We all know that eating meat, especially beef, brings with a substantial environmental footprint. The common sense approach seems to be to eat much less of it, but when you do, make sure it’s the very best. In this regard, Raging Bull in the Shangri-La Fort fitted the bill perfectly, serving up easily the best steak of the year.
What’s impressive is that this is an almost brand new joint, opened just weeks ago. Normally places need time to find their feet and mojo, to iron out their creases, have extended soft openings and ensure that the simple things are done well, even before the food is served.
It helps that visually it’s a beauty. You genuinely forget that you’re in a hotel, albeit a swish one. The New York-based design firm AvroKo Hospitality were behind it, evoking a Mad Men feel of 60’s New York with funky chevron flooring, textured wood and glass panels. One especially neat touch is at the entrance where a light fitting is made of 100 metal calipers which looked uncannily like bull horns. Seemingly a designer saw them, sprayed them gold and hey presto!
As in many steakhouses, (or chophouse, as they call it), for better or worse there’s an unashamedly masculine feel to the place. Likewise at the bar, with white marble, burnished metal and grey slate. Behind it sit 90 brands of American whiskey alone, along with 30 brands of gin and barrels of house-mixed cocktails. (Incidentally I didn’t count them, but found their press release with details.)
Clad in leather aprons (but of course), the affable bar staff led by Ulysse kicked things off with a Mamma Mia, a mix of Plantation Original Dark rum, Wild Turkey 81˚ bourbon, La Fée absinthe, Passionfruit seeds, homemade pandan syrup, pine juice and nutmeg. This packed a serious punch, perfect to get the dinner started, but stayed really well balanced throughout.
At the table, six oysters were well sourced and handled, the natural ones winning out over the Rockerfeller and balsamic pearls with bacon. (1,350 Pesos)
Things kicked off in earnest with crab cakes along with a pot of charred orange and aoili mayo (475 Pesos). More often than not, crab cakes are an exercise in disillusion, a filling but unsatisfying start where you feel you’ve just gorged on fried potato. Not here. These were the real deal, where you had to look for the potato amidst the white crab meat. Just excellently made, with no scrimping on ingredients.
From there, things turned to the world of beef, following the knife-choosing lark. The Raging Bull chef Nathan Griffin was previously in charge of the Shangri-La Sydney’s signature restaurant. The young Brit is clearly no one trick pony and showed a brilliant touch with the reason we were here, namely serious steaks. The table shared a platter which featured a John Stone 49 day aged Rathmore Irish striploin (top), an 1824 grain-fed Queensland ribeye (to the left) and Robbins Island 22 day aged #Wagyu MS7 from #Tasmania, to the right.
Now these three cuts of meat had all come a very long way to get to the Fort area of Manila. Luckily. their’s was not a wasted journey. On the contrary, together they conspired to be the best steaks of the year, in fact the best in a very long time, anywhere. The cook is always subjective, the description tricky, but serious meat fans just know when things are done right. Here, all three were absolutely nailed. Thanks the Josper oven, partly, but there have been numerous underwhelming Josper steaks in Hong Kong and elsewhere. This was an example of taking first class produce and doing it ultimate justice.
Sides joined the glorious meatwave, especially so for the vegetarian, all of which were good renditions. The one slight down point was in desserts, where the game needs to be upped to raise them near the standards that preceded them. A cheesecake was underwhelming while I didn’t really understand the dessert under a cute candy floss coating.
But no matter, because you don’t come to a steakhouse for dessert. And where it mattered, Raging Bull would have made De Niro proud.