GLOBAL CAFE: A TASTE OF THE WORLD AT GREENBELT 3, AYALA CENTER

MANILA, February 11, 2004 (STAR) By Lynette Lee Corporal - Global Cafe by Store Super... Global Cafe by Store Super... Global Cafe by Store Super...

No, it’s neither Global Store nor Global Super. It’s Global Cafe by Store Super. It pays to recite the name of this restaurant like a mantra to rid yourself of the confusion. Even now, a lot of people still can’t get the name right and even think that it’s actually a store.

This uniquely named – and designed – restaurant at Greenbelt 3 has an inscrutable characteristic. The restaurant has a charm all its own, with its primarily Asian-inspired – with touches of western influence – interiors, texture and flavors.

Not that it’s suffering from an identity crisis... far from it. The restaurant, the brainchild of cousins and business partners Reena Francisco and Carlo Tanseco, is actually a palatable gateway for people raring to get a glimpse – and a taste – of the world. The restaurant is literally a window to various countries what with huge murals placed on the walls and framed in such a way that you feel like looking at postcards, wall paintings and old, faded photographs.

"These screens are a collage of different visuals of either spices or people. We kid Carlo that it’s an abstract of what his mind looks like. Actually, these frames are snapshots of everything he has seen in his travels," comments Reena.

The warm colors, adds Reena, represent a variety of spices, namely curry, saffron, cayenne, among others. The interiors, the cousins say, tend to lean more towards Asian design because "it’s closer to us and it’s richer colorwise and texturewise."

However, one of the restaurant’s more curious fixtures is a giant green pear hanging directly above the bar. Friends of this writer who frequent Global Cafe always launch into guessing games – and even philosophical discussions – about the pear’s significance.

"It was more of an afterthought," laughs Carlo, explaining that he needed a foil to soften the restaurant’s linear design. "And I put a pear because it’s my favorite fruit owing to its sexy and curvaceous frame."

So there, guys. Stop torturing your minds and just enjoy the food the restaurant has to offer.

The food is, of course, the restaurant’s main reason for being. Reena, for her part, has always loved cooking and eating. She clarifies that she’s not a chef, though. She’s just a foodie who loves to travel and sample the food of each country she visits. She and Carlo like going out and trying out the food being sold in the streets, which more often than not, is the heart of that particular country’s cuisine.

"Mostly what we offer here is Asian, nothing really foreign and nothing pretentious but just good ol’ comfort food that is palate-friendly," says Reena of the restaurant, which is an offshoot of Store Super that used to be located in Glorietta 4.

A glance at the menu would reveal a wide array of selections from countries, like Thailand, Korea, India, Indonesia, China, Japan, Singapore, Greece, England, Italy, France, Germany, Spain and the US. Curiously enough, since the owners thought there are enough Filipino restaurants around, there’s only one Filipino dish on the menu – the beef steak, sirloin beef infused with lime and soy sauce and cooked the bistek way with lots of onions and garlic. Served with garlic rice and atsara, this one deserves to stay in the menu and compete with the rest of the items.

The garlic curry with roti chenai, an Indian-inspired appetizer, is a consistent top-rater, while the coconut fish curry with basmati rice, also from India, is a flavorful dish using dry curry made of minced ginger, fried grated coconut and other Indian spices. Texturewise, this dish is taste bud-friendly and is a welcome change from the usually overwhelming creamy curry. To get rid of the umay, the owners thought it best to serve the dish with sweetish spicy mango chutney and a refreshing side dish of cucumber raita.

We’re planning on adding more Indian dishes this year since Filipino diners are becoming more adventurous and are demanding more variety. Our other Indian dish, the lamb biryani, is doing quite well. The twist is we didn’t make these Indian dishes spicy as we don’t want to assault our clients’ palates so much. We just want our restaurant to offer a good introduction to the different cultures. Nothing really overwhelming as far as the flavors are concerned," says Reena.

Oh, and nothing too exotic as well, she adds. Sorry folks, while they have been to Nepal, you won’t be seeing yak’s tea on the menu in a long while… maybe never.

Another crowd-drawer is the braised Korean beef, and we found out why. Braised to perfection, the meat will literally fall off the bone at the slightest prodding of a fork. The sauce, containing all the meat’s juices and spices, is best poured onto a heap of steamed rice and eaten with radish, spinach, bean sprouts and kimchi on the side. The flavors are all there – sweet, salty and spicy – and will stay with you long after you’ve scooped the last bit of meat from the bowl.

Reena’s personal favorite, which she first sampled in Italy, is the Salad Lyonnaise, which she dubbed the "breakfast salad". Consisting of mesclun topped with poached egg and chunks of bacon and tossed in Dijon vinaigrette, the salad is a hefty, refreshing way to start the day. It perks up sleepy taste buds and prepares them for richer and more filling main entrees.

"The good thing about our dishes is that you can share a dish with friends or family," says Reena of the generous portions each dish provides. Or if you prefer, you can avail of the restaurant’s sample platters. Available for lunch only, the platters can be shared and are a combination of different dishes from different countries.

Speaking of sharing, you can even share the bibimbap, one of Korea’s popular dishes. Never mind that it only has five ingredients out of the traditional 13. For a bit of a twist, this bibimbap also has Korean stir-fried beef, apart from the fried egg sunny side up, steamed spinach, bean sprouts, and sautéed mushrooms placed on top of steamed rice.

The proper way to eat a bibimbap? Grab a spoon and start mixing everything in the bowl together. If you like, you can mix in a glob of Korean hot sauce for that extra zing.

If you ever find yourself in this restaurant one day, take time to feast your eyes on the descriptions on the menu, for that alone could make your mouths water: Spicy minced chicken with basil – minced chicken with garlic, ginger and chili seasoned with Thai fish sauce, oyster sauce and tamarind sauce, and served with steamed rice and cucumber vinaigrette; five-spice pork ribs – crispy pork ribs flavored with cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns, served with a side order of preserved cucumber; blackened catfish – served with tomato-mango salsa and creamed sweet potato .… The list goes on as your famished stomach grumbles on.

For a sweet interlude, Global Cafe’s dessert treats are not to be missed. Consider this list: Strawberry shortcake, mango pavlova, chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, just to name some. Not too sweet but decadent just the same. Unfortunately, they don’t really offer fruit pies. It would be interesting to see how a pear pie, in honor of the huge pear above the bar, would taste like.

* * * Global Café by Store Super is at the ground floor of Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati City. Call 757-4906 and 728-1317 for inquiries and reservations.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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