The dry season has come and gone, and with it, the hordes of tourists that hound the roads, stores, and restaurants, around Tagaytay. Settled in a forested ridge overlooking Taal Lake and Volcano, the city is 2,000 feet above sea level and enjoys a cool climate year-round that makes it a favorite summer destination.
The traffic has abated to its normal, provincial slow. As a transplanted “local,” I feel possessive about the place and I don’t particularly like it when the area starts to feel and look too touristy or too citified.
The foodie in me also likes getting a seat at my favorite restaurant—Buon Giorno at Cliffhouse in Tagaytay. The complex (owned by the Dee family of China Bank) houses a boutique hotel and other restaurants, but Buon Giorno is the one that’s always filled to capacity, with a queue and wait-list during weekends and holidays.
The restaurant’s specialty is of course Italian food, but its menu is varied enough that anyone—carnivores, vegetarians, pescetarians, or picky children—can find something that will surely please both palate and wallet. That’s a big reason why this place is very popular; you can get good gourmet food without having to skip your monthly mortgage to pay for it.
For lunch or dinner, I always start with a soup, picking either a cream of broccoli or shrimp bisque from the many choices at hand. The soup is superb, thick and hot, with just enough flavor of the star ingredient to tickle your taste buds. The portion is big if you are eating a full course so we usually ask the soup to be split into two, and reserve our eating energies for the entrée.
Since I’m always trying to diet—a food columnist has difficulties in this regard—I often opt for a light pasta dish such as spaghetti vongole, which in their version is a combination of clams and shrimps. But it has the perfect garlicky, white-wine infused flavors that you expect from a classic vongole.
When you finish the pasta, try the Italian way of ending a meal by tearing a piece of bread and using this to mop down every last bit of that delicious sauce.
My partner likes to start with a foie gras salad. You can have either mango or apples to go with the salad, a mix of fresh greens drizzled with raspberry sauce. The candied walnuts in the salad are a delight, a sweet indulgence to balance the bold richness of the foie gras.
For my mains, I love the smoked salmon risotto, which goes very well with their house white wine. The risotto is very good: every grain is filled with so much flavor you can’t help but close your eyes in appreciation of its savory goodness.
This dish is so filling that you can share it with someone, or eat only half and take home the rest. The next day, it is still fantastic, passing my personal re-heating test, which I believe is the best way to tell if restaurant food was cooked properly.
If I’m especially hungry, there’s nothing better than a good old steak. Buon Giorno has the Prime Rib package, which includes soup or salad, the steak, and then dessert with coffee or tea.
The steak is tender and juicy; it is cooked perfectly, medium well for my taste. They’ll also give you on the side generous amounts of buttered vegetables and sliced fried potatoes.
You’ll see an interesting mix of people here if you come on a busy lunch or dinner service. Inside where the large groups congregate, I once espied a large contingent of Korean teenagers; a Filipino extended family wearing similar t-shirts, like they do on reunions; and to my surprise, my local dentist and his family.
In the seats outside, there’s an all-women group merrily exchanging gossip; a family with children ordering from the kid’s menu; a couple seated in the far corner couch, full of love amid pasta; and the husband and I with old friends, drinking red wine and eating pizza, and catching up on work and politics.
I’ve been to Buon Giorno so many times that I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for a good place to eat in Tagaytay.
The most important quality of this restaurant, in which it trumps all the others in the area (and even in Metro Manila), is its consistency. The quality is always good whether you come in the morning, noon, afternoon, or night.
I should know, we have come here at all times, even very early in the morning to partake of breakfast. Sometimes, we arrive even before their opening time of 8 a.m. and while we wait a bit we take in the scenic views.
The Cliffhouse complex has one of the best designs for a Tagaytay ridge side property. On entering you can see that it has ample parking space, sloping down but properly leveled down so that it’s a manageable parking experience. There’s a small but properly landscaped garden in the center with a number of old trees including mango and jackfruit, flowers and other ornamentals, and hanging vines.
There’s an open terrace where you can take pictures (or selfies) with Taal Lake and Volcano as your background, plus the forested mountains of Batangas and Cavite, and the blue sky with big white clouds that you hardly see in Manila anymore.
The best seats in Buon Giorno are al fresco where you can see the lake and the forest that is starting just a few feet away from you. We are reminded of Santorini where places with a view of the water are the norm. (Incidentally, Santorini is also located on the tip of the old caldera like Tagaytay, with a volcano that is also a tourist draw).
Buon Giorno serves breakfast until 10 a.m. and they have both Filipino and continental breakfast items. I’m a big fan of their tapsilog, which has tender and succulent beef, delicious garlic rice, and they’ll give you both fried egg and red eggs with large tomato slices.
Sometimes, I crave for the chicken adobo flakes. I appreciate the labor that went into flaking the chicken—fine, not thick, and fried to a crisp. With spicy vinegar dip on the side, rice, eggs, brewed coffee, it’s a perfect Filipino breakfast food.
My husband’s favorite is the eggs benedict, which very few establishments can do well. Here the poached eggs are divine, with fantastic ham and spinach, on a bed of artichokes instead of bread.
To visitors here from the city, Buon Giorno is perhaps difficult to spot since it has a small sign unlike the large neon ones of fast-food outlets.
A part of me finds that a relief since some people won’t find it and give up, and that will mean fewer people in the crowd and in the queue. But fat chance—I know that once you’ve eaten here you’ll remember and you’ll keep coming back.