Ruby announced her coming, shortly after a visit from Queenie, and, like all tempestuous women, taunted everyone with some furious flutters and flicks of her whirling skirt. Local government answered schoolchildren’s prayers by cancelling classes as early as Thursday. A circular encouraged businesses to close shop clearing most offices by Friday afternoon. Some events and dinners had to be moved around to accommodate logistical delays. Kitchen Matador as he is, Chef Ipar Miranda pushed through with his intimate invitational at his eponymous Spanish restaurant for the seven souls who braved the eerie calm before the storm: myself, Gerald & MJ, Toni & Taylor of The Cebruery, The PussyKat and, Golda May.
The thematic interiors of Ipar’s played up the anticipation. Large dining tables out of wood from the Miranda farm held down the decorative tiles of the lofty space. Assorted paintings and prints in the Spanish bullfighting theme echoed a large divider drape with Picasso’s The Bullfighter and Don Quixote in applique. Entire walls were dedicated to Iberico pigs and matadors as were wooden fixtures bearing frying pans that have lived out service lives to the fullest.
As in a bullfight, in Tercio de Varas — the part of lances, the seven speared through an assortment of tapas. The earthy meatiness of mushrooms played well with the pungency of garlic in Champignones Al Ajillo where mushrooms were sautéed with garlic in oil. Ipar’s Gambas Al Ajillo, a classic tapa, is yet another sauté with the profusion of garlic masking the natural seafood smell while bringing out the mildly buttery, briny flavor of the shrimp. Paprika and red pepper gave it a bite.
Definitely to share was the Tortilla de Patata, a thick Spanish Omelette with potatoes and onions, mellowing out the intense garlicky flavors of the two previous items.
Croquetas De Pollo came in bite-sized shells of light, fine breading with enough crunch to highlight the creamed chicken texture. Ipar’s Calamares Fritos sported a similar coating on the succulent squid rings with the complementary plus of the Garlic Ali Oli.
Taking up the rear end of the tapas parade was one of the house specialties, Chorizo Menudos Con Ajo — Chorizo without casings sautéed in olive oil and garlic, differing from our local varieties from the lack of sugar.
In Tercio De Banderillas, the seven picked up their knives to cut through the mains. The Bacalao was a salted rock cod soaked and washed of its intense saltiness prior to a good sautéing in garlic to leave the moist, flaky fish flesh still well-seasoned.
You’d think the Chuletas De Cerde Al Ajillo went through a sous-vide before a pan-finish from its buttery softness but it owes its texture only from the good cut of pork it began with, brining and a steady heat to a well done. I’d usually shy away from the fat but the aromatic flavors from the garlic permeated that good strip too well to pass it up.
Lengua is one of those dishes of which the taste for I have slowly acquired over the years. I still wouldn’t make a beeline for this dish on any menu but Ipar’s Lengua Estofada is an exception I would make. Reminding me much of the consistency of steamed ham, this one takes the savory flavor of its sauce with nary a thought of tonsil hockey with the bovine species to mind.
Similarly, Callos or Ox Tripe wouldn’t be high on my list but by and by it has worked its rather, what I could best approximate as, “game-y” charm on me. Like the Lengua, Ipar’s smothers his dish in a flavorful sauce that works rather well with the chewier texture of this offcut.
As a tot, my grandfather would gift me a kid every January only for it to die of mysterious causes a few months after — right on the morning of my birthday. Needless to say, roast goat and Caldereta is served by dinner. Ipar’s take on what has now become quite pedestrian (with dedicated kandingan joints in back alleys all over the metro and the su’rbs) was enough for me to get over that deeply-rooted childhood trauma. Ipar’s Caldereta was decidedly different from the usual stringy dry meat prep with sizable, succulent cuts yielding to the fork and quite the toothsome softness in the mouth with the hearty flavor of the sauce inside and out.
Besting others in a blind taste test to receive note as Sun Star’s Best Of Cebu 2014- Best Paella, his take combines meats and seafood in a smoky, aromatic dish. Simply seasoned with salt, saffron, garlic and paprika for depth of flavor, each individual component performs an intense flamenco solo culminating in the grand baile of, as it is the mark of a great paella, very flavorful rice.
Ipar’s Paella Negra takes on much of its savory-seafood flavor from the profuse use squid ink seen in its markedly black rice as it is in authentic preparations. Chunks of squid and fish give it more meaty heft with Garlic Ali Oli rounding out all the flavors.
Weakened by the previous welcome gustatory assaults, we entered into Tercio De Muerte where Chef Ipar performed a virtual suerte de muleta to reveal our sweet finish. His faena began with an Espuma — a deeply chocolaty mousse followed by the Sorpresa — where an extra rich cooked Spanish cream, much like a panna cotta, met the tropical sunshine of local mango sauce. In his remate, literally a pase de pecho, Chef Ipar takes a Lagasse quote to heart and serves up hedonism in a few spoonfuls in the most decadent leche flan in the city yet. As to its secret ingredient on top of it’s all egg yolk composition, let me just let loose the classic “it’s a whole lotta love.” The house specialty coffee Café Bombon, an espresso shot of Arabica with condensada, made for an even more guilty coffee pair to the above trio.
It didn’t take as long after the Spanish Colonization for us to take their recipes and run wild with it. Chef Ipar made it his mission to reintroduce authentic Spanish flavors to the local crowd. Four solid years of study and exposure on Spanish soil and five years of local operations are more than enough credit to back up his unwavering resolve not to bend to our bastard tongues. For that, I laud his effort. Ole’!
The night extended with stories fueled by Calimocho, a red wine and cola mix, and the Spanish meal staple, Sangria. The educated seven later bid each other with equally heavy hearts and bellies but with much excitement to share our experience and, of course, to return. Muchos gracias, Ipar!
Ipar’s Restaurante Y Bar De Tapas is located at 157 F.Ramos St., Cebu City. Tel # (032) 410 7727