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Wine and tapas bar add flavor to Cubao’s nightlife

Novotel Manila’s new wine bar levels up the sophistication at Araneta Center


By Angelo Garcia

Araneta Center or more commonly known as Cubao has been recently redefining itself as a major business and leisure district in Metro Manila. Seemingly reclaiming its former glory, the center is reaching out to the younger crowd, hosting numerous concerts at the newly refurbished Kia Theater (formerly New Frontier Theater) and introducing new hip restaurants along its Manhattan Row.

And adding to that growing list of new and must-try restaurants and bars is Novotel Manila’s Sabor Bar de Vinos or simply Sabor. The bar changes up Cubao’s nightlife, targeting the more sophisticated group of bar lovers. While there are no shortage of fast food joints, casual dining restaurants, small pubs and bars, the new bar is on a different level.

Sabor is the hotel’s own wine and tapas bar, with an impressive wine collection that any wine lover would be excited about. From the premium Clarendelle by Haut Brion Bordeaux to the delicate Ann Codorniu Rosé to the exquisite bubbly that is Dom Perignon, there’s wine for everyone.

 The main bar space features floor-to-ceiling glass cabinets filled with exquisite wine.

The main bar space features floor-to-ceiling glass cabinets filled with exquisite wine.

Some of the wines in its extensive list are from the personal collection of the Araneta family. The bottles are displayed and evenly spaced inside temperature controlled glass cabinets. The transparent floor-to-ceiling cabinets that serve as two walls of the bar, add to the cosmopolitan vibe of Sabor.

Located on the ground floor of the hotel, Sabor is situated beside Food Exchange buffet restaurant. A small and cozy space, the bar has indoor and al fresco areas with views of the busy streets of Araneta Center. The bar is also very intimate, furnished with small tables, some made from old wine barrels. It has the typical bar mood lighting as well, accented by the soft glows of candlelight.

It opened a couple of months ago and so far hotel guests, particularly expatriates are its frequent patrons. “There’s not a lot of options around here,” admits Novotel Manila’s assistant marketing and communications manager Nonito Cuizon. “It’s a bar that our guests would appreciate, especially the expats.” It is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays, from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.

An elevated version of the classic Ilocano dish dinakdakan

An elevated version of the classic Ilocano dish dinakdakan

What’s unique about Sabor is its menu. It’s a mix of cuisines, from Dutch meatballs to Italian deep-fried croquettes to classic Filipino bar chow to Mexican munchies. Novotel Manila’s chef de partie Glenn Estrella says that the menu was created based on what would appeal to the hotel guests. The bar also serves favorites from menus of its other dining outlets.

“We also thought of a menu that is quick and easy to prepare. We also wanted to serve something in small portions because that’s what you want when you’re drinking wine. We wanted a menu that would appeal to our various guests,” Glenn explains.

One of the must try dishes is the bitterballen, or deep-fried Dutch meatballs made from braised and shredded veal. The veal is braised for hours until fall-off-the-bone tender, then shredded and mixed with Bechamel sauce before deep frying to a crisp. It is then served with a tangy mustard sauce. Another is the Italian beetroot arancini, which is like a croquette that is dredged in bread crumbs and deep fried. The bright colored shredded beetroot is complemented by creamy goat cheese in the center. Speaking of fried dishes, the mushroom croquette is vegetarian friendly. It’s a mix of sauteed portobello mushrooms and potato mash then deep fried until golden brown.

Fortress Sangria is a cocktail of robust flavors of red wine and rum.

Fortress Sangria is a cocktail of robust flavors of red wine and rum.

There’s also the spicy Spanish shrimp dish gambas al ajillo, Filipino dinakdakan served daintily a la hors d’oeuvre, ham and cheese quesadilla served with three dips (sour cream, queso, and guacamole), and the smoked salmon roulade, just to name a few.

These dishes are best enjoyed with your favorite wine or better yet, with Sabor’s delicious sangria options. The Sangria Blanco is white-wine based sangria with a refreshing twist of green apples, cucumber, and basil. The Sangria Rosa, on the other hand, is a rosé-based sangria flavored by cherries and oranges, while the Fortress Sangria is a red wine-based sangria with an added punch of brandy.

Sabor is located at the ground floor of Novotel Manila, Araneta Center, Quezon City / Tel. no.: (+632) 990 7888 / email: / or or

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