New eats: After 5 years, there's a new Alba restaurant in the metro

Joko Magalong-De Veyra

Posted at Mar 28 2019 05:41 AM

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MANILA -- Alba Restaurante Espanol has been serving traditional Spanish fare in Manila for decades, and this 2019, five years after it last opened an outlet, the family-run restaurant has added its 5th and biggest branch in Estancia Mall in Pasig.

“Competition keeps us on our toes, but we have always been clear about the direction of Alba. We serve traditional Spanish comfort food. This is what we do best," explained chef Miguel de Alba, president of Alba International Inc., and general manager of Alba, in a statement. "We just want our guests to leave the restaurant happy. Everything is customer-centered; there is no other way.”

Alba has changed with the times, expanding slowly but surely, all the while getting to know its customers inside and out, as it carves its way forward in the Filipino dining scene. 

In the Estancia restaurant, the word “reunirse” is written on a wall. Meaning to meet, assemble and get together, it’s the word that represents Albal’s direction. 

“We realized that Alba is a gathering place, a place where people celebrate, so we thought of offering that service. When we were invited by Ortigas, we saw the lights, the openness — it was like we were not in a mall. And then we said, this would be a nice place to have celebrations,” enthused Chachelle Guiao-de Alba, marketing manager of Alba.

Dolora de Alba, wife of the late Senor Anastacio de; Guia de Alba; and Miguel de Alba. Jeeves de Veyra

Alba's only branch located in a mall, the 170-seater Estancia restaurant shares the most in terms of style with its Prism branch (its last opened branch), but with some tweaks. The words "homey" and "classy" come to mind on the restaurant’s aesthetics, thanks to design elements like Spanish chandeliers sharing space with modern droplights, the large glass windows on one side that look out onto a tree-lined street, wonderfully high ceilings, it’s eclectic mix of seating options, and the Spanish-inspired artwork on its walls like the paelleras painted by Maya de Alba, the daughter of chef Miguel. 

At its entrance, a tapas bar beckons for either a quick or leisurely drink, while the deli bar nearby stands ready to provide patrons with Alba’s house-made meats, and ready-to-heat dishes to take home. 

Segovia is the main dining room, which can seat about 50 guests. It’s nearest to the buffet, and flanked on both sides by function rooms. On the right is the Alicante, a 60-seater room, perfect for big company gatherings or events, while at the other side is the Andalusia, a 30-seater room, which also serves as the heritage room of this Alba restaurant. 

“In Makati, we have a bulletin board there. My husband, Miguel, is super sentimental, and so we had old photos of his father there. And our architect saw that and said, ‘You know what I’m going to do something to duplicate that.’ So now, we have a room dedicated for that, that we call the heritage room,” Guiao-de Alba said. 

Filled with framed newspaper clippings and memorabilia, the heritage room is a celebration of Alba’s colorful past and beloved cuisine.

The heritage room. Jeeves de Veyra

“Nothing much has changed through the years. We still follow the same recipes that my father has created. We may tweak the presentation here and there, but the taste, the flavor, and the quality of food remain the same,” assured Chef Miguel. 

And whether you’re been a longtime fan or new to the joys of Alba, there’s no better way to get a taste of its celebrated recipes than through their crowd-drawing Spanish buffet (available in the Estancia branch for both lunch and dinner). 

Hearty and delivering more bang for your buck, the buffet offers a selection of the popular dishes of the restaurant. And while the menu changes every day, these were the dishes that gratified our tummies the most when we visited Alba’s Spanish buffet. 

Jeeves de Veyra

1. Cold cuts and cheese

Who can say no to starting your meal with a continuously evolving selection of cold cuts and cheese? Alba makes these cured meats in-house, ensuring quality, and a trademark taste. 

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2. Mantequillo de Roquefort

A cake of butter. Roquefort adds that exciting tangy extra when you spread this butter on toast points, or on any of the breads available on the buffet. Pro-tip: Head on over to this side of the buffet (beside the dessert), if the main dessert buffet gets crowded, and load up on some quick tapas. (During our visit, these were Albondigas de Pollo or chicken meatballs; or Berenjas al Horno, eggplant with anchovies and cheese. 

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3. Gambas con Tocino

Bacon and shrimp are two things that get even better together. One can’t resist eating just two of these, and why should you? It’s thankfully in a buffet! 

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4. Chorizo de Alba

From Bilbao to Morcillas to Pamplona, it’s a selection brings the best of Filipino Spanish-style sausage making to your plate! Also during our visit, beside the chorizo, you must catch the Calamares Y Rabas when they’ve just come out of the kitchen -- hot and crispy, hiding excellently cooked squid. 

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5. Salpicao de Solomillo

Tenderloin beef cubes cooked in olive oil, garlic and brown sauce, this Filipino invention, inspired by Spanish cuisine, always makes for easy eating. It is especially delicious with wine (or their sangria), and/or garlic rice. 

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6. Coca de Espinacas

"Coca" means "pie" in Catalan cuisine. Crust that’s flaky without being too poufy, topped with cheese and spinach made for ideal grazing food. It was also a great palate cleanser in between bites of chorizo or gambas. 

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7. Almejas Horno

A simple dish with clams, breadcrumbs, garlic, and oil, it was quick to disappear in the buffet. 

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8. Conchinillo Asado

Oven-roasted suckling pig presented beautifully carved for faster eating. Clean tasting, the innately sweet taste of pork came through, so pleasant that you didn’t need the accompanying sauce for flavor. 

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9. Paella Filipino

You can go with reliable dishes like Paella Valenciana or Paella Negra, but if you see the Paella Filipino on the table, be sure to get some, as this paella breaks the mold by celebrating porcine delights with sisig and conchinillo. 

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10. Canonigo

This airy treat dappled in caramel makes for heavenly eating to those hankering for something light and sweet. 

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11. Tarta De Santa Teresa

Alba’s signature cake is this author’s reigning best yema cake in Manila. Even with a yema filling and a topping of yema balls, it straddles that beautiful line of just-right-sweetness, thanks to buttery counterpoints of sponge cake, and almonds.