines assorted seafood and chicken that's topped with colorful julienned bell peppers and hard boiled eggs.

The paella is cooked Catalan style, which seems to be the trend with paella nowadays, so the rice is quite wet, with no tutong. It tastes quite tomato-ey, which is very pleasing to the Pinoy palette, so it comes as no surprise that I had two servings of this.

I have a confession to make: I have never eaten ox tail before. The thick layer of fat, gummy in appearance and texture, has always given me the heebie jeebies. When served in kare kare I'd maneuver around it to get at the vegetables and peanut sauce instead. Which is why trying Mother Ann's Braised Ox-Tail on a bed of mashed potatoes was a revelation. The generous serving of meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and the gummy parts I easily gave way, like a hot knife in butter.

The Creamy Pasta with Mussels was a crowd pleaser. Don't let this fool you, they weren't kidding when they said it was creamy! The pasta was cooked al dente and the taste of the mussels came through with every bite.

I just loved the Surf & Turf! Who doesn't enjoy a medium rare steak with baked giant prawns on the side? I just wished they served the tomato sauce on the side instead of slathered on top of the meat. I think the acidity of the tomatoes just takes away from the steak, which could've very well just stood on its own.The prawns were topped with what I can only imagine to be a kind of hollandiase sauce and cheese, and it was one of the most glorious things I put in my mouth that night (that's what she said).

The pièce de résistance at RELIK has got to be the Cochinillo, a perfectly roasted, suckling pig with crispy, crunchy skin and really tender meat that almost breaks apart with each forkful. I would've eaten more of this if I could. It's best to order this a day in advance if you're in a celebratory mood!

We were served the Churros with Salted Caramel Dip for dessert, which were rock hard by the time I had at them. This dessert is best eaten while still warm, as it slowly morphs into a rock as it cools down. The salted caramel dip was divine notwithstanding.

The Vanilla and Amaretto Panacotta saved the day, rich and creamy with the taste of vanilla, and what I think is orange compote, coming through with every bite. I was licking my spoon by the end of it. It was such a lovely end to a lovely night.

So when you find yourself mucking around BGC with your buds,stop by RELIK Tapas Bar & Lounge at the CommerCEnter and enjoy a few drinks, a lot of  good food, and stay for the great bands that debut at this awesome, awesome bar!

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Photos courtesy of Jericho San Miguel

RELIK Tapas Bar & Lounge
+63 2 624 8251
2nd floor, CommerCEnter Building,
31st Ave cor. 4th St.
Bonifacio Global City
Open Daily: 11:30am - 2:30pm, 5:30pm - 4am

(Directly across St. Luke's Global City behind Mercury Drug. In the same building as Kuppa, Chatime and Singapore Food Republic.)