To many who don't know, Floating Island is one of the oldest restaurants in Manila, and is as old as Makati Medical Center where it is still operating and where it started. Floating Island, when I was a child, gave me every excuse to go along with my grandma or parents to visit their friends who were confined or visit someone who gave birth. I lived going down to that cantilevered area and enjoy soda fountain favorites that were of excellent standards such as the banana splits and parfaits, and even some sparkling beverages made from flavored syrups such as cherry ice cream soda and creme de menthe mocktails. This was in the late '60s where I found out that recently that Vince Revilla, the founder of Floating Island restaurant, worked in his very young years in the Soda Fountain of Botica Boie which is was a soda fountain talked about by many of the old people with good memories of a classic ice cream place and as a place to go. Many of the soda fountain delights eventually were struck out of the menu as the years passed by, but the food maintained their tasty and unpretentious recipes mixing old and new, catering to the wide age group range that visits this hospital.
I was happy for the Revillas. Aside from the contracts they have in operating other hospital food services, they had finally opened in Ayala 30 on Meralco Avenue, catering for many of those that have enjoyed their home-cooked specials. This time, it's the second generation: Alex Revilla and his sister who have taken the reins of this iconic restaurant known to those who regularly go to Makati Med. My wine friends Johnny Revilla (cousin of Alex and formerly in his younger days, an employee of Floating Island) and Jay Labrador met up with us to try their mall restaurant.
We started dinner with some very fresh and garlicky gambas sauteed in olive oil; the shrimps were firm, a good indication of our next barrage of dishes. Next came a daing na bangus that was wonderfully meaty and clean tasting. Only the bangus flavors were present with no off tastes such as muddy or algae-like nuances. The belly had a good thick layer of rich fat. To cut this richness was a kilawin puso ng saging that I would term to be a banana heart with its tart dressing and a good mix of diced tomatoes, onions, leeks, and green chilies. Also, the tartness was a good foil for their famous crispy pata that had a very good infusion of spices, and had all areas crisp up to the meaty front shoulder portion. The interior of the shoulder meat was moist and very tender with no off swine flavors and aromas.
And because we seemed to be in a decadent mood (as always), we of course ate adobo rice throughout the meal. The rice which absorbed the braising liquid of the adobo was itself a meal like bringhe or Valenciana, and this had the essence of home-cooked flavors.
Desserts which also have their home-cooked mark in Floating Island are something to look forward to because of their previous soda fountain experience. I loved the basic sago gulaman because of the proper care they gave by cooking the sago with the arnibal syrup so the gelatinously chewy, silky, and chewy texture is maintained. Many food stalls did not sell sago anymore because it could not handle storage as the little pearls get very starchy. The syrup fragranced with old style banana extract was made with real raw sugar. This went well with their gulaman and pinipig dessert (but do request for coconut milk on the side), or better still, the old-fashioned minatamis na saging (plaintains cooked in caramel) with shaved ice topped with a drizzle of milk and chewy sago pearls. One other dessert I have enjoyed through the years is their pudding con leche. It's not a flan but a very silky and soft bread pudding of egg yolks, bread, and milk, very much like a French diplomat recipe. This was a great ending to a repast shared among friends.
We had the opportunity to come back, this time for an old school. We ordered the Floating Island Club which was basically a Monte Cristo or French toast done clubhouse style and a chicken asparagus sandwich which was pure nostalgia and brought back recess time breaks.
Of course, my millennial dining companion couldn't comprehend my waxing poetic about a chicken asparagus sandwich with canned asparagus. I had to choose an ender that both our age groups could comprehend, and in a slightly condescending fashion said, "Eat your buko pandan!"
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DECADENT MOOD AND FOOD Clockwise: Crispy pata; sago gulaman; gambas; and adobo rice