Origine restaurant lets you taste the flavors of Spain without having to book a plane ticket.

Spain is a country of amazing flavors.

Its tastes vary from one region to the next: from the famed bacalao of the Basque region in the north to the paellas of Valencia in the east, the citrusy flavors of Arab-influenced Andalucía in the south, to the fabulous cheeses of Castilla la Mancha right smack in the middle of the country. Spain is foodie paradise extraordinaire.

Chef Alexandra Cacho, executive chef of Origine at Brittany Hotel, BGC. Photos by Peanut dela Cruz

The good news is, you don’t have to book a plane ticket to Spain just to have a taste of authentic Spanish cuisine.

We have Philippine-born Spanish chef Alexandra Cacho to thank for bringing las sabores de España—the flavors of Spain—to Philippine shores with Origine, Manila’s newest Spanish restaurant located on the second floor of Brittany Hotel in BGC.

Proudly Spanish and Filipino

Gazpacho Andaluz is a classic chilled Spanish soup with tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, onions, and garlic, pureed and infused with extra-virgin olive oil.

We were all surprised when chef Xandra mentioned that she was born in the Philippines. With her blonde hair and striking Spanish profile—aquiline nose and all—it’s a little hard to imagine that she was born in Bais, Negros Oriental, when her father was still working for the Central Azucarera de Bais which was established by the Tabacalera of Spain.

Despite not having a drop of Filipino blood, the executive chef of Origine nonetheless considers herself part-Filipino, having spent half of her life here and having been married to a Filipino. Most of her growing up years, in fact, were spent shuttling to and from the Philippines and Spain.

The mother of two stopped working when her husband died. An unexpected call from a well-known Filipino businessman, however, brought her out of retirement.

“Mr. (Manny) Villar thought he wanted to have a Spanish restaurant and he called me up,” she shared. “And Origine is what we came up with.”

Already enjoying life as a retiree, chef Xandra admitted that it was her daughters who pushed her to accept the former senator’s offer. “In Spain, I was just cooking and feeding my grandchildren.”

She added: “I feel like I didn’t really ‘finish’ my career, and the Lord gave me this, and gave me health, so I can still work and enjoy my work.”

‘Completely authentic’ Spanish cuisine

Plato Ibéricos—premium Ibérico cured meats, chorizo, and salchichon served with bread, olives, and a variety of cheese

True to her promise of bringing the best of Spanish flavors to the Philippines, when asked if the menu has any Filipino inspiration, chef Xandra responded with a simple, “No.”

“I swear there is no Filipino touch,” she said laughing. “It is completely authentic Spanish.”

“I cook Filipino food at home and my grandchildren love it. They love bistek tagalog, adobo, and tinolang manok,” the grandmother of two shared.

We always make paella a la minute. There’s a saying in Spain, ‘You wait for the paella; the paella is not going to wait for you.’

However, Origine is purely a Spanish restaurant, as how chef Xandra describes it, a meal at the restaurant is like “a trip around Spain.”

“I think in my menu I have a bit of all. Pintxos from the north, the rice dishes from Valencia, I have the Escalivada and certain desserts from Catalunya. I have from Andalusia quite a number—the fish, gazpacho. It’s not in the menu yet but I’m making an arroz meloso which like a risotto but without cream and cheese. And then you go to Extremadura we have all the Jamon Serrano, chorizos. You go up north to Galicia, you have your seafood.”

A flavorful journey across Spain

A medley of pintxos

We started our journey across Spain with chef Xandra’s recommendation, the Gilda Cosmo (P95), a pintxo made of cherry tomato marinated in balsamic vinegar, anchovies, and tangy pickled peppers. Its flavors are quite strong, but it opens up the palate just in time for the medley of pintxos that followed.

Pintxos is the Basque region’s unique take on tapas. Like its more popular cousin, pintxos are small, bite-sized dishes; unlike tapas, however, pintxos are always served atop a slice of bread and are held together with a stick or toothpick. Chef Xandra’s pintxos are like tiny works of art, almost too pretty to eat! And they’re made using ingredients from Spain.

Gilda Cosmo, a pintxo made with cherry tomato, anchovies, and pickled guindilla peppers
Gilda Cosmo, a pintxo made with cherry tomato, anchovies, and pickled guindilla peppers

There’s the Pintxo Gel Bacalao (P235), my personal favorite among the pintxos we tasted, which is a velvety salted cod that melts as soon as it hits your tongue. I also loved the Pintxo Ordanza (P245), of which I had two servings, which is a crispy pinxto made of brie topped with homemade tomato jam.

Of course, no Spanish meal is complete without a plate of Tortilla de Patatas or Spanish Omelette (P155). Chef Xandra’s version of what is arguably Spain’s national dish is perfectly crispy yet fluffy with layers of melt-in-your-mouth potatoes.

In between pintxos, we helped ourselves to Plato Ibéricos (P1,800) which features   premium cured Ibérico meats, chorizo, and salchichón. The bite-sized cold cuts are best enjoyed with Origine’s own bread, olives, and authentic Manchego, a typical Spanish cheese made with ewe’s milk.

Origine’s dessert sampler

The main course was a carnivore’s dream come true—chef Xandra’s famous creation, the Chuletón (P4,200). This 500-gram steak, made with the finest cuts of premium Angus beef, is grilled to absolute perfection, seasoned only with salt, pepper, and a bit of garlic. It is served with patatas ala pobre and pimiento on the side.

Another main dish which I utterly enjoyed was Pollo Iberico (P1500), fall-off-the-bone tender chicken marinated overnight in olive oil and cooked with Jamon Serrano—this pairs perfectly well with steamed white rice!

Next on the menu is chef Xandra’s sensational paellas: Paella Ibérico (P1,950), Paella Negra with Pulpo or octopus (P1,250), and Paella Marisco (P1,250). Each of the paella has its own distinct flavor, but I loved the Paella Negra best especially with a squeeze of lemon and a spoonful of aioli.

Pollo Iberico

“We always make paella a la minute. You order a paella, wait some 20 minutes, and your paella is done. We never pre-make our paella. There’s a saying in Spain, ‘You wait for the paella; the paella is not going to wait for you,’” she says.

She also takes her paella very seriously, reminding all of us that putting jamon with seafood or fish together is a huge no-no.

Chef Xandra insisted that we leave room for her desserts. It was a tall order, given how delicious her food is. I was already full by the time the dessert sampler was brought to our table, but just one look at the mouthwatering treats waiting for me and I knew I had to try all of them.

Origine is the newest Spanish restaurant in BGC.

The Arroz con Leche (P80), or rice pudding with milk and sugar, was every bit as comforting as it promises to be, being chef Xandra’s grandmother’s recipe. The Tocino de Cielo (P120; literally translated to “bacon/fat of heaven”) is a worthy adversary to our beloved leche flan, the difference being its Spanish counterpart makes use of only egg yolks.

Crema Catalana (P235), the Spanish version of crème brulee, is just as delightful as its French sister, while the sweet and salty flavors of Chocolate X (P635) make it decadence in a bite. Chef Xandra says that she uses Belgian chocolates for Chocolate X but she has been looking into using local brands in the future.

Origine Spanish Restaurant also has a wide selection of beverages. Their almost-too-pretty-to-drink sangria (P650/glass) is an easy favorite, but they also have Spanish wines, and serve great Spanish lattes.

“Origine Restaurant is not just a dining establishment; it’s a journey through the rich and diverse culinary tapestry of Spain,” said Chef Xandra, “We’ve worked tirelessly to ensure that every dish captures the authenticity and essence of Spanish cuisine. We look forward to welcoming guests to our beautiful venue, where they can embark on this culinary adventure with us.”

“I want them (clients) to feel satisfied with our authentic Spanish food and for them to go back again,” chef Xandra added with a smile.

For reservations, please contact +63 956 576 7432 or email fnb@brittanyhotelbgc.com. To know more about Origine and Brittany Hotel, visit www.thebrittanyhotels.com.

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