Saturday, May 9, 2015

Cocktails, Bar Chow, and a Cool Vibe at The Gilarmi Lounge

Classic cocktails with an inventive spin matched with curated bar fare for perfect pairings...just can't get better than that.

But it does. Discovery Primea's Executive Chef Luis Chikiamco collaborates with one of the metro's top mixologists, Lee Watson, for an evening of classic cocktails and curated bar fare at The Gilarmi Lounge. Take a peek at one of Makati's newest and best kept secrets...

The Gilarmi Lounge, named after the country's first luxury serviced apartments, the Gilarmi Apartments, the same building which stood where Discovery Primea now rises, is the hotel's main bar serving Filipino-inspired bar fare, light snacks, and premium spirits. And it's just the perfect spot for cocktails at the center of the bustling Makati CBD.

The elegant yet cozy interiors of The Gilarmi Lounge is the perfect setting for a few cocktails and tasty dishes to unwind after a long day. The impressive floor to ceiling glass windows provide dramatic views of the Makati CBD, and as the afternoon light slowly fades to give way to the bright city lights, it's a cue for a soothing cocktail. And there's nothing like a classic cocktail to get you in the groove. Executive Chef Luis Chikiamco, General Manager David Pardo de Ayala, and guest mixologist Lee Watson go behind the bar, and the evening's festivities began with a round of new cocktails created specially for the bar (for more on Discovery Primea's Mediteranean-inspired cuisine at Tapenade and fresh oysters, salad greens and microgreens, cheeses, prosciutto, and bread at The Salad Room, check out my previous posts here at and

Mixologist Lee Watson (L) oversees the bar as the first round of cocktails are prepared, and the team goes into action. Bottles of premium spirits are opened, shakers filled with ice, and the first round's on its way. Executive Chef Luis Chikiamco (R) keeps a close eye at the bar, ready to serve his curated culinary creations for the pairings. 

The sound of shakers fill the air, adding a festive mood to the evening. Samplers of each new cocktail are then poured and served, and The Gilarmi Lounge shifts to high gear. Kay, one of the friendly servers at The Gilarmi Lounge, prepares the next batch of cocktails...

And the first of Lee Warson's specialty cocktails were served, starting with the vibrantly colored Riviera Fizz (L), a blend of La Navarra Pacharan (sloe gin), blood orange, and lemon soda; and the Guyabano-Tarragon Mojito (R), with Bacardi Silver Rum, sugar, lime, soda, and guyabano topped with fresh tarragon.  Lee Watson draws inspiration from the flavors of the Mediterranean, with a tart and herbal liqueur from Spain and blood orange from Italy for a burst of sunny flavors with each sip of the Riviera Fizz, while the Guyabano-Tarragon Mojito is infused with a refreshing local twist, with guyabano (soursop) and the distinct notes of the tarragon instead of the usual mint. Executive Chef Luis Chikiamko then presented his curated dishes to pair with each cocktail, matching local flavors and the freshest seafood...

The Riviera Fizz is paired with the Filipino Ceviche (L), with spice infused coconut vinegar and coconut milk, and the Guyabano-Tarragon Mojito is matched with the Pinoy Rockfeller (R), the classic oyster dish reinvented with kangkong, calamansi-infused hollandaise and coconut vinegar for a local twist.

The fresh and clean flavors of the first two dishes are washed down perfectly by the new cocktails, tempering the sharpness and richness of the Filipino Ceviche and Pinoy Rockfeller with each soothing sip.  Seafood and cocktails always work, and the seafood dishes served, infused with local flavors, are light yet flavorful. Then Lee Watson served the third cocktail for the evening, a creamy Tropical Gin Fizz with coconut, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Licor 43, lime, egg white, and soda. Lee Watson recreates the classic Ramos Gin Fizz with the Licor 43, a Spanish liqueur made with 43 botanicals and a layer of creamy notes from the tropical coconut puree. The blend of coconut puree and the floral hints from the Spanish liqueur combine for an aromatic and flavorful libation, with a cool tropical vibe.

Executive Chef Luis Chikiamco pairs the Tropical Gin Fizz with his own take on a local classic, the Sisig sa Riles, inspired by the origins of the dish first served alongside Pampanga's rail tracks. But Executive Chef Luis Chikiamco adds his own upgrade to this classic, with his version cooked three ways, the pork is braised until tender, grilled before chopping, and sauteed in a pan. He then tops his dish with a 63 degree egg as a finishing touch. It's elegant little touches like these that make light dining at The Gilarmi Lounge special.

Sampler versions of Executive Chef Luis Chikiamco's Sisig sa Riles were also served, topped with quail egg. The richness of the dish is perfectly balanced by the creamy yet cleansing notes of the coconut cream and the Bombay Sapphire Gin for another winning combination.

And the bar at The Gilarmi Lounge remained busy, serving the next round of new cocktails, with the Cilantro Sour (L), a classic whiskey sour made with a fruity single malt, the Glenlivet 12 years, sugar, lemon, and cilantro; and the Blue Caipirinha (R), with Brazilian Cachaca, almond syrup, and lime juice topped with blue pea flowers.

The Cilantro Sour's herbal twist with a layer of smokiness from the premium single malt paired well with Executive Chef Luis Chikiamco's Tuna Brochettes, with its fresh and clean flavors punctuated by crispy garlic gremolata and spicy red chili for contrasting notes. Using the most tender part of the tuna, the tuna loin, the delicate flavors of the premium tuna are kicked up a notch after marinating it in lime and soy sauce, and the crispy chili garlic topping just adds that finishing kick. The Cilantro Sour's tart and smoky notes just pairs with the dish perfectly, leaving a clean and refreshing finish lingering long after the first sip.

The colorful Blue Caipirinha, with the distinct nutty notes from the almond syrup, pairs well with Executive Chef Luis Chikiamco's Chicken Wings Inasal, seasoned in a classic marinade of garlic, spices, lemon grass, annatto oil, and vinegar. Each sip of the mildly sweet Blue Caipirinha brings out the delicate flavors of the chicken, as you go for yet another bite.

Lee Watson yet again transforms the classic whiskey sour with a more pronounced peaty note combined with local citrus and a floral syrup for a distinct Asian touch, the Cherry Blossom Whiskey Sour. The base of Dewar's Scotch and its distinct peatyness is complemented by the tart calamansi and cherry blossom syrup for a mildly sweet finish. This is then paired with a classic Chinese dish to complete the experience...

Executive Chef Luis Chikiamco's Binondo Cua Pao, with slow-cooked pork belly BBQ and pickled cucumbers in soft Mantou bread, completes the Asian flavors. The tender pork's smoky and sweet notes are perfectly tempered by the bold peaty flavor and cleansing finish of the calamansi in the Cherry Blossom Whiskey Sour, leaving just a whisper of sweetness from the cherry blossom syrup. Six inventive and unique cocktails matched with six curated dishes, each one perfectly paired with complimentary flavor notes. The unique and inventive take on the classic cocktails make it refreshingly different, and the dishes remain comfortingly familiar yet new and different at the same time.

But at The Gilarmi Lounge, the night was just beginning, More drinks were served, and it was a good time to recap some of the favorite cocktails. The pair of whiskey sours, the Cilantro Sour and Cherry Blossom Whiskey Sour, deserved another round. And another. And maybe just one more Riviera Fizz...

The friendly staff at The Gilarmi Lounge were simply outstanding, always finding me no matter where I was and serving my cocktail, round after round. And with still so much food prepared by Executive Chef Luis Chikiamco, The Gilarmi Lounge was definitely the place to be. 

Despite being at the center of the Makati CBD, one feels comfortably isolated, far away from the hectic pace of the city at The Gilarmi Lounge. Like a sanctuary in the city, the bar exudes a subtle elegance with a casual and comforting vibe, and definitely one my my favorite dives for some classic cocktails. One more Cilantro Sour for the road to cap a perfect evening at The Gilarmi Lounge...

Executive Chef Luis Chikiamco pairs our last round with a rustic Goat Cheese, Bacon, and Leeks Pizza, fresh from the oven. And it just can't get any better than The Gilarmi Lounge.

The Gilarmi Lounge is located at the Ground Floor of Discovery Primea, 6749 Ayala Avenue, Makati or call 955-8888 for inquiries. You can also visit their website for more information at

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