August 26, 2005 
(STAR) By Joseph O. Cortes - When CenŠ Cafť and Restaurant opened a couple of years ago in Libis, Quezon City, it was positioned as a Mediterranean restaurant that served Spanish and Italian specials. When it moved to Greenbelt 2 two years ago, it was re-imaged by Alan V. Mathay, its executive chef, as serving "my cuisine."

"Iím glad to say that we serve food that we like to eat," Mathay says. "Itís my cuisine; itís not anybody elseís." Of course, we refers to Mathayís partners Chris Escudero, Eliza Antonino, and Lovell Gopez, and "my cuisine" covers a generous selection of hearty meat and seafood choices and more to satisfy all sides of the dining table.

Hearty diners will have much to choose from. Meat lovers will enjoy favorites like the lengua sevillana (P390), garlic roasted chicken (P350) and filet mignon (P550), clearly a winner with its generous slices of tender rolled beef slices served with a generous serving of flavorful rice and mushroom stir-fry. Those who want to go meatless will have lots to pick from. Best selling seafood items are the catfish tower (P475), crispy, deep-fried, breaded catfish fillet served on a stack with a teriyaki sauce, tilapia fillet (P350), garlic prawns, and the unique Steak of the Sea (P425), thick slices of tuna grilled to your desired doneness. Think sashimi steak, and youíre on the mark.

And if thatís not enough, CenŠ offers two paella varieties to choose from: Paella CenŠ (P450), simply a meat loverís paella, and seafood paella. All orders of paella are good for two to three diners and are all-in-one meals. You get tasty rice cooked just right and large morsels of meat or seafood to go with it.

CenŠís menu, the first time it has been formally updated in the past two years, focuses on quality and price points. Although the crisis has severely affected businesses around the country, even the restaurant business, it has not let that get in the way of serving value-for-money offerings.

Chef Alan says the restaurantís big plates give him space to carefully plan the plating of many of the dishes. Indeed, the dishes are all picture pretty. The Green Sun soup (P150), a two-in-one soup of pumpkin and spinach, is a visual feast. The spinach soup is set like a small disk of green in the center of the pumpkin soup. The Garlicky Onion soup is a marriage of the classic French onion soup and the Spanish garlic soup. It is neither as sweet as the onion soup nor as pungent as the garlic soup. It comes with a chewy cheese crust that seals the top of the soup bowl.

Those looking for a light meal will enjoy the salads. The mango Parma ham salad (P250) is an Asian take on the traditional salad, while the grilled chicken salad (P195) adds succulent pieces of chicken meat to your usual tossed green salad.

The appetizers are triumphs in fusing diverse flavors. The East West Tofu (P195) adds to distinct toppings to the deep-fried tofu wedges: A sweet-spicy vermicelli topping and a mushroom ragout with goat cheese. Another popular starter is the prawns thermidor (P290), prawns served with a creamy sauce that transforms the dish into an entree light enough for a weight-watching diner.

And thereís more. The new CenŠ menu retains its popular pizza and pasta items. Some of the favorite pasta dishes are the Sardinian (P280) and spicy prawns (P295), while the favorite pizza variety is the pepperoni (P325).

And did you say dessert? CenŠ has a separate dessert menu that will knock the socks off anyone with a sweet tooth. All especially made at the restaurant, the dessert items may be pricey but they do not skimp on sweetness nor on visual appeal. The popular desserts are the lava cake (P250), a chocolate cake filled with chocolate syrup that oozes out when you fork a piece into your mouth. Truly a chocoholicís dream. And thereís the Toblerone cheesecake (P295), a classic cheesecake topped with Toblerone milk chocolate chunks and drizzled with Toblerone chocolate syrup.

CenŠ maintains two menus. The full menu is available during regular operating hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. From 10 p.m. till midnight from Monday to Thursday and until 2 a.m. on Friday and weekends, a bar chow menu with the favorite appetizer, pasta and pizza items is available.

To ensure that guests are served the best, chef Alan prints out on the menu exclusive numbers where diners can call or text their comments. Call either 757-4030 or 0920-9265738 for any reactions to CenŠís menu or service. All comments will be treated with confidentiality.

"We can never be too lax with our service or what we serve," he says. "We just want to serve our customers better."

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Cena is at Greenbelt 2, Ayala Center, Makati City. For inquiries and reservations, call 757-4030 and 728-1454; fax 757-4031; or e-mail

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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