I can still remember the countless times I’ve eaten at Mario’s Restaurant in Tomas Morato branch with my family. We lived quite near so it was not only convenient but the place served wonderful food. I can’t believe that branch has been open more than 35 years already while the original Baguio branch in Session Road that started it all is already 40 years old this year.
I recently got a chance to relieve all those old memories when I was invited to try some of their famous dishes at an event to celebrate their 40 year existence as well as the launching of their revamped website, www.marios.com.ph. The venerable institution is now run by Chef Anton Benitez, bringing with him his years of experience from the US.
We started off with an appetizer, Gambas con Chorizo (P345), a mix of sweet, crisp shrimps and smoky chorizo de bilbao. This dish was very good, getting the best of two well loved Spanish dishes.
Oysters Rockefeller (P265). Even though I prefer my oysters raw with just a spritz of lemon or calamansi, these baked ones topped with hollandaise sauce and spinach served to satisfy my taste buds.
We were then treated to a show, Mario’s Caesar Salad was created in front of us. A step by step building of the restaurant signature salad from the crushing of the garlic, mixing in of olive oil, addition of anchovies and eggs and finally the coating of the lettuce. The salad is creamy, with salty and the slight garlic taste underneath the crispy lettuce.
For the main dish, my eyes were immediately drawn to the Corned Beef and Cabbage (P395), served with a side of boiled potatoes and carrots. This dish is usually associated with the St. Partick’s Day celebration in the United States. Its not usually served in most restaurants, so I order this whenever I see it. A curious thing in how they serve is the addition of a bowl of the juices instead of the in the serving plate. The beef are tender and had just the right amount of amount of saltiness, a dollop of horseradish and mustard and I was sated.
Irene chose the Glazed Pork, a big yet tender piece of pork chop slathered in Mario’s special sauce. I had a little taste of the pork and despite the thickness was tender and flavorful. The thing that stuck to my taste buds was the herbed garlic rice served on the side.
A large pan of Paella Valenciana (P595/2-3 persons) was served to be shared by all. Teeming with seafood, meats and vegetables, it was quite a hit among the diners that night.
For dessert you could opt for Mango Jubilee (P310), a flambeed and liquored mango dessert that used to be the rage in restaurants before but has almost gone extinct. This is another beside the table preparation but with a more fiery flare.Its served with ice cream for the hot and cold mix, so yummy.
Wary of the any accidental burning,one might opt for some of their cakes and saccharine offerings like Leche Flan (P95), Bread Pudding, Toffee Sansrival (P120) or their famous Banoffee Pie (P120, not pictured since they ran out of it that night)
Mario’s Restaurant has managed to last through the years luring back old customers, their children and the new generation of diners by constantly changing and innovating their look yet keeping the food that has worked for generations at the same level. I actually noticed that their menu was not as robust as yesteryears, with a few dishes I remember not on the menu anymore. The management plans to bring them back slowly to let new customers and diners experience dining the Mario’s way.
I actually spotted another good deal while on the way in, announced on a chalkboard display, The Mario’s Sunday buffet for P645 which includes roast beef, cochinillo, turkey, oysters, sushi, pasta, paella and a variety of desserts. I think that’s a great deal and should try it out one of these days.
191 Tomas Morato ave., corner Scout Gandia
372.0360 / 415.3887 / 376.6210
Upper Session Road