Cover Samira by Chele González offers a tasting menu, cocido, and à la carte dishes, all in one stylish yet relaxed destination

Samira by Chele González opens at Anya Resort Tagaytay with three dining experiences to choose from, each as refined and worldly as the next

What distinguishes a dining destination from a restaurant? “That is a good question, and actually, easy to answer,” states chef Chele González. Fresh from a gastronomic pilgrimage through his home country Spain and introducing an all-new menu at Gallery by Chele, the lauded culinarian remains the talk of the town with his latest project: Samira by Chele González, an elevated dining destination at Anya Resort Tagaytay.  

The luxury oasis is a healthy distance away from the metro, boasting tranquil landscapes and a serene breeze you simply cannot find in the city. With the opening of Samira by Chele González, gourmands are given another compelling excuse to make the drive down. Illustrating the distinction between a restaurant and a dining destination like Samira, González explains: “You go to a restaurant because you want to eat, you’re hungry. You go to a dining destination, and it’s a whole different thing; people will spend two or three hours enjoying good wine, good cocktails, good food, good conversation—it’s a date.”

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As his patrons will gladly attest, this experiential approach is central to the Chele González brand. “Chele González is not about cooking, it’s about creating experiences,” beams the eponymous chef. This very value is what made González such an enthralling, if not natural choice to helm Anya’s flagship F&B outlet. 

“His way of thinking is all about the experience, it’s not about the food or what’s on your plate,” remarks Santi Elizalde, president and CEO of Roxaco Land Corporation and the visionary behind the resort. “The moment you enter the restaurant, that’s when the [encounter] starts—and that’s exactly what we’re all about. Anya itself is a destination, so it’s really about the [journey]: how we treat our guests from the minute they get out of the car to the minute they check out.” 

See also: Dining Radar: 5 New Restaurants and Tasting Menus to Try This March 2022

So what exactly is the Samira journey like? Well, it’s up to you. Samira offers three distinct formats, each catering to a different occasion, but all offering refined international fare. Rationalising the ambitious decision, Gonzàlez expresses “we wanted to do something interactive, creative, and fun.” Elizalde echoed his sentiment, explaining that they wanted to create an exquisite gastronomic offering unique to Tagaytay. “It can be done, it’s been proven, but it’s got to be different—if not, why bother?”

Ideal for casual but elevated meals, the vast à la carte menu spans bites, tapas, items off the grill, and many more, including their take on Tagaytay’s famed bulalo. As someone with a rich culinary background himself, general manager Mikel Arriet had a strong vision from day dot. “I’m looking for something that will be fun and entertaining in the starters, but the mains will be what I call ‘honest’—steak, grilled fish, food that will fulfil you,” he once described to González, who he first met in the culinary circles of Spain. “He understood,” Arriet recalls.

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On the other hand, you may opt for the cocido experience, an ingenious four-course meal that begins with the Spanish cocido: a comforting, soulful stew that blends various meats, sausages, vegetables, and beans, slow-cooked in one big pot. González’s version had no holds barred, including chicken, pork, beef, chorizo, spicy morcilla, smokey morcilla, and garbanzos. “I think it is a little bit sad that most of the Spanish food that is presented is always in the same way, Spanish food is much more than [tapas and paella], and that is what I want to show with the cocido.”

The brilliance of this meal lies in the way González breathes new life into the stew with every plate. Like a magician in the kitchen, the chef transformed the cocido into bechamel croquetas, ropa viaeja pintxos, and delicious paella (an original creation), dishes that bookended the traditional duo of flavourful soup and tender compango. Somehow finding room for dessert, we then indulged in González’s famed burnt Basque cheesecake. Comfort food at its absolute finest, it is great a great option for days you’re feeling absolutely ravenous.

See also: Where To Buy The Best Burnt Basque Cheesecake: Chef Chele's Kitchen

Last but far from the least is the Samira tasting menu, a six-course feast designed with gastronomes in mind. Taking inspiration from Italy to Mexico, it is a world-class exploration of the world’s tastiest bites. As expected from González, the amuse-bouche roused wonder and curiosity from the very first bites, be it through surprising combinations like strawberry and seafood or innovative concepts like bulalo tacos. Next up, fresh snapper ceviche with coconut milk, calamansi, roasted cashew, papaya, corn, and basil opened the palate with refreshing flavours and a vibrant kick of chilli, peppered with Filipino flair.

Charcoal-grilled octopus granted us a toothsome taste of Samira’s grill selection, while the perfectly cooked duck breast on porcini and truffle risotto was made even more irresistible with black truffle grated right at the table. The grand finale brought us back to Tagaytay with González’s interpretation of buko pie: creamy coconut pudding, fresh coconut meat, buttery biscuit, and toasty latik ice cream. Samira’s beverage program similarly promises to impress, featuring cocktails infused with the same creativity and an expertly-curated wine pairing that pulls you deeper into the conversation.

See also: AWC’s Wine Drop Launches Artadi Wines With a Meal by Chef Carlos Garcia

“A fun experience—that is what I would like those who are driving up to have a meal to get out of Samira by Chele González,” says Elizalde. Samira certainly invites a sense of whimsy, engaging both the mind and senses in one fell swoop. “Is Samira fine dining? Yes and no. Is it a casual restaurant? Yes and no. It has elements of a fine dining restaurant and elements of a casual restaurant, and that is where we want to be,” González discloses. Despite its multi-faceted and eclectic nature, Samira by Chele González achieves sophistication, precision, and cohesion, not just as a dining outlet but as part of Anya Tagaytay Resort. A blend of the contemporary and familiar, Samira encourages guests to sit back, relax, and gourmandise. “At the end of the day, we are a resort,” Arriet reiterates. 

A partnership two years in the making, Samira by Chele González is a seamless and robust marriage of both parties. Ahead of the momentous unveiling, Elizalde expounded: “As far as I’m concerned, partnerships are [...] about having a shared passion to do great things: what heights do you want to achieve together?” Evidently, they’ve got monumental ambitions indeed. “We want to create, through this partnership, the number one destination restaurant in the Philippines.”

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