Hello Stella, We Meet Again

by Joko Magalong

There’s a lot going on in Bonifacio High Street Central Square nowadays. There are things going down, getting built, and some things? Well, some things are getting better. Like one of the pioneering places in that slice of Bonifacio Global City, Stella: Wood Fire Bistro.

While it’s currently almost hidden with all the construction hullaballoo going on, when you step into the place, the whole construction vibe disappears. High ceilings, wood panels, leather seats, that little star on top of the open kitchen. I’ve always had fond memories of Stella, and the years don’t seem to show in the place. It looks as bright and cosy as ever.

I went here before because Stella was one of the first places that offered roasted bone marrow. And yes, they still have that on the menu today. On this visit though, I wanted to try things that I’ve never tried before. So here goes…

Truffle Mushroom Fries seemed like a good idea. And it was! Oyster mushrooms fried with a healthy dose of herbs, so you get that hint of rosemary at every bite, the accompanying garlic aioli cuts the “fried” feel of this dish, as well. And as fried food always goes well with alcohol in my book, I did crave for a beer, or a glass of wine, but alas! It was too early for that, and so the meal continued.

Stella-01-Mushroom-Chips-01

Stella-01-Mushroom-Chips-02

So on to tapas! We asked the waiter what would he recommend and he recommended the Meatballs. Sounds unexciting right? Wrong. I really didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t read the fine print so I thought I would be getting an Italian Pomodoro dish. What I received though was a Moroccan/Mediterranean dish of meatballs, swimming in sizzling sweetish tomato stew with sultanas and dried apricots. I’m a fan of dried fruit in my food, so I loved this for its uniqueness and sweetness. A gremolata (lemon zest + a lot of herbs) and some garlic lemon yogurt balanced the dish with some tart flavors as well. P.S., I wouldn’t say no to having this with rice, or a plate of pasta.

Stella-02-Meatballs-01

Stella-02-Meatballs-02

Stella has a wood-fired oven, so we definitely had to order pizza. And for some reason, we went back to eating mushrooms. Roasted Truffled Mushroom Pizza, once again, sounds very unexciting, but my companion for this dinner insisted. “It’s my favorite!’ she said. So we went for it. Wood fired pizza crust can’t be beat with its texture with those little crispy burnt bits. That texture, and the mushroom party of truffle oil, enoki and button mushrooms, added with the creamy-just-a-touch-tangy Malagos ricotta, makes for a tasty pizza. It’s labeled a must-try for a reason.

“This is also my favorite,” she said while pointing at the menu. (She sure likes a lot of things in Stella.) The Norwegian Salmon dish comes to the table, and it’s a beautiful dish. Juicy and pink fleshed salmon, surrounded by mounds and whirlpools of tasty things. It was fun mixing and matching or eating everything in a bite. There’s a ricotta cream which has that same just barely there tanginess, a quenelle of sun-dried tomatoes and chilies, which was more sweet than spicy, and swirls of arugula almond pesto, which added a bitter bite to the dish, keeping it from being a little bit too sweet. Also, using almonds in your pesto is always brilliant in adding not only body, but buttery goodness to it.

Stella-05-Salmon-01

Stella-05-Salmon-02

Porchetta, to be honest, is my favorite dish in Stella. And even though I have had it before, I had to make an exception because my companion has never tried Stella’s version. Named “Our Famous Porchetta”, a claim justified not only because it’s a really good Porchetta dish, but also because Stella was one of the pioneers in serving stuffed pork belly in the Metro. This dish has got all the right things – crispy skin, the pork has been roasted to a melt-in-your-mouth state, the filling has herbs like fennel and bits of double-smoked bacon, and the sauce is rich and sweet with sultanas. It’s porky goodness at every bite.

While normally at this juncture I would want dessert, I really couldn’t move. We definitely ordered too much! I think we ordered for easily 3 to 4 people, and so I had to “reluctantly” take the pizza home. (I had it for breakfast the next day, and it was still very delicious). So note to self: must definitely go back to Stella to try dessert.

From the relaxing ambiance, to interesting flavors—those sweet notes from sultanas and apricots, and earthy mushrooms and more mushrooms, to their rock solid dishes like that Porchetta dish, Stella may have been around for a while, and if this 2016 meal was any indication of how they’re doing? They’re doing really, really well, even better than before, and that’s despite being hidden by a construction site and all.

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Writer-Jokoness

 

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