Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Solaire Resort & Casino: The Decadence of Dragon Bar

With the rise of tea places like da.u.de Tea Lounge at BGC , Writer's Bar in Makati, and TWG, the English tradition of tea time is slowly creeping its way into the Filipino consciousness. Colorful trays and tiers-upon-tiers of scones, eclairs, cream puffs, cucumber and watercress sandwiches, danish, tartlets, and petit fours abound, and who are we, the perennial country of sweet-tooths, to resist its lure?

At Solaire, Dragon Bar is not only a mere lobby lounge, it's the place to go for excellent coffee and tea, as well as Solaire's signature cocktails, while you take a break from the casino. They take tea time to a whole new level in terms of the quality of the ingredients, to the presentation, and of course, the overall service is top notch.

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Dragon Bar offers continental breakfast, coffee, martinis and all sorts of libations suitable for hanging back and watching all the casino action.
A very impressive glass dragon statue looks over the whole lounge, giving the place a very regal appearance, while the ceiling is painted with a gold finish, softening the look of the place and bathing everything in a warm, golden halo. Jericho, my brother, and I took a break from our casino adventures, and sat down for a spot of tea and a bit of dessert.

I was pleased to discover they served by Harney & Sons' Loose Leaf Teas (P200). With a choice of Bangkok, Japanese Sencha, Chamomile, Mint Verbena, Chum Mee, Moroccan Mint, Citron Green, Organic Asam, Darjeeling, Pomegranate Oolong, Decaf Ceylon, Raspberry, Decaf Sencha, Rooibos Chai, Dragon Pearl Jasmine, Supreme Breakfast, Earl Grey Supreme, Verveine, and Ginger Oolong, there's always a reason to keep coming back. See how the capiz-designed table resembles beautiful pearl dragon scales?

We had the Raspberry tea which was quite tart, just the way I like it and exactly how a fruit tea like this should taste. The tea, a color of dark red velvet, was served in a lovely cherry-colored teapot with a coconut macaroon. I suggest you make the most of your P200 and get your tea re-steeped a couple of times, as the flavor profile changes and after every steep. Oolongs especially, are notorious for getting better and better with every re-steep, and I have my eye on the Ginger Oolong and Pomegranate Oolong for the next time I visit.

We sat down to enjoy Light As a Feather Scones (P540) that came with clotted cream, house made jams, and lemon curd. They also have Tea Sandwiches (P630), the real English kind, if that's what tickles your fancy. Both are perfect with a pot of tea.

We had the scones. As you can see, they aren't at all stingy with the fresh berries, and this made our tea time here extra special. The scones were moist, fluffy, and densely packed. Gently cutting into one with my knife, it easily gave way to reveal its perfect, soft inside. Ever so gently, I'd get a dollop of cream and gently brush it onto the open half of the scone, before spreading on a little bit of the jam, and topping if off with a fresh, ripe, juicy strawberry or raspberry.

There's a certain art to eating scones, an I found myself teaching Jericho and Nap the proper way to enjoy an English tea. Jam first and cream second? Or cream first and jam second? That depends on which park of the UK you come from. If you lived in some place like Cornwall, then it's jam first, if you grew up in Devon then cream first is the norm.

I wonder what the Dowager Countess of Grantham prefers?

Everything at the Dragon Bar has a touch of decadence, as is evident in our scone platter. The berries were topped with bits and pieces of 24k edible gold flakes. It's quite unnecessary, but I have to admit it does take the whole presentation of the dish to a whole new level. I think Jericho and Nap enjoyed their tea and scones immensely, I know I did. The fresh raspberries and strawberries were a delight to eat - the juice gushing and swishing around my mouth with each bite.

If there's cause for celebration at Solaire (like you winning the jackpot, for example), then you may be up to try Dragon Bar's Royal Beluga Caviar (P67,000 for 30g). Caviar is an acquired taste - you either love it or you hate it. I think the best way to describe the taste would be like tasting the breath of the sea. Imagine the perfect raw oyster, fresh yet not briny, with a delicate aroma, and amplify that by ten, with the little black eggs popping in your mouth like tiny ambrosia-filled balloons. The Beluga is accompanied with the traditional buckwheat blinis, crème fraiche, sour cream, hard-cooked egg (yolks and whites are chopped separately), as well as minced and spring onions.

You'll notice that the caviar is served very cold, and the hors d'oeuvre is nested in a bowl filled with ice to keep it above room temperature. Do not, under any circumstances, use silver or metal utensils on the caviar, otherwise it would oxidize, leaving the caviar with metallic taste and that would be an entire semester at Ateneo lost. Dragon Bar does have the traditional gold and mother-of-pearl spoon for you to use, so do not make the mistake of trying to get at them with your fork!

If Beluga is a little out of your range, Dragon Bar also has Imperial Oscietra (P32,200 for 30g) and the brinier Sevruga Caviar (P29,000 for 30g), for you to sample. That's like a semester at La Salle or an exclusive all-girl's college respectively. You can have this with some celebratory champagne or demand a straight shot of Dragon Bar's finest frozen vodka.

Solaire has an army of pastry chefs that churn out miniature, edible works of art on a daily basis. The perfect example is their Fruit Tart. Topped with an assortment of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, kiwis, and the like, it hides a light cream underneath and the tart has the perfect crumble.

I was naturally drawn to the Chocolate Valrhona - a very rich, dense mousse with a sliver of raspberry jelly is covered with a layer of dark chocolate. This was decadent, sinful, and sweet.

The Cheesecake was surprisingly not sweet, but very rich and creamy, with the blueberry compote lending the desert its sweetness.

Still thirsty, Jericho tried Dragon Bar's Caffè Macchiato, which was sweet and milky, with a bit of bitterness and a lot of its kick emanating from the Danesi Caffe Gold Espresso. I loved how pretty all the layers of milk, espresso, and the thick crema looked.

Unknown to most, Dragon Bar also serves up some pretty interesting cocktail combinations. My favorite is The Stunner (P600), a drink that was named after the beautiful ladies at Solaire, it's a mix of Rémy Martin cognac, mango puree, kirschwasser, and lemon juice. I like how is mostly tastes of sweet mango with the aftertaste of the cognac.

The tag line in the menu for this cocktail is, "Every girl can be a Solaire Stunner." I guess after a few of these, every girl you see would look like a Solaire Stunner.

Another one of their signature cocktails is the Gin & Sin (P600) - a combination Hendrick's Gin, Dolin Vermouth, and Parfait d'Amour served up. The violet drink looked really pretty, but wow, was it strong! The menu describes it with a George Burns quote, "Happiness is a dry martini and a good woman... or a bad woman." I figure it won't take much for the bad to come out of any good woman with this drink. Deadly.

Thank you to Sharon, Philippe, and Angeline for making sure our time as Dragon Bar was phenomenal!

When mucking around Solaire, take a break from the casino scene and stop by for coffee, tea, or a cocktail at Dragon Bar, and treat your sweet tooth to lovely desserts while you people watch.

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Images taken by Jericho San Miguel

Dragon Bar
+63 2 888-8888
G/F, Solaire Resort & Casino
1 Solaire Boulevard
Entertainment City
Metro Manila