THE SIXTH Summit Hotel has opened its doors in the bustling city of San Juan, ideally located near the famous Greenhills Shopping Center and near enough (traffic permitting) to city centers like Cubao, Ortigas, and Makati. But what sets Summit Hotel Greenhills apart from other locations is that it is a symbol of what soon will be trademarks of the Summit Hotel brand.
One of those is Café Summit, an all-day dining restaurant serving “comfort food with a twist,” according to a press release. Yes, we’ve heard this phrase one too many times but what makes Café Summit different is that “comfort food” includes Mexican flavors that the executive chef is fond of and local Filipino favorites.
The restaurant seats 80 people comfortably, with a small private dining area at the side for up to 20 people. Café Summit also features an open kitchen system so diners can watch their dishes being prepared.
“I would define my cooking style as eclectic. I kind of touch on everything. Nothing that we prepare here is just fast, everything takes quite a few days. So there’s really a lot of intense work to prepare each ingredient,” Daniel Lachica, the hotel’s executive chef, was quoted as saying in a release.
During a media visit in October, Mr. Lachica said that while his father is Filipino, he lived with his mother who is Italian-American so he didn’t grow up cooking Filipino flavors. It was only when he decided to visit his father’s hometown in Aklan that he became acquainted with Filipino cuisine.
The result of this are his versions of local cuisine which are served in Café Summit. His Adobowl, for instance, is his version of adobo (a meat dish stewed in soy sauce and vinegar) where he uses roasted tomatoes and pork floss to elevate the flavors. The result is something familiar and unfamiliar at the same time because, on one hand, you taste the requisite salty and sour umami of the adobo while on the other you’re enjoying the texture of pork floss and the sweetness of the tomatoes.
Another standout on his menu are the Biang Biang noodles with spiced lamb or stewed pork belly options. The noodles come from the Shaanxi province in China and are known for their length (and width) — they are almost reminiscent of a belt. Mr. Lachica said that it’s something that’s becoming popular overseas, but he noticed that it’s very rare to come across this dish in the Philippines and he wanted to add something to the menu that would be different from what the nearby Chinese restaurants are serving. (Note: The hotel is located directly across Choi Garden.)
And it is different: the noodles, which Mr. Lachica said are made and cut in-house, are chewy (and a choking hazard if you decide to slurp one in) and work really well with the spices in the meat. The lamb is spiced with cumin alongside other spices giving it a Mediterranean flavor profile, but then you’re brought back to Asia with the black vinegar and soy sauce base of the noodle sauce. The dish is a worthwhile journey to make.
During the visit, we were also given the chance to taste his Chicken tortilla soup and Falafel salad. The soup became an instant favorite at the table — the roasted tomatoes, shredded chicken, and the usual Mexican cuisine accouterments like cilantro and lime, resulted in a soup with well-balanced flavors and rich enough to satisfy but not so heavy that one wants to skip the main courses after. The falafel salad with the creamy harissa (African chili pepper paste) was also a winner, with the falafels perfectly sized and cooked as an accompaniment to the salad greens.
Of course, what is a restaurant without its signature dish? For Summit Café in Greenhills, that dish is the Calamansi cheesecake which Mr. Lachica said has became a favorite among the diners in the restaurant.
“My father’s family lives in Aklan and we would go down to Boracay for vacation and every time I’m back in Manila I always think about the Calamansi muffins (from Real Coffee and Tea Café) so I set out to do a cheesecake version,” Mr. Lachica told the reporters.
The sour, yet not overbearingly so, calamansi worked really well with the soft cheesecake texture and its sweetness blunted much of the fruity sourness of the local lime. It’s simple but it packs a punch.
SUMMIT CAFÉS IN OTHER HOTELS
Soon, there will be Summit Cafés in other properties and while there will be differences in their menus, Mr. Lachica said the team “wants to be consistent in a way that we keep the same attitude in our dishes.”
“We want to connect with the locals… so [while we’ll have] items consistent [throughout] the properties, there will be specialties coming from the locals,” he was quoted as saying in the release.
He added that they are trying to become sustainable by getting as much of their ingredients from the areas they are located in.
In the interest of uniformity, all the soon-to-be-opened Café Summits will have similar interiors which are upscale but still comfortable and non-intimidating.
HOTEL OF FIRSTS
Aside from the hotel group’s restaurant brand, Summit Hotel Greenhills started to deploy sustainability efforts which will be copied in other properties. That includes eliminating single-use plastics by putting two water dispensers on each floor and pitchers in each of the 100 rooms.
In-shower dispensers for shampoo and soap are also provided.
“The hotel is expected to save up to 5,000 plastic water bottles a month and an average of 1,000 pounds (roughly 454 kilos) of plastic a year from toiletries,” the release said.
The hotel is also the first to introduce the self-check-in system, according to hotel General Manager Katrina Lardizabal. This allows visitors to check-in using their reservation code and create room keys themselves for a more fluid and seamless process.
Summit Hotel Greenhills is located at 13 Annapolis St., Barangay Greenhills, San Juan City. For reservations, visit summithotels.ph.
Summit Hotels also has properties in Quezon City (Summit Hotel Magnolia), Tagaytay, Naga, Tacloban, Summit Circle Cebu, and Summit Galleria Cebu. — Zsarlene B. Chua