CULTURAL POTPUORRI| Carlo Calma-Lorenzana’s La Cabrera de Manila

IN MY trips abroad, I still haven’t eaten in an Argentinean restaurant. And to think that Argentinean cuisine is famous for its asado (barbecue) just as Davao is known for its being an ihaw-ihaw republic. But the big difference lies in the meat used for grilling. Argentina is one country which produces the world’s best beef. Evita Peron’s motherland is famous for its grass-fed cattle and the gauchos (Argentinean cowboys) who work in raising well these precious vacas.

Just as my mother and father raised us, their children, to be carnivorous steak lovers, we grew up devouring steaks and were always on the search for the best steakhouses in town. I finally found one very good steakhouse and to think it is Argentinean at that. It is called La Cabrera which is located at the 6750 Building in Ayala Avenue, Makati City.

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THE LORENZANAS at La Cabrera de Manila (l-r): Lito Lorenzana, Michael E. Dakudao, Sylvia Calma-Lorenzana, Lara Lorenzana-Kolling, Matt Kolling

“La Cabrera is a popular steakhouse from Buenos Aires, Argentina; and it is famous for the authentic way of grilling. La Cabrera is the number two best restaurant in Argentina and is considered among the top 50 restaurants in South America,” informed Carlo Calma-Lorenzana who operates La Cabrera along with Argentinean chef de cuisine, Gaston Riveira.

“Parrilla La Cabrera opened in 2002 in the colorful neighborhood of Palermo, Buenos Aires, as a traditional Argentinean grill. La Cabrera is celebrated for its simple meat cookery and exceptional steaks,” added Carlo as he and his loving and ever supportive parents, Lito and Sylvia Lorenzana, invited me to dinner a few weeks ago while I was in Manila. Carlo has been inviting me for years but for whatever reason, my cousins and I would always end up eating at Shangri-La’s Inagiku Japanese Restaurant whenever we’d plan to visit La Cabrera. This time around, I, by my lonesome, was able to dine at La Cabrera, the first one established in Asia, with the Lorenzanas no less.

La Cabrera de Makati is a welcoming place which reminds me of a tavern. But this one is a lot bigger and cleaner than the taverns I had gone to abroad. La Cabrera also exhibits a lot of nicely-framed vintage photos and antique home accessories that you’d think you’re in a museum or an art gallery. It made me wonder whether Davao Museum Exec. Director Sylvia Calma-Lorenzana, Carlo’s devoted mom, had a say in the interior design. It is truly a relaxing place for professionals who have the income to be able to afford dining at La Cabrera. La Cabrera is a pricey restaurant that would make you want to sing “Do Cry for Me, Argentina” once your bill is presented to you, hahaha.

I walked a mile from the condo to go to La Cabrera where Lito and Sylvia, along with their daughter, Lara, and her husband, Matt Kolling, were already seated while waiting. Lito gave me a tour of the restaurant; and even showed me the expensive customized wood-fired oven and grill of La Cabrera, patterned after the open pit grill of chef Gaston Riveira’s grandfather, which makes possible the authentic Argentinean way of cooking food. There’s also a room for holding private parties.

Unfortunately, Carlo couldn’t join us that night but he made up for his absence by ordering the food he planned for us to feast on. For starters to whet our appetites, we had the beef chicharones with slices of lemon (not as oily but equally as delicious as pork chicharon laman) and the bruschetta de jamon crudo (Parma ham on toasted bruschetta). Next came the ensalada de racula y queso Parmesan (arugula salad with Parmesan cheese). For the main course, Carlo presented us with steaks namely Entrana (skirt steak) and Vacio (flank steak) which came served on wooden paddles. The most expensive steaks on the menu include the 15 Days Wet Aged Rib Eye (P3480) and the Bone in Full Blood Wagyu (P6995). Accompanying the steaks are side dishes like mashed potato with mustard, apple sauce and brown rice; smashed pumpkin with raisins; olive tapenade; peas and corn; and couscous. You can ask for refills for the side dishes for as much as you want.

Argentinean dessert would always have the dulce de leche (custard) to fill cakes and pancakes, spread over toast, and even as an added ice cream flavoring. For our postre at La Cabrera, Carlo had us served Rogel de Dulce de Leche which are layers of biscuits and Argentinean dulce de leche; and the Pangqueque con Dulce de Leche y Helado (sugar crepes with Argentinean Dulce de Leche and vanilla ice cream on the side. I would have wanted to try the Pavlova, a popular dessert in the 1970s named after a Russian ballet dancer. I had my postre served with a warm cup of Cafe Americano.

What a night on Argentinean cuisine 101 with the familia Lorenzana. It’s quite memorable for me as it was my first introduction to Argentinean cuisine. And was I glad it was at Carlo Calma Lorenzana’s La Cabrera.

Thnk you for such a wonderful dinner, Lito, Sylvia, and Carlo Lorenzana.

   Fotos:

1. The Lorenzanas at La Cabrera de Manila (l-r): Lito Lorenzana, Michael E. Dakudao, Sylvia Calma-Lorenzana, Lara Lorenzana-Kolling, Matt Kolling

2. Sylvia Calma-Lorenzana with daughter Lara

3. La Cabrera’s efficient service with a smile

4. La Cabrera’s grilled steaks come served on wooden paddles

5. Rogel de dulce de leche

6. Tarta con dulce de leche

7. Lito Lorenzana with Aliah Dimaporo-Cimafranca

8. La Cabrera’s customized oven and grill

9. Dining area interior

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