While Tarsier Paprika may not offer vistas of Florence it still beguiles the senses with stunning views across the azure waters surrounding Panglao towards the distant islands.
You are initially drawn in by the highway sign promoting ‘herbs and spices restaurant’. You then meander through the tropical lushness of the extensive gardens, past the equestrian centre to a beautifully proportioned set of buildings perched on top of the cliff with the accompanying stunning views.
We have visited Tarsier Paprika many time previously so we have had a chance to experience the restaurant during breakfast, lunch and dinner. So the question must be asked why had we not reviewed this restaurant earlier? The answer is simple. We always try to allow a restaurant to get past it’s ‘soft opening’ before reviewing it. A soft opening is the term used by the accommodation and restaurant sector to describe the period between launching and full operation and it allows the restaurant staff, systems and equipment to be ‘bedded in’ and the kinks ironed out.
Yes, Tarsier Paprika has been operational for more than a year so it’s understandable for our readers to also ask ‘why such a long soft opening’? Well, actually we resisted the temptation to review the restaurant as every time we visited there seemed to be a new chef on board and we felt it was unfair to make judgement until they were settled in. We are not privy as to why the restaurant suffered such a turn over of chefs but we felt it was time to review the restaurant irrespective.
Let us start the review with the aforementioned entrance sign promoting the ‘herbs and spices restaurant’. Some visitors, as we did, may find this confusing because the menu doesn’t really reflect the herbs and spices promise. Sure the menu is extensive but much of it is the same offering one would find in many top notch restaurants. We can only surmise that the original vision for a ‘herbs and spices restaurant’ may have been put on the back burner (sorry about the pun) because of the regular changeover in chefs.
As mentioned the menu is quite adequate offering a range of pastas, pizza, meats and other international offerings. Tarsier Paprika also offers by far the best and most comprehensive wine list of any Bohol restaurant with wines broken into two categories – Old World and New World. We tried an Australian Merlot. It is obvious the staff have also be trained well in wine service as this is the first time we have experienced wait staff confidently and effectively serving wine. On the night in question we elected to dine on the terrace. For those needing to get out of the elements there are two ‘glass houses’ one on either side of the kitchen/bar. These rooms offer air-conditioned comfort if it’s too hot or wet outside. Both offer an outlook on the stunning Bohol Sea.
We enjoyed an initial drink at the bar while perusing the menu. Our selections for the evening were Gambas Al Ajillo and Roast Bell Pepper Soup followed by the dyslexically titled Lamb of Rack (It is usually called Rack of Lamb or Lamb Rack) and Fritto Misto Di Mare. We then moved to our table on the terrace to start our meal. Our waitress for the evening promptly presented us with a basket of fresh bread and a hummus dip as well as a balsamic dip. Both dips were excellent with some of the best hummus we have ever had and the balsamic was obvious of high quality. The bread was beautifully baked as the restaurant has its own patisserie and if you are ever in a sinful mood you can come to the restaurant and partake in one of their many (joyfully sinful) desserts.
As our table was set out we were disappointed to see paper napkins. Surely a restaurant of this calibre (and cost) can afford to use linen napkins! Anyway, on to the meal.
Our starters arrived fairly promptly with my soup encased in a lovely modern bowl with a swirl of cream through the Roast Bell Pepper Soup. My partner’s dish was also presented in a stylish dish. The Gambas Al Ajillo was exceptional and the highlight of our meal. Succulent prawns served in a wonderful sauce sprinkled with oven roasted garlic. Brilliant! My soup paled in comparison with a flat dull taste overpowered by the cream. It’s a shame because well executed bell pepper soup can be an amazing dish. We initially asked our waitress for a break between our starters and mains. She was so conscious of this request she actually timed the interval. Our main meals arrived with timely precision. Both mains were nicely presented.
Let me take a break from the review with a few broader comments about the service. There seems to be an annoying habit of wait staff in the Philippines to descend on a table ‘en masse’. Tarsier Paprika staff also have the same annoying habit. As dining guests (especially when it is just the two of you) you feel as if a plague of locusts are descending on you. It’s somewhat intimidating and totally unnecessary. One wait person is more than enough unless of course it’s a large table of six or more. On a similar note let’s discuss staff banter. Our evening was somewhat spoiled by the excessive banter between the staff and the raucous noise from the kitchen. It is great to see staff enjoying themselves but it should not interfere with diners’ enjoyment of the evening.
Back to the meal. The mains were well proportioned and well presented with the lamb accompanied by potato wedges and very nicely cooked. Usually a restaurant asks how you like the lamb cooked but this may have just been an oversight for the night and irrespective the lamb was tender, succulent and flavoursome. Obviously the chef is very quality conscious which is a nice touch in the often provincial Bohol. The quality story continued with the Fritto Misto Di Mare presented as piled selection of seafoods in a wonderfully light (almost tempura like) batter.
All too often fried foods in Bohol are prepared using second grade oils with poor quality batter. This dish was the true exception and a credit to the chef. All the seafood was perfectly cooked and almost overwhelmingly served with french fries. In hind site we would have liked a side dish of greens but if I recall there wasn’t much in the way of vegetable side dishes on offer. It would have been nice to see some greens on both mains either way. The only other discordant note with the mains was that the seafood was not served with lemon wedges, a must with fried seafood. As you can imagine after a repast this extensive we decided to forego dessert but from previous experiences if you have room….go for it!
(By the way if you don’t understand the ‘room with a view’ reference you are too young, which could be a good thing!)