The Emotional Ups and Downs of Eating a 15-Course Feast
Ibiza BGC’s signature 15-course bonanza is a deliriously wild ride, further bolstered by the restaurant’s commitment to the neon beach club aesthetic of its flagship in Cebu. I can’t say I’ve ever entered a thumping nightspot bathed in blues and purples expecting amazing food (and so reveals my own biases), and yet the spectacular tastes of owner Manny Osmeña bucks those expectations and then some.
The combination of the excellent, dangerously near-excessive food and the swanky disco vibe only serves to heighten the entire experience. So much so that I walked out of there wondering if it were all real in the first place. Did I really just eat 15 courses' worth of food? Was that not the best ribeye I’ve ever tasted? Did I really just eat an ostrich? Where did all that food go? Was this all just a fever dream? Such is the magic—and the meat sweats—of Ibiza.
A quaint multi course meal served on small plates, this is not. Ibiza’s Balearic-inspired menu is a hearty meat-on-meat-on-meat affair that pulls no punches. This isn’t a tasting menu; more buffet than degustation. This is a parade of perfectly grilled dishes occupying serious real estate on the plate; full chops of succulent lamb, tender slabs of salmon, entire skewers of jumbo prawns. The server tells me that I am free to order as many servings as I please.
It’s an undertaking best approached with the strategies one might find in the pages of a competitive eater’s handbook, and yet, falling into this meal quite unexpectedly, I jump into it with the gusto of somebody who knows this will probably never happen again—that is, with a lot of enthusiasm and just a little bit of recklessness. If you’re fortunate enough to partake in this meal, let me say this now: pace yourself. If you don’t have at least three hours to dedicate to this feast, forget about it.
We warm up with the salad bar served buffet-style; its crowning glory undoubtedly the pao de queijo, a puffy Brazilian cheese bread that more than lives up to the hype surrounding it. If I have one regret, it’s that I didn’t dedicate more space in my stomach for these umami bombs. But it was promising to be a long night and prudence prevailed.
Bacon-wrapped filet mignon
The arrival of the bacon-wrapped filet mignon officially announces the meal’s beginning. These small, succulent bites are so cripplingly delicious, it’s as if they plan to start things off in the most violent way possible for your mouth; like going from 0 to 100 in a breath. Multi course meals are usually expected to have a preordained rhythm to them, but these dishes come in the order of whichever finishes cooking first. And so, in my memory there are three main parts: the gut-punch beginning, the sweet end, and the raucous, hazy middle. Not from any lack on Ibiza’s part, mind you, but just from the barrage of flavor the palate experiences.
A solid showing of grilled chicken thighs and pork belly follows the fillet mignon. Then comes the tender calamari, the baby back ribs, the prawns, the lambchops, the parrot fish. All delicious, all rich and intense, juices dribbling down the server’s knife. One after another like an unrelenting wave. After it dawns on my companion and I that we are but halfway through this extravaganza, every approach of the aforementioned server would elicit a burst of giggles. There was more to come: the salmon, the ostrich, the parrot fish, the US Angus rib eye (this last one was particularly eye-watering). And all throughout, the Ibiza Sour, a cocktail concocted by Manny O’s very own son, accompanies us. Their twist on the old classic keeping pace with everything that graced the plate.
Angus prime rib
At 9 p.m., Ibiza’s in-house troupe starts to perform their Latin dance and this provides an opportunity to take a break and distract ourselves from the growing discomfort in our bellies. For anyone planning to visit, I urge them to take to the dance floor; make room in the stomach and shake off the impending food coma (worth it, of course). But we did no such thing and for a while there, there was just silence in the table. Each one of us retreating internally in between courses. Perhaps to save energy for what was to follow, but also to ponder the meaning of all this. A kind of despair creeps in; despair that this meal, hands down one of the best I’ve ever had, is ending, despair that I’ve eaten too much, despair at the fact that I wore the wrong pair of jeans for this challenge. It was a confusing intersection of deep gratefulness and melancholy. It might have also just been the meat sweats.
A queen pineapple roasted with cinnamon and sugar, served with a side of honey and yoghurt
Finally, dessert. It would be back to reality again soon, where, realistically, this meal will go unmatched for a while. A pretty queen pineapple roasted with cinnamon and sugar, served with a side of honey and yoghurt, is placed on the table. Refreshing, cleansing, the perfect complement to the richness of the past three hours. I end the meal thanking my lucky stars.