This is our second time in Sentro 1771. Ramona and I weren’t particularly impressed with our previous experience, considering that they claim to be the first in our favorite cuisine, FIlipino. Food is supposed to bring you happiness. The restaurant's failed to do that for us. Or maybe we just didn’t get lucky on our first try. Maybe we didn’t order the right things?
According to former food critic of New York Times and Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet—Ruth Reichl, a critic should dine in a particular restaurant at least five times before concluding a review. This is to be just, to be as objective as possible. It could be that the first time you ate there, the chef was having a bad day so he unconsciously poured too much salt on you soup. Perhaps the hostess was exhausted from everyone asking her tables that she forgot to smile when you were politely reminding her your reservation. There are a lot of possibilities. Humans as we are, there are lot of excuses. So, we decided to give Sentro 1771 another chance.
Together with our date, we arrived at Greenbelt 3 by 6:00 PM. A charming man by the door greeted us with a suave smile, bowed a little and just like a true gentleman, motioned his hand to the way inside the restaurant. The wooden interiors radiated simplicity and timeless class. Yellow lighting made a cozy, almost romantic atmosphere but the narrow space in between tables couldn't offer privacy. I mentioned we needed some fresh air so he eagerly ushered us to the smoking section outside. The place was calmer than I remembered, gone were the crowd who hovered the hostess and the customers who almost ran to a newly emptied table only to be informed that it was already reserved. People were just starting to pour in when we were settled comfortably in our wooden seats. It is a wise thing to be early. Sentro 1771 is after all a famous restaurant.
After quickly surveying the menu Ramona and I exchanged conspiring looks, warned about the particular dishes we wouldn't want in our table and designated to our friend the task of ordering. The waiter who took care of us was a neat guy with a red bow tie and seemed to delight flashing his white teeth at my direction. When he presented our drinks in their elegant tall glasses, in just a few minutes, I knew I liked him more. Ramona had a bottomless Black Gulaman, RC opted for the Green Mango Smoothie while I chose a refreshing Raspberry Smoothie for myself. We had no idea if our drinks would go well with the food, since it was a hot Tuesday night in Makati, we just relished every icy sip.
One by one our food arrived. Seeing the Boneless Crispy Trotter (Crispy Pata) glistening on the plate was an exciting moment. The aroma of garlic and lemongrass filled the air and I could feel my mouth watering in anticipation. The skin of the pork did not betray its name. As crispy as Lechon's or even better. The whole trotter was deep fried but the meat was surprisingly soft and juicy. Dipping the pork in soy sauce with crushed red chilies and calamandarin made up for its lack of just a little pinch of salt. I also enjoyed the garnish of mango salad as the acidic bite awoke my taste buds and helped fend the trace of cholesterol.
Ordering the Grilled Chicken Steak however, was a mistake. It looked pale, the generously sprinkled golden minced garlic didn't help elevate its visual appeal. Plating and Food styling are crucial in every restaurant. Food should emanate an appetizing aura. But the sight of the Chicken Steak didn't at any rate tickle my gastric fancy. It took a huge amount of will power to put the steak inside my mouth, it felt like risking my own palate. The meat had this weird texture that didn't agree with my senses. It was dry and moist all in the wrong places. I should have ignored the dish the whole time.
My favorite Vegetable Stew was a relief. With less than a hundred bucks you can enjoy greens in tamarind soup. Before everything was set on our table, the waiter brought us a little bowl of soup for a "taste-test." I have never seen that done in any restaurant before. Because taste is subjective, I appreciated that the Chef would make sure that his flavors would suit the customer's preference.
Over all , I could say our trio was satisfied with the meal and of course, with the superb service. Though there were glitches on the road, the culinary experience changed my initial impression of Sentro. Ramona and I might even go back to try the other specialties of the house!