Dining alone is always an adventure. One night when I was in the Philippines, I found myself needing to dine alone. I didn't feel like eating in the hotel, and I wasn't in the mood to hire a car or taxi to drive me all over town, so I decided I'd check out the Greenbelt area of Makati. It had been almost 8 years since I had been to Manila, and a lot had changed. The Greenbelt area was completely new since my last visit, and I had heard it offered a myriad of shops and restaurants, so I figured it was worth checking out.
After a quick 5 minute walk, and a detour by a bizarre open air church, I was there. There were indeed, a ton of restaurants and shops, including a lot of western chains such as Starbucks and Seattle's Best. After walking around for another ten minutes or so, I settled on a Spanish Tapas place called Casa Armas Tapas Bar y Restaurante, on the third floor of Greenbelt 3.
When I got there, it was still a bit early at about 6:30pm. The place was dead, but I had brought along a book (a constant companion when traveling solo) so I figured I'd be good to go. I was the only person there, so I was curious as to how I'd end up being treated. The waiter promptly seated me at a two top near a window overlooking the city, which I considered a good move.
After a few minutes, the waiter returned with a bread basket and asked me if I wanted anything to drink. I ordered a glass of the house red, which ended up being fairly dry, but not particularly good.
There were actually two menus from which to choose, a tapas menu, and a menu of more traditional Spanish (and other) fare. I was in the mood for tasting, so I opted to order exclusively from the tapas menu.
I ended up placing orders for gambas al ajillo (shrimp in olive oil and garlic), an assorted meat/fish/cheese/olive tray, and two pieces each of assorted shrimp, fish, pickles, and toast.
The gambas al ajillo was by far my favorite. The shrimp were nicely done, and the combination of pungent garlic and olive oil was divine.
The mixed plate had homemade chorizo, Jamon Serrano, and what I think was soppressato, along with manchego cheese, olives, and sardines. I loved the chorizo and manchego cheese, but the ham was not nearly as good as the other times I've had it. The olives were also plain and uninteresting. The plate was originally supposed to come with anchovies, but they were all out, so they substituted with large sardines. I'm glad they did, because they were great! I honestly had never gotten around to eating sardines, thinking they were nasty little fish that came in cans, but my opinion is now changed.
The other items I ordered were basically toothpicks containing pickles, olives, and shrimp or sardines, served on toast. They were ok, but nothing worth remembering.
All in all, Casa de Armas was ok. The gambas al ajillo were very good, but unfortunately, the rest of the menu fell a little short of what I had been hoping for. I do have to credit the experience, though, to opening my eyes to sardines, a food I had entirely dismissed until this trip.