The stretch of Chino Roces Avenue (Pasong Tamo), along Don Bosco Makati, has become an unlikely hotspot for restaurants.
We couldn’t help notice one with a brightly lit sign, Lucky Rainbow Shark’s Fin and Seafood Restaurant. It raised the improbable hope that Makati might have a Chinese dining place of its own, finally.
Greenhills has the monopoly on gaudy, palace-style Chinese restaurants, three of them within walking distance from one another. Not that people there want to walk; they wait patiently for their chauffeur-driven SUVs (with plate numbers ending in 168 or 888) to drive them 50 meters down the road and then decant from the vehicle in slow motion.
But their willingness to spend in restaurants, equaled by their lack of hesitation to complain and to send their orders back if they aren’t up to their exacting standards, has created an ecosystem of high-quality, high-stakes dining spots that produce no-nonsense luxury at reasonable prices.
Makati has a few gem hole-in-the-wall places, but has been starved for a good high-end restaurant. There was always the Shang Palace at Makati Shangri-La, where the food was good but the prices appropriate to a hushed, plush hotel restaurant in the middle of Ayala Center.
As soon as one stepped into Lucky Rainbow, one felt, it seemed, the promise of a good meal. It was obvious in the maze-like staircases and the virulently red decor that money had not been squandered on such frivolities as interior design. I like restaurants with lots of nooks and crannies instead of a gigantic, reverberating hall like that of an army canteen.
We were throwing a dinner for a friend from out of town and felt confident that nine hungry people could polish off a set menu for 12. A very nice woman from the restaurant’s staff went through the menu with me to discuss substitutions, additions and upgrades.
It may have been because the place was fairly empty on a Saturday night, but service was remarkably good by any standards—plates being changed after almost every course, and finger-bowls of warm water promptly appearing whenever the wait staff saw someone using hands to attack the crabs.
We went for the cheap menu among the options that ranged in extravagance up to P32,800. But at no point did we feel being shortchanged; the “abalone” was actually conch (lé), a cheaper mollusc meat that I actually prefer, but that was all.
Big bag of leftovers
There was a truly excellent roast suckling pig appetizer that we ordered a second serving of. Particularly outstanding was the lapu-lapu, real fresh and timed to perfection.
A bit of a strange presentation was the fried rice that was molded in the shape of Mickey Mouse and topped with sweet biscuits.
But the servers had a tendency to rush things. We were still having soup while the Peking Duck was getting cold on the table when the next two courses came; even when told to slow down, the staff still threw out our orders in rapid-fire fashion until the Lazy Susan was filled with food.
We, too, felt full about 30 minutes later, and had a big bag of leftovers for a few meals down the line. Unlike other restaurants, dinner for 12 at Lucky Rainbow really means for 12.
It’s always a challenge to recommend new Chinese restaurants because most families already have their favorites, where they feel at home and the manager knows them. Getting people to switch is like trying to make them switch banks or mobile phone carriers—there has to be a truly compelling incentive.
Lucky Rainbow already has two branches—in Banawe, Quezon City, and off Ongpin Street (corner Gandara) in Binondo—where it has been quietly building a name for itself amid fierce competition in the area.
The decision to open in Makati, rather than Greenhills, is wise; surely, Annapolis and Missouri Streets don’t need yet another palace-style restaurant.
In the meantime, the foodie crowd in Makati, Chinese-Filipino or not, deserves a good upscale restaurant.
Lucky Rainbow hits the spot. Some of the Greenhills crowd might even get enticed to jump into their gas guzzlers and come over. What, drive to Makati for a Chinese restaurant? It just might happen.
Lucky Rainbow Seafood Restaurant, 2224 Chino Roces Ave. corner Don Bosco Makati; tel. 4781385.
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