Have you always wanted to get into wine, but didn’t know where to start?
Drinking wine is like a rite of passage. You can’t call yourself a proper grown-up if you haven’t started drinking wine at social gatherings.
But wine is both comprehensible and elusive. On one hand, there’s a vast compendium of information readily available on the Internet. On the other hand, because the vocabulary you need to learn is expansive, it’s also intimidating.
Up until a few months ago, I thought I wasn’t the type of person who would ever get into wine. That was until I came across this New Yorker column, which prompted me to explore a broader range of wines and find ones that really worked with my palate.
I’ve been drinking wine almost every week since I read that, and Grape Escape is another one of my forays into this new, intriguing world.
Grape Escape used to rent a space in a neighboring food park until the owners decided to move to a more permanent location. This makes sense since the restaurant’s prices lean towards the high side and offering customers a more comfortable ambiance should come with that.
Nevertheless, booking a table at the new location is a must. I advise you to come here on any weeknight just before payday when fewer people are willing to go out. I first came here right after payday and had to endure the blinding noise from other diners who were celebrating special occasions. You could tell that most of the diners are young people burning their money from their first three years of working. They still had the rowdiness of college kids, but the income of yuppies. And that was a Tuesday–I can’t imagine what it’d be like on a weekend. On my second visit (a weeknight two days before payday), we were practically alone, except for another table occupied by calm, collected older folks.
Despite the restaurant’s name, Grape Escape is a gastropub, so don’t expect a 12-course feast or a sommelier that would answer all your questions about the drinks. Nevertheless, you could ask your server for recommendations on which wine to order based on what you’re planning to eat. I personally recommend the Gallo White Zinfandel for its tangy and slightly sweet flavor.
Anything on Grape Escape’s food menu is basic and recognizable: there are salads, sandwiches, brick-oven pizza, pasta, and some specials. The restaurant has a reputation for serving some of the best pizzas in the area, and I see why. Although their Margherita doesn’t compare to my favorite version from Salvatore Cuomo, at its price, it’s a reasonably good pie. The tomato sauce is a little thick and didn’t have the flavor you’d expect from a true Italian pizza, but the cheese made up for what it lacked.
Then there’s the pasta: Grape Escape uses standard dry pasta, cooked properly. I particularly enjoyed the Vongole, which draws its flavor from its strong, slightly spicy, and aromatic garlic olive oil sauce.
Take note, though, that Grape Escape actually shines most when you order specials. The most popular is the Osso Bucco, which is served with light, creamy, and buttery mashed potatoes as well as some seasonal vegetables. I’ve had an experience eating Osso Bucco where the sauce didn’t feel like it was given the care it needed to develop a rich and satisfying flavor, but I can happily say that Grape Escape’s Osso Bucco sauce had a deep body, a strong flavor, and a thick and sufficiently reduced consistency. There’s no lemon zest to add brightness to the dark sauce, but it’s not entirely something to complain about.
I was also skeptical about ordering the Pork Chop because of its price. At first, I wondered why I would pay almost P600 for something that I eat almost every week, but after seeing how large and thick the pork chop was, I immediately understood why.
Even before I had my first bite, I could see that the pork had been rubbed with a few herbs and spices, but the magic really comes from the sauce. I asked my server what was in the sauce, but he didn’t give me any hints–though I suspect there’s some reduced stock in there, which really gave life to the tender, fatty, and well-cooked pork meat. An extra cup of sauce is served on the side, so you’ll never run short on flavor.
Grape Escape offers unlimited wine from 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM on Mondays to Thursdays. For P599, you get unlimited refills on Merlot, Chardonnay, or White Zinfandel. If you’re only planning to visit Grape Escape for the promo, I suggest you at least order a cheese platter. The type of cheeses vary depending on availability, and I happened to love the Pepper Jack and Emmental cheeses that were on my board when I visited.
Overall, I wouldn’t say that Grape Escape is one of the most romantic places to take people out on dates–because it’s in a school district, you could still end up eating with boisterous college kids or fresh grads. But if you schedule your visit carefully, you’re guaranteed to have a peaceful meal. The food borders on amazing–and that’s more than I can say for most Maginhawa restaurants. Moreover, it’s an ideal place to start if you’re a novice who has finally decided it’s time to pay your respects to the god of wine.
Grape Escape is located at 99 Maginhawa Street, Teacher’s Village East, Teacher’s Village, Quezon City