The restaurant interiors. (Photo from Restaurant Verbena's Facebook page)
Interiors and ambiance
The place wasn't too big, just about right in size, and I liked the warm and cozy country ambiance accentuated with high ceilings and lots of wood and stone. We sat at the terrace section where we could feel more of the cool Tagaytay breeze.
With appetizers that start at Php 395 and main courses that can go as high as Php 1,200 and Php 2,200 (plus 10% service charge), Restaurant Verbena is no cheap place to dine. That said, we expected much from the food. Maybe too much.
We started off with complimentary bread with a trio of spreads: some tomato and oil thing, chicken liver pâté, and some white bean concoction. The tomato thingy tasted nothing but oil while the pate had way too much butter than chicken liver. That said, the white bean spread was already the best-tasting among the three.
We tried an assortment of stuff for sharing among the three of us. We got two appetizers, one main course, and two risottos.
Bacalao & Chilean Sea Bass Cakes (Php 395) consisted of three croquettes and a few greens with caper remoulade. I liked this dish. The fish flavor was just pleasantly potent.
Bacalao & Chilean Sea Bass Cakes
Warm Scallops Salad (Php 425) consisted of four fried scallops and four fried quail eggs, each sitting on a slice of roasted potato. In the middle were some greens with creamy truffle vinaigrette. The dish may have an eye-catching presentation but it fell short in the taste department. It lacked seasoning that I had to resort to salt and pepper. The potatoes were soggy (I thought they were roasted?).
Warm scallops salad
We also ordered a bottle of Beringer White Merlot, which was a good compromise for opposing preferences for red and white wine.
Beringer White Merlot
Verbena's Sampler Plate (Php 895) was a clever way to try three different dishes without having to commit to just one. The dish contained a little bit each of U.S. Beef "Goulash" that sat on a dollop of creamy mashed potato, Australian Lamb Riblets with Homemade Barbecue Sauce atop two fried polenta cakes, and Grilled Norwegian Salmon with Arugula-Mushroom Salad.
The Verbena Sampler: (left to right) U.S. Beef Goulash, Australian Lamb Riblets, and Grilled Norwegian Salmon
Clever as it may sound, this dish was a letdown overall. The salmon may be good but the beef lacked flavor and the lamb was just too dry. The only thing I probably enjoyed in this sampler were the polenta cakes.
Risotto "alla Pescatora" (Php 695) had everything seafood in it from clams, mussels and scallops, to shrimp and squid. It wasn't bad but some of the seafood felt a little too icky after a while. It somehow lacked the heartiness I enjoy in a risotto.
Risotto "alla Pescatora"
Herb Risotto (Php 495) had mushroom fricassee, white truffle oil, and parmesan. It may be a lot simpler, but I liked this much better than the seafood risotto.
Underwhelmed with our meal, we skipped dessert and just asked for the check.
On the plus side, we didn't have to wait too long for our orders. The waiter was also attentive enough in refilling our wine glasses. However, only two tables were occupied at the time, so I'm not sure if they're able to maintain that level of efficiency if the place were full.
On the downside, some waiters can rub you in the wrong way. I was oblivious to an incident from across the table when My Bibe and her dad were perusing the wine list. After some discussion they settled for a Beringer White Merlot only to be advised by the waiter that that particular wine wasn't available by the glass and was only served by the bottle. My Bibe felt slighted by this comment because she can very well read from the wine list that it was indeed sold by the bottle, that she was okay with that, and which was why she ordered one.
*Rant alert* Had I known, that waiter would have heard from me. Why, did he feel we couldn't afford a bottle because compared to the customers in the next table, we weren't conversing in English? For all I know the chef wasn't actually there at the time and what we were served were precooked frozen food, thawed, and then heated. That would probably explain why your roasted potatoes were soggy.
Restaurant Verbena may be a nice, cozy place to dine but with the price it commands, it smacks of pretentiousness, more so because it fails to deliver. I'd like to say it's nice to treat ourselves to a nice restaurant once in a while and just bear with the expensive menu but the food is just not up to par, which, for the most part is bland. That in mind, I daresay that the menu is overpriced. Moreover, the waiters might need some sensitivity training.
Overall, a letdown. Go someplace else.
Restaurant Verbena's menu (Click for larger view options)