Dad’s Original Recipes for Discriminating Tastes at Rafael’s
Entrepreneur Henjie Carmona launches Rafael’s Tapas Bar and Restaurant at Resorts World Manila to share his father Rafael’s passion for home-cooked dishes, his mother Petronila’s elegant homemaking, and his penchant for art collecting to the upscale hotel-casino complex’s food, wine, and fun-loving clientele of high rollers, junkets, and the fancy set.
“I want to offer them a place to come home to not only for familiar but original home recipes that have been leveled up for their discriminating tastes,” he said, “but also to cozy up, chill, and unwind after spending hours playing and gaming.”
Although he’s a communication research graduate by degree and initially a banker by profession, Carmona has been in the hotel and restaurant industry for more than two decades now. His group having pioneered the condotel (condominium + hotel) format and the executive breakfast lounge, he wanted to challenge himself further by offering ala carte.
“All our dishes are all-time familiar favorites that offer a unique twist in taste and presentation,” Carmona beamed as he introduced Rafael’s house specialties, which have interesting, oftentimes intriguing, names.
For their signature tapas or appetizers, they have their ritzy rendition of chicken skin—Chicken that Crossed the Road (P380) served with chili malt vinegar, pickled carrot, and radish puree, which are extra crunchy along with their classy version of gambas—Miss Gump in Hot Flashes (P720) with black garlic and Chardonnay roasted chilis and lemon.
For dinner, they have First Love (P1150)—spicy soft-shelled crab risotto with homemade chorizo and chicken thigh charged with lemon—which is as crispy as they are tasty and Blackened Angus Ribeye (P2900)—prime steak with corn and zucchini succotash and chimichurri sauce—which is the most expensive standalone item on the menu.
Capping every meal or visit, guests ought to make sure they try The Big Bang Theory (P390)—a delicately sweet triple nut, a three-layered cake of butter and dark chocolate cake revelation, their version of “Choc Nut”, revealed Chef Jinggoy Fernando—for dessert to complete the Rafael’s experience.
What’s New with Rafael’s in the New Normal
It is going to be very challenging for the entire industry for the next year or more depending on the slowing down of the Covid cases or when a vaccine can be made
available. Apart from this health scare, the global economic downturn and the absence of consumer confidence are already seriously hurting the industry. Recovery would largely depend on when people will begin to feel safe and when our local economy gets the needed boost.
We had to re-arrange our seating for social distancing and add more safety provisions to ensure the safest dining experience for our customers. Seating
capacity has been significantly reduced. On top of this, we had to reorient and retrain our entire team to be very conscious in enforcing & practicing health and safety protocols in the workplace, in their homes and when they are traveling.
Safety of our employees and customers are of primary importance to us. An active group chat has also been set-up for close communication and monitoring. While necessary provisions and physical changes had to be done, we still made sure everything creatively conforms with the design and ambiance of our place to create a relaxing vibe.
Since we now have delivery and take-outs, we carefully identified menu that can still be good for deliveries without compromising on quality and safety. We added more comfort food such as pizza and family/group packages realizing most people would want to dine in the safety of their homes. Even during this pandemic, people still want to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, mother’s/father’s day, graduation among other occasions.
This is why we created HomeDeliveries by Rafael’s to bring the celebration to their homes if they choose to. We can also create a special or customized menu based on guest preference applicable for deliveries and dine-in provided with advance notice and reservation.
Lessons from Father
“Opening Rafael’s isn’t a childhood dream, but everything that went into it has been inspired by my dad who taught me all I need about food and cooking,” Carmona confessed. “Fi
rst, good food is all about freshness—meaning, nothing stays long in the freezer, nothing canned is used, an
d everything is made in-house, even the pasta and especially the sauces.”
He reminisces how his father never allowed helpers to cook, reserving that privilege and honor for the head of the family, and made sure to prepare their meals himself every weekend despite being swamped by his business all week.
“I’d remember craving for his signature dinuguan (pork blood stew) and lechon (roasted suckling pig) pairing while Matt Monroe wafts in the air,” he recalls, adding that this time it’s not just about taste, but also being Instagrammable. Thus, all Rafael’s dishes are plated with delicate artistry worthy of being photographed and shared (pun intended).
“Second, you never ask your guests if they have eaten already or if they want to eat or not,” Carmona explained. Not only would it put off guests as an excuse for lack of preparation or not having enough food, it would also give an impression that hospitality is not one’s forte,
He assured that there’s no compromising quality in the dining experience at Rafael’s, where groups of 10 to 15 can avail of the posh Petronila VIP mezzanine room for a consumable reserve price of P200K which comes with the mandatory Wi-Fi and a flat-screen TV that can be hooked up to Resort World shows. “For that, it’s the sky’s the limit from cocktail drinks at P400 per pop to exquisite bottles of Remy Martin Louis XIII and Dalmore 25!”
“Third, food is everybody’s game,” Carmona concluded, “just like my father said everything’s done with food: deals closed, relationships opened, victories celebrated, wrongs amended, and sins forgiven.” Nobody loses with food and the best businesses invest in it.
Thus, Rafael’s is that rare mall space where you not only find the most original tasting dishes but also the most fastidiously interior decorated restaurant where diners eat and drink surrounded by towering Toto Aguilon wire spires, commissioned paintings from artists Tanya Gaisano Lee and Angelo Tabije, John Lloyd Cruz photographs, red and black draped tables, golden trumpet chandeliers, and a golden washroom!
“The concept behind all these is simple,” Henjie Carmona said summing up: “I want Rafael’s to be that kind of place where you always want to come back to every day because it’s home and the food reminds you of family,”
For the full menu, reservations, and more information, please visit @rafaelsrwph
on Instagram and Rafael’s Tapas Bar and Restaurant on Facebook.