Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Go Mad for Garlic on Classic Italian with an Asian Twist

There's a new Italian wine bistro on the block, not just your usual bistro, but one with a cool twist. Mad for Garlic showcases garlic themed dishes on classic Italian cuisine, from starters to desserts, for a unique dining experience. And you'll definitely go mad for garlic...

Established thirteen years ago by Caroline Nam in Korea, Mad for Garlic now has over 22 locations in Korea, Indonesia and Singapore, and it continues its regional expansion with its first restaurant in the Philippines. A lover of Italian cuisine, Caroline Nam soon realized that Koreans also loved garlic with a passion. Building on her love for classic Italian dishes and the popularity of garlic, Caroline Nam and her team created the Mad for Garlic concept. Twenty-three branches later, and counting, Carline Nam's garlic-inspired dishes continue to be popular and remains her distinct edge. Global Restaurant Concepts, Inc., the same group behind CPK, PF Chang's, Morelli's Gelato, IHOP and Gyu-Kaku, now brings this cool Italian wine bistro concept to Manila with its innovative garlic-themed cuisine.

And this love affair with garlic is seen and felt throughout the cool interiors of Mad for Garlic, with garlic bulb shaped lamps and garlic wreaths hung along the walls and on wine bottles. More than just your usual Italian wine bistro, Mad for Garlic kicks up the Italian dining experience a notch higher with its unique twist on Italian cuisine.

Mad for Garlic has two floors of spacious dining areas, characterized by its sleek yet elegant look, accentuated by the ever-present garlic. These playful touches immediately remind you that dining at Mad for Garlic will be different and special.

As we settled into our tables, Mad for Garlic's kitchen's fires up for the lunch service in a flurry of activity as the starters are served. The cool open kitchen concept on the second floor also adds to one's overall dining experience, giving you a sneak peek to some of Mad for Garlic's unique dishes.

Mad for Garlic's signature beverages, or "signature ades",  were then served. Cool and refreshing, Mad for Garlic's unique and original concoctions are perfect with any meal. If you're looking for something sweet, go for the Yuja_Ade (P 110), a traditional Korean herb tea made with yuja fruit preserved in honey.  The Wine_Ade (P 170), another refreshing concoction that's not too sweet,  is a cool blend of red wine and soda. Mad for Garlic also offers an extensive wine list, and a dry, sweet wine is recommended with the garlicky and lightly spicy menu. Other beverages include fresh fruit shakes, beers, coffee, soda and tea. And then, the garlic feast began...

For starters, we were served the interestingly named Dracula Killer (P 195), hot and soft garlic bread served with garlic cooked in olive oil and anchovies. The soft and buttery bread is simply perfect with the flavorful garlic, olive oil and anchovies, and a great start to any meal. The garlic has a sweet subtle flavor, not too overpowering, just right. And with a cool name, you know this one's a winner. Just the dish for a Twilight apocalypse...

Then, one of Mad for Garlic's signature pizzas arrived, the Garlic Snowing Pizza (P 545), topped with shrimp, pineapple and fried sliced garlic. I usually veer away from pizza topped with pineapple, yet the sweet mild flavor of the pineapples complement the cheese, shrimps and the crisp fried garlic quite well, and surprisingly, I go for yet another slice.

One of Mad for Garlic's international bestsellers, the Garlic Snowing Pizza's mild sweetness and the crisp thin crust should also do well here. And the fried garlic bumps up both the flavor and texture of this unique pizza.

The Tutto Mushroom Salad (P 665), a sweet salad with three kinds of mushrooms served in Teriyaki Sauce with grilled red pepper, asparagus and arugula. If you love mushrooms, and garlic, you'll enjoy this one. The sweet teriyaki dressing goes well with the nutty mushrooms and fresh greens for a truly different salad. A real winner, and a personal favorite.

The Crab and Lobster Pasta (P 475), with a rich garlic cream sauce and chunks of tender crab and lobster. The creamy garlic sauce provides the flavor, enhanced by the chunks of sweet crab and lobster for a rich and indulgent pasta dish. Rich yet subtle flavors, creamy and smooth textures, pure pasta bliss.

There's nothing more comforting than a plate of noodles, and this dish is an absolute must-try at Mad for Garlic. It's interesting to see how Mad for Garlic infuses garlic in popular Italian dishes, but the playful and inventive kitchen has more surprises up its sleeve.

The Dancing Salsa Rice with Steak (P 295), a complete meal of garlic rice served with wine-marinated beef topped with fresh bean sprouts and fried egg, served with a side of fresh salsa. Once served, your server then mixes the dish teppanyaki-style while the hot plate sizzles. The tender beef, crunchy bean sprouts and egg make this a sure hangover cure, or a great meal anytime of day.

The Caprese Salad (P 695), a simple and refreshing salad with fresh tomatoes and Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese with a traditional basil dressing. The cheese and fresh tomatoes provide contrasting flavors and textures in every bite, and the basil dressing simply ties the whole dish together.

A simple salad where fresh, quality ingredients make all the difference, another winner from Mad for Garlic's innovative kitchen. Light, yet flavorful, and another personal favorite.

The Zuppa di Pesce (P 655), a special spicy soup with various fresh seafood including prawns, mussels, and squid, served with garlic bread sticks. The rich tomato based sauce brings a familiar hint of garlic which blends well with the fresh seafood. A hearty and comforting dish, the heat from the chili gradually builds without dominating the richness of the soup. Dip the garlic bread stick in the thick broth, and you get a flavorful burst in every bite.

The Gorgonzola Pizza (P 475), topped with rich Gorgonzola cheese served with honey and garlic bits. The honey and cheese combination is an awesome flavor combo, as I go for yet another slice. The rich saltiness of the Gorgonzola and the nutty sweetness of the garlic honey blends so well for a truly unique pizza experience.

After sampling a range of starters and mains, you know that garlic just adds the finishing touch to each and every dish. But Mad for Garlic's cool kitchen has one more surprise. For dessert, the Garlic Sprinkle Gelato (P 175) was served, a garlic flavored gelato topped with a crisp garlic cookie and drizzled with chocolate syrup.

I was unsure of the flavor combination at first, but one bite of the creamy gelato erases any doubt. A rich and creamy vanilla gelato provides the base, and the surprising hint of garlic gradually creeps in for another unique flavor experience. And surprisingly, the flavor combo works quite well. Grab a piece of the crisp garlic cookie to scoop up the gelato for another cool blend of flavors and textures. Just another cool surprise from Mad for Garlic's kitchen.

An Iced latte and Iced Cappuccino caps the feast at Mad for Garlic, and on a hot summer afternoon, its just what you need.

Joie Arvesu, Senior Operations Director; and Executive Chef Winkee Chong on deck to ensure you have a memorable dining experience at Mad for Garlic. The excellent service, a familiar touch in all GRCI concept stores, also adds to one's overall dining experience at Mad for Garlic.

Mad for Garlic is definitely not your usual Italian wine bistro, and its unique and playful approach to Italian cuisine is definitely one cool dining experience. Leave it to Global Restaurant Concepts to bring you something new and different with their growing portfolio of dining establishments. And the best part? Mad for Garlic is set to open more branches within the year. Now that's cool.

Special thanks to Griffith Go, Chief Financial Officer; Archie Rodriguez, President and CEO; and Manuel Zubiri, Vice Chairman, Global Restaurant Concepts, Inc. for an awesome lunch. Feel the need for something different? Check out Mad for Garlic, and be prepared for a cool surprise.

Mad for Garlic is located at the W Global Center, 30th Street corner 9th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig or call 808-9517 for inquiries.

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  1. I wouldn't have known Mad for Garlic is from South Korea! XD Just the name of the restaurant isn't exactly so Korean for me. Anyway, everything looks sooooo good! Will try to convince the boyf to take me here soon :D

    1. Hi Sumi, and Mad for Garlic continues to surprise with the food, good eats! Great to hear from you Sumi


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