Following beefy tradition: Carmelo’s serves up some of the best Wagyu in Makati

My thirties aren’t exactly the best years to be falling in love with steak, especially not when the steaks in question are made of the richly-marbled hunks of meat that is Wagyu beef. I can’t help it, though. I was recently introduced to Carmelo’s, a charming yet spacious resto in Greenbelt 5, where I discovered the pleasures of the (beef) flesh that I’d never had before. If you’re craving for some of the best Wagyu streak you can find this side of Kobe, head on over to Makati, and don’t stop til you hit Carmelo’s doors.

Carmelo's outdoor dining area

This is the bar of Carmelo’s outdoor dining area. Serious Walrus and the Carpenter moment.


There are many types of beef, and all of them show up in steak form sooner or later, but until recently, it was Angus that ruled them all. But the reign of the Texas-born burger fodder had to come to an end some time, and it happened with the arrival of an Asian variant of the prized meat: Wagyu.

Literally translated, Wagyu means “Japanese cow” and pertains to the meat obtained from four breeds of cattle, some of which are autonomous to Japan. Kobe, which some people know as “happy beef”, is the most popular wagyu variant. There are others, usually named after the districts the cows were raised in–such as Mishima, Matsusaka, Ōmi, and Sanda.

Japan produces a lot of cows, but not all of  them are for eating.

Japan produces a lot of cows, but not all of them are for eating.

All the cows that are bred to become Wagyu are genetically predisposed to produce meat with a high level of fat–so high that it blows the USDA standards out of the water. The best Wagyu will have around 20-25% fat, while the highest grade on the US meat scale features only 6-8% fat. As a result, Wagyu is infinitely tastier, more tender, and…well, fattier.

However, it has to be said that Wagyu beef is not bad for you, strictly speaking. The softer fat in the meat has higher percentages of monounsaturated fats and is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. What’s more, it has less cholesterol than, say, local beef. As long as you don’t make a habit of gorging yourself on it, it won’t hurt you.

Still, you might have a hard time restraining yourself when you get to Carmelo’s. The latest addition in a line of restaurants that practically defined what it meant to have steak in the Philippines, Carmelo’s does justice to such a delicious yet delicate cut of meat. The chefs take painstaking care to make sure that each piece is seasoned just right right and seared until medium rare, assuring the customer that none of the steaks that reach their table will ever be oversalted, or crusted over with fine, gritty bits of carbon.

They also make excellent starters to get your palate ready to receive their glorious offerings: cold, crisp salad with freshly-made dressing, and stuffed portobello mushrooms topped with crab and shrimp.

Creamy caesar salad dressing on crisp lettuce leaves. Simple, clean-tasting, and cleansing.

Creamy caesar salad dressing on crisp lettuce leaves. Simple, clean-tasting, and cleansing.

This deceptively tasty surf-and-turf version of stuffed 'shrooms can be worrisome for someone with a seafood allergy -- but worth it.

This deceptively tasty surf-and-turf version of stuffed ‘shrooms can be worrisome for someone with a seafood allergy — but worth it.

And of course, there was foie gras. There aren’t a lot of places you can get this, outside of the hotels, so this was a very pleasant surprise. The decadent delight was served with caramelized apples with a reduction sauce, and it was buttery and rich and smooth–so good that I almost forgot that we were there for the steak. Almost.

Foie gras with caramelized apples. A must-try!

Foie gras with caramelized apples. A must-try!

Then there’s the seafood: beautiful fillets of seasonal fish and delicate oysters. Not something I would usually order in a restaurant known for its meat, but these dishes were so obviously well done that they were clearly stars in their own right and not some random afterthought.

Chilean seabass resting on a bed of scalloped potatoes.

Chilean seabass resting on a bed of scalloped potatoes.

Baked oysters with cheese - my favorite appetizer of the day!

Baked oysters with cheese – my favorite appetizer of the day!

Finally, the main course arrived, and we were far from disappointed. The thick slabs of beef were so tender, so well-done, that we were rendered speechless for a few minutes. It was everything Wagyu was supposed to be, rendered with an expert hand to be a meal to remember.

Wagyu striploin steak - thick, but melt-in-your-mouth tender.

Wagyu striploin steak – thick, but melt-in-your-mouth tender.

A tenderloin steak with veggies and potatoes.

A tenderloin steak with veggies and potatoes.

Thar be the meat of young sheeps, too. :D Lambchops, despite the puppet memories, are still high on my love-to-nom list. Especially these.

Thar be the meat of young sheeps, too. 😀 Lambchops, despite the puppet memories, are still high on my love-to-nom list. Especially these.

To wash it all down, Carmelo’s offers a nice selection of wines, fruit juices, and fruit shakes. But do check out the cocktail selection and try a couple. You’ll be surprised at how well these drinks complement the juicy richness of the steaks and other main dishes.

Case in point, the vodka and lychee symphony that is the Caipiroska. Fruity, light, and still potent enough to give you a light buzz, it’s a surprisingly fitting accompaniment to the flavorful chunks of meat we kept spearing on our forks.

Caipiroska! My new favorite drink.

Caipiroska! My new favorite drink.

VERDICT: Awesome experience and the food is only made even better by the excellent and attentive service. Great food, but like most places in Greenbelt 5, it isn’t cheap. Worth the splurge of an average of upwards of 3,500 per head per meal, though.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Get something green with your steak, and try the soups, too. They’re there to enhance your dining experience.

Forgo the soda and drink wine or water instead. Fizzy drinks may cut into the richness of the food, but they also hamper your ability to appreciate the complex flavors present in such a fine meal.

If you’re ordering the stuffed portobello mushrooms, you’re going to want more than one order if there’s two of you.

Unless you have a real health risk reason (and I don’t know what that would be, since even immuno-compromised people can have steak) try not to ask the kitchen to defile the meat by cooking it until it’s well-done. Steak was simply not made to be well-done, especially meat of this grade. You want it that way, make it yourself.

Come at the end of a long, hard week, and treat yourself to something extra nice by ordering good wine or cocktails and lingering until the cows come home. 🙂 Bring someone you like enough to spend hours with, chewing in happy contentment.

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    posted on by Little Bunny posted in noms and nibbles

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