The last time Happyfoodies attended a lunchtime wine tasting event, we left the venue slightly inebriated. As we boarded the lift with some editors, we seem to share a collective feeling of being primed for taking an afternoon nap and foregoing the tasks reserved for the rest of the day. When we set our appointment with Nectar Restaurant in Makati for some lunchtime wine and food tasting, we thought history might repeat itself. Happily, with a bit more restraint, it did not. Oh, we’re not big wine drinkers, certainly no connoisseurs, but the concept of promoting a more democratic wine dining tradition sounded very interesting and too good to pass up.
Wine dining isn’t necessarily novel in the country. But in a nation where a big bulk of alcohol consumption centers around beer and at a very distant second, hard drinks, wine seems to be consigned to the sidelines, appreciated only by a select few who are either more exposed to the wine-drinking culture, more patient to learn it, or braver than others to develop a liking for this acquired taste. Nectar, so named because wine is deemed the nectar of the gods, obviously has its work cut out for it. But this new restaurant which escapes conventional name-calling — fine dining with a smart casual attitude? or casual dining with a more refined attitude towards wine? — has introduced new wrinkles which just might make wine dining a hit with the masses.
Lagal[og] says: One of the obstacles to making wine an automatic accompaniment to meals and less of an afterthought is the unfamiliarity with what’s out there. It’s easy to be intimidated by the choices available and floundered by the different wines on offer. Another thing is the lingering “myths” about wine being reserved only for certain occasions instead of being part and parcel of a meal. Nectar resolves these by introducing wine pairings — suggestions on what wines will enhance this or that item in the menu. No more snobbish waiters frowning on one’s choices (or lack of knowledge). No esoteric lectures on which wine came from this or that region of the wine-growing world (not unless you want a crash course, of course). The place is also decidedly “un-stiff” and borders on the casual, somewhere you can hang-out with your friends or bring your date.
Ironwulf says: The interior is definitely warm and accommodating. The wine dispensers are something new and interesting. Nectar would like to infuse the knowledge of wine on a more personal level, focusing more on taste and sensation not only on the intricacies of how they were made. It also goes beyond wine + food into the realm of wine + food + art which is why there are rotating exhibits where each piece of art finds a complement in a particular wine that evokes the same feelings as the artwork.
Lagal[og] says: One of Nectar’s interesting innovation is the personality test. You may be what you eat and in the same vein, you can be what you drink. And it’s not about technicalities or some high-brow criteria but rather which particular wines resonate with you. I took the test and it’s quite a surprise how accurate it was (turns out I’m a Merlot person though I also took a particular liking to the rather sparkling Montes Alpha Chardonnay fetched directly from one of the wine stations). Oh, and the wine stations are really a simple but great idea to let diners have a sip of different wines without having to spend so much or intoxicate themselves silly.
Ironwulf says: Of course, Nectar has a delectable menu to lure in people to try their wine with their food and I should say it’s a really good bait. We had Spanaconchitas as appetizer. The triangular pastry was really flaky and the cheese and spinach filling was smooth and pleasant accentuated by the chorizo in the middle. Accompanying it was the Chardonay wine which had a hint of pineapple fruitiness which made the pairing perfect. Dipping the Spanaconchitas in the yogurt dip changes its complexion, preferring the Merlot this time around to complement the slight sourness with the wine’s deep plum flavor.
Lagal[og] says: All this talk of wine dining would be all for naught if the dining part will not deliver on its role in balancing out the meal. We started out with the Burguittos, pairing it with the Shiraz, which brought out the smoky flavor of the ground beef burgers decked with quail eggs and potato allumettes. While Nectar is into Italian-Mediterranean fare, the chef, we learned, has a passion for burgers which explains the Burguittos and the restaurant’s signature La Mancha Burger.
Ironwulf says: I enjoyed the play of textures on the Burguittos topped with shoestring potatoes and lying on a bed of bread which added a crisp texture to the juiciness of the burger. However, the La Mancha Burger takes the spotlight. The patty was rich, flavorful and juicy. Instead of using ground beef, the chef used minced steak to preserve the marbled fat. Combined with the pickled peppers, shredded beef and wheat bun, La Mancha Burger reveals its decadence with every bite. And the what better wine to pair with this dish? For me it was the Pinot Noir with the sultry smooth taste.
Lagal[og] says: We had the Aglio Olio Gamberi served with the Sauvignon Blanc. The pasta dish was deceptively simple as the pasta was infused with the flavor of garlic and shrimp, the wine enhancing the rich flavors of the dish.
Ironwulf says: I also like how the pasta absorbed the shrimp’s flavor and the hefty bits of garlic on top. But what really heightened the flavor for me was the Sauvignon Blanc. Chilled at the right temperature, it was a perfect wine to cap off the meal.
G/F Concorde Condominium
Salcedo corner Benavidez St.
Legaspi Village, Makati
Open from 11am-2pm for lunch, 6-10pm for dinner