Monday, June 10, 2013

Citrus Restaurant & Lounge: A Hidden Gem in Ortigas

Ortigas used to be my backyard. I worked the graveyard shift for an international publication company, and my mornings would be spent walking from the gold Raffles building to Robinsons Galleria to catch the bus home to Sta. Mesa, or catching a movie at the Megamall or Shangri-la before my shift started. Cruising around Meralco Avenue now, everything seems foreign yet strangely familiar all at the same time. I spot a Family Mart around the corner and make a mental note to drop by later for a peek at what the Japanese 7-11 has to offer.

Hidden away in the condominium building of the Renaissance 3000 in Ortigas, lies a gem of a restaurant, wine lounge, and events place called Citrus Restaurant & Lounge, that serves up everything from sandwiches, tapas, as well as Filipino, Spanish, and Italian comfort food. With a lot of their clientele being expats and businessmen, I was curious to discover what people kept coming back for, so one sunny afternoon, Jericho and I found ourselves seated by Citrus' comfortable booths, waiting in anticipation see what made everyone coming back.

The restaurant can be a bit hard to find initially, as it's actually on the second floor of a condominium building - think of it more as Renaissance's clubhouse, since it's next to the gym and adjacent to the tennis courts. It's hidden away pretty good, too, with your only sign that you're just around the corner from the place being the simple Citrus logo.

I was surprised at how spacious the place was - with enough room for a bar, deli, bakery, stage, and even a small wine room in the restaurant. Jericho ordered a glass of Four Seasons (P60) and I tried their signature Brewed Iced Tea (P60), which was pretty good, while we waited for the rest of our orders to arrive.

While perusing the menu, we noticed how it lacked the descriptions of the dishes, but apparently this was so we could start a conversation with the servers, as they would describe the food, which I found pretty cool. I appreciate personalized service and recommendations.

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around how big the place is! The architectural design of the space is reminiscent to that of a steakhouse, with the high ceiling, wooden beams, and red bricks. The large windows lets a lot of natural light in, and you can observe tennis players work on their form and practice their game on the open courts outside. On the other side of the restaurant is the bar, and half the space has a bar vibe, complete with a stage for bands to rock out on every night. As puzzling at this set up is, I must say that it works!

The first dish to come out was the Caesar Salad (P229) - a traditional salad with their signature Citrus dressing. I liked the shaved Parmesan and the touch of anchovies that just melted into the salad once tossed, adding a whole other layer of flavor to the straightforward salad. The dressing was a bit too thick in my opinion, so it didn't spread out as much, and we ended up asking for a bit more. The greens were torn up into bite sized pieces so everything was ready to be jabbed by a fork. All in all, it was a pretty good start to the meal.

The highlight of my lunch was definitely the Capelli D'Angelo (P299)! Imagine, fine angel hair pasta tossed in truffle oil with asparagus and parma ham. The flavors were delicate, with the truffle oil lending its unique taste and the saltiness of the ham adding a whole new dimension to the pasta. The asparagus adds some nice texture to the dish as well. This is something quite luxurious for the price - I would've definitely ordered another one.

I enjoyed the Chicken Breast Wrapped in Prosciutto Ham (P219), although I found the chicken to be a bit too dry. The prosciutto was salty with a sweet glaze, lending its flavor to the chicken breast. This entrée is perfect with a side of rice or mashed potatoes.

Citrus' thin-crust Spanish Longanisa Pizza (P290) was something different. A slice of this goes a long way, with the generous longanisa bits and a thick, creamy cheese on top. Surprisingly, this isn't at all oily, which just made me reach out for a few more slices. What it is, though, is incredibly filling! Pair this with a cold bottle of beer when unwinding with friends.

After asking what a popular dish at Citrus was, we were recommended to try their Lengua with Mashed Potatoes (P599) . Served with a side of mash, the lengua was well executed, served with a gravy of sliced button mushrooms, and capers.

For dessert, we Jericho and I split a Black Forest Cupcake (P75) and a Cappuccino (P100). The cupcake was a nice palette cleanser, and I was pretty happy to get generous slivers of chocolate amidst the whipped cream topping. The cappuccino was served with a dusting of cinnamon powder, and was quite aromatic, with a nice strong flavor of espresso shining through the thick crema.

I gravitated more towards the Panna Cotta (P129) for dessert, with its vibrant strawberry-flavored coulis and bits of almond for a bit of crunch. The panna cotta was more gelatinous than creamy, but it worked so with the coulis that I found myself polishing the whole thing off without much help. Oops.

If privacy and a glass of wine is your idea of an ideal night out, Citrus also has a cozy wine lounge you can escape to. With a surprisingly wide variety of wines to choose from, I take it this goes very well with the tapas on the menu as well as most of the entrées. Although I must say, I'm not sure how the acoustics fare at night when the band is playing (this is directly atop the stage).

If you plan on celebrating a special occasion - like your kid's first day of school, your wedding anniversary, or Miami Heat biting the dust - there's The Forum by Citrus that can easily fit over 450 people. Oh, and of course they'll cater your event as well!

With the prices and the food they serve, it's no wonder Citrus is a hang out for business types. The place is great for lunch meetings, and you can very well hang out and enjoy the peace and quiet you rarely get when in Ortigas. They serve everything from your basic ham and cheese sandwich to sumptuous Italian fare, and their prices don't break the bank. My only concern would have to be the parking fee, as we were charged P95 for staying for 4 hours, but you can always get your parking validated. We just forgot to do it and had to pay the piper. Ack.

So if you ever find yourself mucking around Ortigas, give Citrus Restaurant & Lounge a try, whether it's a business lunch with co-workers, happy hour with friends on while enjoying the band every Friday night, or even Sunday brunch with the family. If you're in a bind, they also do delivery around the Ortigas area! This place just grows on you, and you can't help but keep on coming back.

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Images taken by Jericho San Miguel

Citrus Restaurant & Lounge
+ 63 2 631 0335 or +63 2 667 3465
2/F Renaissance 3000, Meralco Ave.,
Ortigas Center, Pasig City
Open Daily: 9am - 11pm