It’s a daring choice to name a restaurant “Bolero”—especially in the Philippines. The word is synonymous with a man adept at sweet talking his way around women, or even an insincere jokester with infuriating punchlines.
There’s no kidding around when it comes to cuisine at the modern European restaurant, though. And what they serve on your plate is nothing short of an honest, sincere presentation of deliciously striking flavors and culinary ingenuity.
Bolero is the brainchild of Felipe Díaz de Miranda, Luis de Isasa Muñoz, and chef Fernando Alcalá. Prior to Bolero, Miranda and Muñoz have had prior F&B experience in the Philippines, but it wasn’t until attending a wedding in Spain (where Miranda was a plus one) that Alcalá was added to the mix.
Alcalá is a more than welcome addition to the team, with his restaurant in Spain, Kava, receiving a mention in the highly sought after Michelin guide.
The restaurant takes residence in High Street South Corporate Plaza, an area of the city that’s chock-filled with other restaurants. Among the bright establishments and beaming signs, Bolero’s eye-catching signage with a vibrant red line struck through the middle (care of branding firm Design for Tomorrow) announces itself.
You’re greeted with a breezy al fresco area with dark marble and wood furnishings next to a larger than life door. Upon entering, the restaurant takes an even bolder look with red, black, copper, ebony-stained wood, and plush brown leather as its main motifs.
In lieu of fabric curtains, chainmail drapery decorates the windows, giving the space an even more decadent, edgy feel.
All these elements could easily be overdone if not executed properly, but with Miranda’s expertise as an architect, the resulting ambiance is chic and comfortably cozy—even bordering on the adventurously romantic.
A fantasy of flavors
Aside from its carefully crafted interiors, Bolero’s boldness also manifests itself in its menu. The menu reads much like the gastronomic experiences one might have in cities like Barcelona or Madrid. Shrimp tartare with green gazpacho, ricotta dip with green onion waffles, and homemade beef empanadas may sound like simple dishes, but their presentation and flavors they impart are a testament to the technically skilled Alcalá at the helm.
When you’re seated at the table, you’re immediately served a complimentary parmesan cookie. It’s a warm, salty, crumbly amuse bouche that whets the appetite. Some might argue that it’s more biscuit than cookie, but the pre-appetizer also has a bit of sweetness to it. The aged parmesan is present all throughout, which leaves you wanting more (and left me carrying a box out for myself).
The next heavy hitter on their menu is the creamy ricotta dip with green onion waffle. The waffle is shaped like the egg waffles you’d commonly find in almost every corner of Hong Kong. Instead of a crunchy sweetness, you’re met with a light and savory flavor. The green onion perfumes the waffle in its distinct aroma and the waffle itself is a fluffy and warm affair.
Paired with the waffles, the ricotta is whipped to an airy, almost cloud-like, consistency. The warmth of the waffle very slightly melts the cheese, so you’re left with a light, savory cloud in every bite. It’s so comforting, it feels like what an embrace would taste like.
An unexpected dish you’d find on their menu is the pork dumplings with moorish tomato dressing. The dumplings are similar to the ones you’d find in Chinese restaurants, with a plump, juicy filling and a thin wrapper.
The magic of this dish, though, comes in the form of the sauce. It’s a flavorful, slightly spicy, tangy dressing made with smoked cherry tomatoes. It tastes almost like a curry, which is representative of Southern Spain’s Islamic influence.
It begs to be said that aside from the flavors the dishes impart, an integral part of each item is its aesthetics. The presentation is constructed at a high level and it’s obvious that there was much thought and care put into the visual value of the dish.
It’s a feast for the eyes and the palate, and the one main dish that everyone should order when they visit is nothing short of a masterpiece.
The pork chop to end all other pork chops
For the mains, the one item I beg you not to miss out on is their insane Iberian pork chop. It’s so rare that a dish visibly takes me aback, but the first bite left me in a state of obvious positive distress. This dish, I would say, is the Rolls Royce of all the pork chops in the world. It’s made with what most consider the ribeye cut of the pig.
Unlike most pork chops that deliver a simple smoky flavor, this dish just knocks it out of the park. It opens with a sweet—almost syrupy—sweetness, much akin to bacon. Then the smokiness and saltiness of the meat hits you with a one-two punch. The pork is also tender, but still retains a nice bite to it, much like an expertly cooked steak.
While I am an avowed steak person, Bolero’s Iberian pork chop makes the case for ordering pork over beef. It’s a rich, layered, transformative bite that I have not stopped thinking about since. And after stuffing myself full with one of the best dishes I’ve had in 2023, there’s still room for dessert.
A decadent, cheesy ending
Cheesecake in Spain is different. It’s not of the thickly stacked variety like the ones from New York, or the light and fluffy ones in Japan. Technically speaking, Bolero’s cheesecake isn’t a cheesecake at all. In its native Spain, it’s known as a tarta de queso or a cheese tart.
This cheesecake is like no other in the country. In 2019, this specific recipe won Spain’s National Championship of Cheesecakes for best cheesecake in the country. And that’s a nationwide competition in a country that does not take the pastry lightly.
It’s a thin tart-like cake that’s made with several cheeses including mascarpone for an extra creamy texture. It has a blistered top, well caramelized in the oven, that gives it a toasted flavor.
When sliced, it acts more like a molten dessert than a regular cake. The exterior stays tender yet firm, but the center of the cake oozes creamy, cheesy goodness onto the plate. Each bite comes with a bit of a scrape on your plate to help you collect the puddle of cheese that forms in its perimeter.
It’s a dessert that I have not stopped thinking about since I first tried it. It tastes nothing short of spectacular and it’s something else from the menu I ordered to go to take home.
You’d think for the caliber of the cuisine Bolero serves, it would serve up a commensurate price tag. Interestingly enough, though, the restaurant is reasonably priced for its quality.
It’s on the higher end of the price spectrum with the average cost of starters being in the P600 range and with most mains priced in the P1,000 and P2,000 bracket, but it’s all big enough to share and delicious enough that you probably won’t mind after the meal.
With all of that being said, Bolero is a recommendation I would make wholeheartedly. There’s no hint of deception or sleight of hand in any point of the restaurant’s experience. It’s honest, exquisite haute cuisine that won’t hit your bank account a little too hard.
But then again, what’s pleasure without a smidge of pain?
Bolero is located at Verve Tower 2, High Street Corporate Plaza, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; Open daily from 12 p.m. to 2 a.m.