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Sam Miguel
01-06-2015, 09:35 AM
I think it is time we created a separate thread for restaurants and eateries of all types.

Post your eating-out experiences here, from raves to rants, and let's give local (and locally-based) restaurants and eateries their day in the Gameface sun!

Sam Miguel
01-06-2015, 09:37 AM
Delicious 2014: Filipino diners spoiled for choice–and variety

Raoul J. Chee Kee, Vangie Baga-Reyes |

Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:35 AM |

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Filipinos were spoiled for choice when it came to dining in 2014. Popular foreign restaurant chains opened one after the other, brought in by local restaurant business groups.

New local restaurants also opened, spurred on by new malls. Diners willing to pay the price, meanwhile, booked tables at the high-end F&B outlets found at the integrated casino resorts in Pasay and Paranaque.

Foodies have the Moment Group, Food Link, Relish Group, Standard Hospitality Group, and businessman Ben Chan to thank for bringing in a slew of restaurants, coffee shops, ramen joints and tea houses last year.

Remember those never-ending lines at Tim Ho Wan and Ippudo at the Mega Fashion Hall? They were brought in by Food Link’s Rikki Dee and Standard Hospitality Group’s John Concepcion, respectively.

Meanwhile, Moment Group has been quietly and steadily building up a stable of popular restaurants including Manam, ‘Cue and 8Cuts Burger Blends. Moment is also behind Phat Pho, Linguini Fini and Mecha Uma. This year, it is reportedly bringing in Taiwan’s Michelin-starred Din Tai Fung.

Columnist Clinton Palanca heralds the return of high-end dining (see his column in this section) with the opening of the Tasting Room at the Crown Hotel at City of Dreams late last month.

The restaurant is geared toward high-rollers with money to spend.

Nobu Manila, in the same complex, has opened a few days earlier. It caters to the same crowd although a recent visit saw groups of families and friends enjoying the Japanese fare with a Latin American twist.

We were given the chance to sample signature dishes such as the Black Cod in miso, perfectly cooked bone-in steak, and a plate of assorted sushi, among others. Each course was then paired with sake with varying alcohol contents. The price for this gastronomic meal? Around P8,000 per person.

Almost anyone with some savings and the desire to explore did just that this year. They booked seats on budget carriers that took them to their dream destinations such as Japan, Thailand, Korea, the Middle East and Australia.

Aside from literally broadening their horizons, the trips afforded them the chance to sample different types of cuisine. Fans of Japanese, Thai or Korean fare can now tell whether a local restaurant is better than another because they’ve tasted the cuisine right at its origin.

It turns out that there’s more to Japanese food than sushi, sashimi and tempura.

Filipinos make it to World Pastry Cup

For the first time, Filipino chefs passed the qualifying round to enter the prestigious World Pastry Cup in Lyon, France, touted as the Olympics of pastry professionals.

The unprecedented feat came after the team of Rizalino Mañas and Bryan Dimayuga, with coach chef Romain Renard—all from Makati Shangri-La—and all chef members of Pastry Alliance of the Philippines—won in the Asian Pastry Cup (APC) in Singapore last April.

APC functions as the official contest to preselect Asian teams to compete at Coupe du Monde de Patisserie (World Pastry Cup).

Of the eight competing teams, five were chosen to compete in Lyon this January— Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, China and the Philippines.

Mañas and Dimayuga impressed the judges with their four pastry preparations, all done in eight hours and in front of a live audience: two classic chocolate cake desserts, 18 plated desserts, a chocolate showpiece and a sugar showpiece.

Local delicacies grab international spotlight

From dried mangoes to coco sugar, Philippine food products were a big hit at the Salon International de l’Agroalimentaire or Sial Paris, one of the biggest food trade shows in the world, held last October in Paris, France.

Deliciously presented in various forms, flavors, colors and purposes, the local produce brought a steady stream of foreign buyers and potential long-term trade partners to the elegantly designed Philippine pavilion. Traders and guests bunched up around the pavilion to sample a merry mix of dried mangoes, banana chips, virgin coconut oil, glazed pili nuts, coconut water and coconut sugar, super frozen yellow fin tuna products, ice pops and jellies, concentrates and instant mixes, to name some.

The mix of products was designed to position the Philippines as an important global source of specialty, gourmet and artisanal food and terroir (environmental) food products.

The Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (Citem) has been doing its best to boost the Philippines’ image as a top sourcing destination of premium specialty food products.

This year, the 15 participating Philippine exhibitors garnered $24.4 million in sales over the five days of the food expo, with frozen tuna as the best-selling item.

More and more restaurants to choose from in 2014

Restaurants come and go and those that have opened last year created quite a stir on the food scene, both for international franchises and home-grown restaurants.

Here are some of them:

Todd English Food Hall (SkyPark, SM Aura Premier, Taguig) has a New York ambience that features live cooking stations for pasta, flatbread pizzas, a sushi bar, a dessert and bread bar, to name some.

St. Marc Café (SM Megamall Fashion Hall) offers Japan’s to-die-for chococro, a croissant-like pastry with melted chocolate bar inside.

Chef Colin Mackay’s aviation-themed Blackbird (Nielson Tower, Ayala Triangle, Makati City) serves extensive gastronomic fare from continental and Southeast Asian dishes to premium burgers, pizza and pies.

Purple Yam (Bocobo and Nakpil Streets, Malate), the Manila branch of Romy Dorotan and Amy Besa’s main site in Brooklyn, New York, pays tribute to local, sustainable and organic Philippine food.

Bianca Araneta-Elizalde’s The Wholesome Table (30th St. Bonifacio High Street Central, BGC, Taguig) promotes healthy eating by serving all-organic food such as free-range chicken and eggs, grass-fed beef and wild-caught seafood.

Johnlu Koa’s Lartizan (Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig) does not only bring in the best of French cuisine, but also the experience of dining in a real Parisian restaurant.

Sam Miguel
01-06-2015, 09:42 AM
High-end dining is back with a vengeance

Clinton Palanca

@inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:18 AM | Thursday, January 1st, 2015

There are no two ways about it: The Tasting Room is a restaurant in the grand sense of the word, with plush carpets, starched white tablecloths, and crystal stemware.

It’s a welcome antidote to the downmarket drift of most hotel restaurants, as well as the slew of “hip,” too-cool-to-serve-proper-food restaurants where everything is studiously casual and understated.

This is the high end back with a vengeance, so it’s time to polish off the cuff links, oxford brogues and table manners, and be prepared to open your wallet wide.

Our previous encounter with City of Dreams had been as guest in one of its many press launches off-site before the actual opening. That made us curious to visit the complex, as a customer. We wanted to see, among other things, what three hotels, a casino, and a giant golden egg on the strip of reclaimed land on Roxas Boulevard looked like.

It was every bit as enormous, extravagant and over the top as I imagined, and more. We wandered through cavernous, empty, sound-deadened corridors full of staff in full regalia. We didn’t need another Nobu experience, but The Tasting Room at the Crown Hotel came recommended.

After being asked by the guard, the lobby footman and the maître d’ if we had a reservation, we were shown into a completely empty restaurant.

“We have a completely new dining experience,” announced the maître d’ as he handed us the menu, which in itself set off alarm bells in my head, because every other restaurant we’d been to last year had trumpeted an entirely new way of dining. We’re actually quite satisfied with the ordinary way of dining, but there appears to be a crusade to make menus less and less comprehensible.

The “completely new” concept at The Tasting Room is, essentially, to blur the distinction between appetizers and main courses. This way, your five (or six, seven or eight) courses could follow a classical progression, or you could, conceivably, order five main courses and no appetizers, or for suicidal diabetics, five desserts.

We went the traditional route with an entrée, a seafood dish, a lighter main course followed by a heavier one, and then dessert.

‘Best’ dishes

Listening to someone describe their meal in excruciating detail is about as enticing as hearing someone else’s chewing, so we will just suggest what we felt were the best of the dishes, which we would have if we were to return.

The 52-degree egg with various umami bits and bobs thrown in was a bit of a cliché, but that didn’t make it any less delicious. This could then be followed by the lobster bisque, which served as both soup and seafood fare. The pigeon was perfectly cooked, bloody and red on the inside (though not frighteningly rare, as the French like to serve it).

Even if you think you’ve tasted all the wagyu variations possible, the complexity of flavors of the wagyu main course with truffled mashed potatoes still made it the best item on the menu. (The lamb, which was finished in a censer of smoldering dried rosemary leaves, would have been a close runner-up if it had been left slightly pink; it was dry and gray.)

For dessert we all had the pistachio soufflé, so we couldn’t really compare it to the other choices, but a very well-made soufflé it was indeed, with a somewhat superfluous shot glass of cardamom milk to accompany it.

Powers of suggestion

Because we were clearly not mainlanders flush with casino winnings, we weren’t subject to the powers of suggestion of the maître d’, who left us alone with our bottle of San Pellegrino. But as a few other guests drifted in, we overheard snippets of conversation in which he waxed lyrical about Burgundy vintages, tiptoed around the touchy subject of new world wines, and gently derided Italian wines and produced bottle after bottle.

A good sommelier is not just one who can pair wine with food, but pair wine with people; and a skilled one can add significantly to a restaurant’s revenue, while not alienating the customers on a budget.

Our meal was by no means inexpensive, but as far as restaurants like these go, it’s like getting a 3 series BMW or a made-to-measure rather than bespoke suit: an entry-level nibble that gives just a taste of the high end.

For people like us, it’s as far as we’ll go, but we can imagine others easily dropping three times or more what we spent on the full eight courses with wine pairings, aperitifs and digestifs, and an exorbitant bottle of champagne.

The cost of luxury

There is plenty to criticize—from our main courses arriving a few minutes apart to a heavy hand with the emulsifiers to an annoying flicker in the light source.

But the biggest negative for us, which is not something that can or should be fixed, is the sense of impersonality. It’s a luxury dining room that could be anywhere in the world, hermetically sealed off from the outside world—but then that’s the point of this place.

The chef, who is not named, cooks modernist food, but doesn’t go too wild with the spheroids or disappearing textures. All we can tell is that apart from being extremely liberal with the truffle shavings, he seems to have a predilection for sweet pairings (beetroot, glazed Iberico ham, lattices). Most of the clientele that the restaurant is aimed at will not mind; the chartered planes of high-rollers will not want a reminder that they are in dingy Manila.

Visiting the complex is like a brief sojourn to another world, not necessarily one we would like to live in, and much less one we could afford. But once in a while it’s nice to get away, just as once in a while (a very long while) it’s nice to pretend to live a lifestyle that we don’t have. Despite the prices, you do get what you pay for, and you don’t leave the restaurant hungry.

For those with the money to spend, this is as good a place to burn it as any. The high end is back in town.

The Tasting Room is at G/F, Crown Hotel, City of Dreams, Manila; tel. 800-8080

Sam Miguel
01-06-2015, 09:49 AM
Can Danny Meyer Do for Pizza What He Did for Burgers?

BY ALAN RICHMAN

December 2014

Somewhat like cake and icing, pizza is divided into two parts.

There's the crust, and then there's the topping. I suspect that normal eaters, a category that excludes food writers, care more about toppings than whatever regional style of crust they're eating. I seldom feel that way, unless pepperoni is involved.

I consider myself a pizza obsessive, one who participates in the critical analysis of crusts. Such studies have something to do with urban sociology, something to do with food science, and much to do with history. Crusts differ, usually in admirable and fascinating ways, wherever pizza is beloved. When thoughtfully prepared, the pizza crust is a simple food that pleases a majority of our senses. Inasmuch as it's a cousin to warm bread, the earthy fragrance triggers memories of pleasures past, while the texture, be it crunchy, soft, or crackling, provides primal bliss. Toppings are an indulgence, somewhat like your choice of syrup on an ice cream sundae.

There is little in the food world that compares with the thrill of a well-prepared pizza arriving at your table. Pizza is a harbinger of happiness.

The crust, to get back to business, comes in at least six fundamental forms, by my reckoning. To begin, there is Neapolitan-style (fast-cooked, very thin on the bottom, with a bulbous, puffy, outer rim), pan-style (sometimes called Sicilian and similar to a flat-topped focaccia with caramelized, crunchy edges), and nouveau-American-style (closer to bread-baking than pizza-tossing, resulting in an airy, light, aromatic crust). New York has an admirable style that deserves a subcategory of its own, a pie with a fairly thin and appealingly droopy crust. The New York pizza is best enjoyed when purchased by the slice, deftly folded, and consumed while walking along an overcrowded street.

These days, the New York slice is in decline, often sold in a sorrowful state. New Yorkers, always eager for something new, are looking elsewhere. We already have an abundance of Neapolitan, pan, and nouveau-American pies. Now two other styles have reappeared, their popularity restored. In pizza, we are like one of those Pacific islands populated by non-native species of wildlife that wash ashore.

Receiving considerable attention of late is deep-dish Chicago-style (very slow-cooked, sometimes flaky and sweet, but usually rather hard, and always a carbohydrate bomb), and thin-style (sometimes called Roman-style, but known as tavern-style in Chicago when it is sliced haphazardly, as though a slasher and not a pizzaiola were at work). Chicago-style deep-dish gained fame when Pizzeria Uno arrived here a few decades ago. The pie was a sensation at first, but the thrill faded. Thin-style pizza, which has a bottom crust even thinner than what you'll find on a New York pie, first received attention in 2003, when Mario Batali opened Otto to cries of dismay, including mine. His early crust was barely edible. It's now much improved.

The pies at Marta, the first pizza enterprise from Danny Meyer, who we all thought was too busy making Shake Shack burgers to care about much else, are being classified as Roman. This style of pie has never been unarguably defined, and Meyer's are somewhat different from others I've encountered. Marta, in fact, is an odd sort of pizzeria. Located on the ground floor of the Martha Washington hotel on East 29th street in Manhattan, it's vast, clearly the showpiece of the new and extensive renovation. The restaurant has more in common with the Roman Coliseum than with a Roman pizzeria.

The two oversized ovens are wood-burning, which always makes the heart race with joy, but in truth a couple minutes in a wood-burning oven does not add a great deal of flavor to a pie. There are two dining levels, as well as chandeliers that resemble giant pick-up sticks. Should you happen to be seated facing away from the ovens, you will actually have no idea that you are in a pizzeria. In fact, while Marta is being categorized as just that, the menu offers far more. The wine list is outsized, with ten Champagnes for $90 and under, and more than a dozen better-than decent bottles for less than $40, a pleasing variation on the theme of Manhattan sticker shock.

The sad truth is that the thin-crust pizza remains the most inexplicable of all pies. The crust is often flat, flabby and flavorless, which means without merit. Or it might be flat, flavorless, and crisp, which some find pleasing, although I do not. At Marta, the bottom crust is soft, supple, and very thin. The outer rim that rises above is crackling and crunchy, reminiscent of matzo.

The toppings are for the most part complex and inventive. My Patate alla Carbonara had very soft potatoes (verging on smashed), an almost-uncooked egg, guanciale (cured pork cheek), pepper, and pecorino cheese. Regardless of what pie you select from Marta's list of eleven, you will not be bored.

At the tiny Emmett's, on MacDougal Street just outside the official limits of Greenwich Village, Emmett Burke makes both deep-dish and thin-crust, tavern-style pies. His undersized spot, which seats about 30, including 11 at the bar, possesses a charm that puts most establishments located within the Village proper to shame. It's a lovely throwback to what New York used to be. The entire front-of-the-house staff the day I went consisted of one young woman who took orders, carried pies to the tables, worked behind the bar, and remained cheerful throughout. Inasmuch as deep-dish pies can take more than 30 minutes to cook, her work load was not excessive.

The tables are barely large enough to hold a single pie plus a couple plates, and the dining area lacks an entryway, which means the front door opens directly to the outside. Whenever a customer enters (usually to inquiry about the wait time for a table), a blast of cold air also arrives, dropping the room temperature about five degrees. I recommend the following toppings: the crumbled sausage and a warm, woolly sweater.

Emmett's deep-dish pies are conventionally round and come in four sizes, eight through 14 inches. The optional toppings are fundamental and few, a touch of old-world simplicity. The tavern-style pizza—not on the written menu—is square, comes in one size, and is particularly lovely when topped with sausage, the red, brown and orange hues a welcome sight to a hungry man stopping by after a night of bowling.

All of the Emmett's pies are attractive, and the tomato sauce is herbaceous and spicy. The problem here is the crusts. They are not good. In fact, they are depressing. The tavern-style crust was very thin and slightly doughy, as though it was supposed to rise but did not. Any crust this tasteless should at least be crunchy, but mine was not. The deep-dish crust was nicely browned but totally bland, with the flavor profile of a thick, dry, unsalted cracker, one of those English things. The several-inch-high crust encircled a reservoir filled with too much cheese and even more chunky tomato sauce. Emmett isn't to blame, for such a filling is an essential component of every deep-dish pie. One might as well drink tomato sauce directly from the can.

I don't think either of these establishments, despite their virtues, offers the best pies in New York. They are in business for several reasons: Danny Meyer has always been fascinated by all things Roman, and Emmett Burke hails from the suburbs of Chicago. A fundamental reason for the early success of both places is that New Yorkers are forever after what is new, not what they have always known and loved. That's not how pizza is enjoyed in the rest of America.

By my count, five of the six fundamental American pizza options are now ensconced within the city. Yet to arrive, to my knowledge, is grilled-style pizza (a specialty of Providence, Rhode Island, and tastier than you might think). We are close to having it all, and, to be honest, New Yorkers demand nothing less.

Sam Miguel
01-06-2015, 10:23 AM
Are Tasting Menus Tapped Out?

BY ALAN RICHMAN

I was standing outside Contra, jotting down notes, although not many, I admit. The exterior of this new Orchard Street restaurant consists of a bare, black façade plus a tiny, orange, neon sign that spells out the name from high above. A fellow wearing a yarmulke was closing up the shop next door and asked me what I was doing.

I explained that I was a food writer hoping to dine there for the first time and asked him if he had tried it. “I’m kosher,” he said, which meant he never could. He was curious, though, so I told him everything I knew.

I said a couple of guys—one 23, the other 28—were in the business of serving tasting menus. He’d never heard of anything like that. I asked him where he was eating that night, and he said his wife was making dinner. I explained that he was getting a tasting menu, too, since he’d eat whatever the person in charge wanted him to eat.

“There’s democracy in my house,” he said. “My wife isn’t a dictator.”

I replied, impressed, “So sometimes you tell her you don’t want to eat what she’s cooking?”

He shook his head. “I have to live with my wife.”

“Same with us,” I said. “We have to live with our chefs.”

···

I hear a lot of restaurant customers have issues with tasting menus. They’re too long, too restrictive, too presumptuous, too expensive. I enjoy them most of the time, endure them the rest. I figure the chef is giving you the best he or she’s got, which is good. But I also think they‘re less fun than conventional menus, where picking, choosing, and sharing is part of the experience. There’s another drawback: I’m waiting for the accountants at GQ to order me to eat alone whenever a restaurant serves only tasting menus, cease spending money on food for others that’s exactly the same as what I have on my plate.

I didn’t get in that first time. Nobody was answering the phone, no matter how many times I called, so I went down there, figuring it would be empty and I could walk right in. There was room, all right, but I was turned away, same as everyone else: plumbing problems. You want old buildings with plumbing problems, look no farther than the Lower East Side.

The second time I went, this time with a reservation, I was immediately recognized by the sommelier, Linda Milagros Violago, who used to work at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago. I said to her, wise-guy fashion, “Hmmm, what shall I have for dinner?” She replied, with equal sarcasm, “You’re having the menu whether you like it or not.”

I ate three such menus. Never was I able to learn in advance what the food would be—nothing was posted online. Twice I was served a dessert called “apple oat caramel”—semi-oxidized apple granita, toasted oats, and caramelized bits of chewy apple. I rather liked it, particularly the funky granita, but a guest with me called the dish “a horse’s breakfast.” (Note to GQ accountants: Cut back on guests and I can no longer promise insights like that.) I wasn’t thrilled to have that dessert twice.

Twice the menu included monkfish, although the accompaniments differed slightly. Jeremiah Stone, 28, and Fabian von Hauske, 23, the co-chefs, are masters of this profoundly ugly fish. Their versions were the best I’ve tasted since the opening days of Le Bernardin, about a quarter-century ago, when chef Gilbert Le Coze turned it into a prized menu item. The fish itself appeared to be cooked the same way each time, coming out plump, sweet, gauzy with olive oil and entangled in vegetables, as though the fish hadn’t been caught with a hook but ensnared by menacing greens. Those included leafy Piracicaba broccoli, mustard greens, and some other farmer’s market plant that seemed to have been nibbled on by grateful beetles in another life. Both presentations were sensational versions of avant garde French, maybe more French than avant garde, because of the softness and the near-transparency of the fish.

I got squab once. If allowed, I would have ordered it on every occasion. It was available one evening as an extra course for $15, or as a replacement for another course for an additional but unspecified sum. (The pricing policy is a little nutty, but that’s what happens when chefs rise to absolute power.) The portion consisted of a breast (juicy, succulent) and a leg (crunchy, tender) with one foot attached (odd, captivating). This was a bird beyond belief, a squab in metaphorical flight. It came in a luminously light cherry-squab jus. It was gone too soon.

A friend ordered it in place of the uncommonly moist chicken breast that was part of the menu of the day, chicken accompanied by sweet and lovely onion petals. My squab-eating friend left nothing on her plate but that bare foot. It was predatory eating. She devoured the dish in the style of an army ant.

If you think a squab foot on a plate is a little scary, greater terror lies ahead.

···

The tasting menus at Contra generally consist of five courses for $55, although during Thanksgiving week it was upped to six, with a main course of turkey and a price of $60. The meals developed a rhythm, too: One simple starter, two sturdy and generous proteins, two desserts. Within that format, I noticed improvements in the starters as the weeks went on, absolute and well-deserved confidence in those brilliant and blissful main courses, and desserts as the weak spot. They tasted improvisational, not sophisticated at all.

My problem with this particular tasting-menu format is that 40 percent of the dishes you’ll eat are desserts, and Contra’s aren’t especially interesting. They include plenty of ice cream and sorbets, if you admire those. One such dessert per meal is plenty.

The evolution of the starters over the course of several weeks was compelling and promising. The first starter at the first meal consisted of silver-dollar-sized rings of raw squash, a few bits of excellent guanciale (not enough to amount to much), toasted rye crumbs, a mild housemade cheese reminiscent of queso fresco, and a cute leaf that was probably chysanthemum. I had no idea what to do with this collection of seemingly incompatible foodstuffs until a friend exclaimed, “Tacos!” That’s what we did, made mini-tacos using the squash rings as tortillas and stuffing them with everything else. The result: Pretty darned good.

At the next meal those squash rings were sliced thinner and came with cashew bits, a cashew-milk dressing, soft cheese, plus more of those little leaves, all adding up to a juicy, maverick salad. The last starter, really quite smart, offered marrow for spreading on maple-glazed Japanese sweet potato slices that came sprinkled with toasted-rice powder. More onion petals, always welcome, decorated the plate.

It was at this third meal that a dish, probably not French and certainly never served at Versailles, made an appearance: half a goat’s head, bisected, a skull out of Alien. It was another of those supplements, and again I have no idea of the cost. It was worth its weight in creepiness.

The idea, we decided, was to eat the brain—creamy and soft and just the way brain should be. There were other interesting parts: teeth, tongue, eyeballs, cheek. One of my guests had been to medical school, and he carved with pleasure. We tried a little tongue (tough), a little eyeball (you might want to pass), a little cheek (so-so). The brain was the best part. Needed a little salt.

The wine list at Contra is small, simple, reasonably priced, ever-changing, and more interesting than you might think at first glance. Your best bet is to ask Violago for suggestions. She’s good. The restaurant does not have a cocktail program. One was promised for December, but when I went back in December, Violago told me, “We’re going to say January.”

The room, which seats about 40, is fundamentally simple, a shotgun-style space with a small bar up front and a semi-open kitchen to the rear. You can see into the kitchen easily enough, watch a surprisingly large cadre of youthful cooks in baseball caps working industriously. Nobody is taking it easy back there. There’s one fabulous table large enough for four that’s made from a huge slab of varnished wood. It comes with a perfect view of the entire room: the front bar, the single restroom (so you can time your dash for when it’s unoccupied), and the kitchen.

The walls are made of just about everything, the floor is cement, the chairs minimally cushioned. Contra feels like the bare-bones atelier of young artists who occasionally open up their premises so they can welcome appreciative guests.

One decorative item entranced me, a painting of what I took to be a Prussian general but later learned was probably Maximilian I, ill-fated emperor of Mexico. I was hesitant to make a positive identification because the top third was obliterated, painted over. I liked it because it was the kind of worthless article—my mother would have called it hazarai—that shoppers picked up cheap on Orchard Street back in the days when the neighborhood was filled with men in yarmulkes.

My parents were born on the Lower East Side and used to take me there, thinking I would learn something about my people. They were right. That’s exactly what happened at Contra a couple of weeks ago.

Sam Miguel
01-06-2015, 10:23 AM
Are Tasting Menus Tapped Out?

BY ALAN RICHMAN

I was standing outside Contra, jotting down notes, although not many, I admit. The exterior of this new Orchard Street restaurant consists of a bare, black façade plus a tiny, orange, neon sign that spells out the name from high above. A fellow wearing a yarmulke was closing up the shop next door and asked me what I was doing.

I explained that I was a food writer hoping to dine there for the first time and asked him if he had tried it. “I’m kosher,” he said, which meant he never could. He was curious, though, so I told him everything I knew.

I said a couple of guys—one 23, the other 28—were in the business of serving tasting menus. He’d never heard of anything like that. I asked him where he was eating that night, and he said his wife was making dinner. I explained that he was getting a tasting menu, too, since he’d eat whatever the person in charge wanted him to eat.

“There’s democracy in my house,” he said. “My wife isn’t a dictator.”

I replied, impressed, “So sometimes you tell her you don’t want to eat what she’s cooking?”

He shook his head. “I have to live with my wife.”

“Same with us,” I said. “We have to live with our chefs.”

···

I hear a lot of restaurant customers have issues with tasting menus. They’re too long, too restrictive, too presumptuous, too expensive. I enjoy them most of the time, endure them the rest. I figure the chef is giving you the best he or she’s got, which is good. But I also think they‘re less fun than conventional menus, where picking, choosing, and sharing is part of the experience. There’s another drawback: I’m waiting for the accountants at GQ to order me to eat alone whenever a restaurant serves only tasting menus, cease spending money on food for others that’s exactly the same as what I have on my plate.

I didn’t get in that first time. Nobody was answering the phone, no matter how many times I called, so I went down there, figuring it would be empty and I could walk right in. There was room, all right, but I was turned away, same as everyone else: plumbing problems. You want old buildings with plumbing problems, look no farther than the Lower East Side.

The second time I went, this time with a reservation, I was immediately recognized by the sommelier, Linda Milagros Violago, who used to work at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago. I said to her, wise-guy fashion, “Hmmm, what shall I have for dinner?” She replied, with equal sarcasm, “You’re having the menu whether you like it or not.”

I ate three such menus. Never was I able to learn in advance what the food would be—nothing was posted online. Twice I was served a dessert called “apple oat caramel”—semi-oxidized apple granita, toasted oats, and caramelized bits of chewy apple. I rather liked it, particularly the funky granita, but a guest with me called the dish “a horse’s breakfast.” (Note to GQ accountants: Cut back on guests and I can no longer promise insights like that.) I wasn’t thrilled to have that dessert twice.

Twice the menu included monkfish, although the accompaniments differed slightly. Jeremiah Stone, 28, and Fabian von Hauske, 23, the co-chefs, are masters of this profoundly ugly fish. Their versions were the best I’ve tasted since the opening days of Le Bernardin, about a quarter-century ago, when chef Gilbert Le Coze turned it into a prized menu item. The fish itself appeared to be cooked the same way each time, coming out plump, sweet, gauzy with olive oil and entangled in vegetables, as though the fish hadn’t been caught with a hook but ensnared by menacing greens. Those included leafy Piracicaba broccoli, mustard greens, and some other farmer’s market plant that seemed to have been nibbled on by grateful beetles in another life. Both presentations were sensational versions of avant garde French, maybe more French than avant garde, because of the softness and the near-transparency of the fish.

I got squab once. If allowed, I would have ordered it on every occasion. It was available one evening as an extra course for $15, or as a replacement for another course for an additional but unspecified sum. (The pricing policy is a little nutty, but that’s what happens when chefs rise to absolute power.) The portion consisted of a breast (juicy, succulent) and a leg (crunchy, tender) with one foot attached (odd, captivating). This was a bird beyond belief, a squab in metaphorical flight. It came in a luminously light cherry-squab jus. It was gone too soon.

A friend ordered it in place of the uncommonly moist chicken breast that was part of the menu of the day, chicken accompanied by sweet and lovely onion petals. My squab-eating friend left nothing on her plate but that bare foot. It was predatory eating. She devoured the dish in the style of an army ant.

If you think a squab foot on a plate is a little scary, greater terror lies ahead.

···

The tasting menus at Contra generally consist of five courses for $55, although during Thanksgiving week it was upped to six, with a main course of turkey and a price of $60. The meals developed a rhythm, too: One simple starter, two sturdy and generous proteins, two desserts. Within that format, I noticed improvements in the starters as the weeks went on, absolute and well-deserved confidence in those brilliant and blissful main courses, and desserts as the weak spot. They tasted improvisational, not sophisticated at all.

My problem with this particular tasting-menu format is that 40 percent of the dishes you’ll eat are desserts, and Contra’s aren’t especially interesting. They include plenty of ice cream and sorbets, if you admire those. One such dessert per meal is plenty.

The evolution of the starters over the course of several weeks was compelling and promising. The first starter at the first meal consisted of silver-dollar-sized rings of raw squash, a few bits of excellent guanciale (not enough to amount to much), toasted rye crumbs, a mild housemade cheese reminiscent of queso fresco, and a cute leaf that was probably chysanthemum. I had no idea what to do with this collection of seemingly incompatible foodstuffs until a friend exclaimed, “Tacos!” That’s what we did, made mini-tacos using the squash rings as tortillas and stuffing them with everything else. The result: Pretty darned good.

At the next meal those squash rings were sliced thinner and came with cashew bits, a cashew-milk dressing, soft cheese, plus more of those little leaves, all adding up to a juicy, maverick salad. The last starter, really quite smart, offered marrow for spreading on maple-glazed Japanese sweet potato slices that came sprinkled with toasted-rice powder. More onion petals, always welcome, decorated the plate.

It was at this third meal that a dish, probably not French and certainly never served at Versailles, made an appearance: half a goat’s head, bisected, a skull out of Alien. It was another of those supplements, and again I have no idea of the cost. It was worth its weight in creepiness.

The idea, we decided, was to eat the brain—creamy and soft and just the way brain should be. There were other interesting parts: teeth, tongue, eyeballs, cheek. One of my guests had been to medical school, and he carved with pleasure. We tried a little tongue (tough), a little eyeball (you might want to pass), a little cheek (so-so). The brain was the best part. Needed a little salt.

The wine list at Contra is small, simple, reasonably priced, ever-changing, and more interesting than you might think at first glance. Your best bet is to ask Violago for suggestions. She’s good. The restaurant does not have a cocktail program. One was promised for December, but when I went back in December, Violago told me, “We’re going to say January.”

The room, which seats about 40, is fundamentally simple, a shotgun-style space with a small bar up front and a semi-open kitchen to the rear. You can see into the kitchen easily enough, watch a surprisingly large cadre of youthful cooks in baseball caps working industriously. Nobody is taking it easy back there. There’s one fabulous table large enough for four that’s made from a huge slab of varnished wood. It comes with a perfect view of the entire room: the front bar, the single restroom (so you can time your dash for when it’s unoccupied), and the kitchen.

The walls are made of just about everything, the floor is cement, the chairs minimally cushioned. Contra feels like the bare-bones atelier of young artists who occasionally open up their premises so they can welcome appreciative guests.

One decorative item entranced me, a painting of what I took to be a Prussian general but later learned was probably Maximilian I, ill-fated emperor of Mexico. I was hesitant to make a positive identification because the top third was obliterated, painted over. I liked it because it was the kind of worthless article—my mother would have called it hazarai—that shoppers picked up cheap on Orchard Street back in the days when the neighborhood was filled with men in yarmulkes.

My parents were born on the Lower East Side and used to take me there, thinking I would learn something about my people. They were right. That’s exactly what happened at Contra a couple of weeks ago.

Sam Miguel
01-08-2015, 08:31 AM
A resto and haven for folks of a certain age

Micky Fenix

@inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:51 AM | Thursday, January 8th, 2015

One tends to chuckle at the name—“Senior Hub.” But it describes well enough a place where senior citizens can meet, eat, relax, exercise, have a massage, play mahjong or cards or scrabble, watch DVDs, have a party, attend art lessons, even have their hair done.

Though everyone is welcome to the place to do all of the above, seniors will feel extra special because there is a medical staff just in case they are needed, plus an elevator to get them from floor to floor. The elevator is wide enough for several wheelchairs.

There are also restrooms on every floor, again wide enough for wheelchairs to get through.

Healthy should be the operative word in the restaurant. My friend was disappointed when she couldn’t order her usual soda because “we don’t serve that,” she was told. But she liked the pitcher of guyabano juice, freshly done, thick and creamy.

Organic food

The restaurant is called “Kitchen 56,” probably to differentiate it from its mother resto “Earth Kitchen” on White Plains.

I first tasted its food at a meeting of friends, where our host ordered the spring rolls packed with vegetables and shrimps. The Senior Hub offers the spring rolls as well, huge pieces cut in half, presupposing sharing, which is a senior thing.

Chef David Hizon of his family’s Hizon’s Catering takes charge of the kitchen, where he continues the commitment of his group (Got Heart Farms in Tarlac) to serve organic, sustainable food.

From Tarlac, the movement has extended support to local farmers and indigenous communities throughout the country.

A small garden viewed from the dining area has herbs growing in pots in wooden plant boxes suspended on one wall, and other greens growing beside the fence.

Some diners were delighted that the edible electric blue flowers called ternate included in the salad were picked right before the preparation.

We didn’t notice it right away, but a look at the menu revealed very soft renderings such as pasta, risotto and soft tacos.

Worth ordering is the mushroom ravioli with a filling of kesong puti, shiitake and button mushrooms, pili nuts and a light cream sauce that my friend who liked soda said she could finish all by herself.

My choice was the sweet potato tops ravioli with white cheese, pili nuts, pomodoro and basil sauce, and lots of grated parmesan cheese. How’s that for healthy?

But because the restaurant is also for everybody, there are more hefty dishes such as beef and chicken kebab, both of which give you a choice of organic Ifugao rice or flour tortillas to go with them. Grilled short ribs, braised bacon and chicken breast cooked Hainanese-style are also available.

Dessert is mostly ice cream done on site, in flavors such as green tea, tsokolate tablea, milky pastillas and “Milo.” Kitchen 56, however, is known for its goat’s cheese-frozen cheesecake with wild honey, dried figs and cashew nuts. It’s not cheesecake as we know it, but ice cream; I do wish they had the regular cheesecake and other pastry choices in case you’re not up for something frozen.

Special area

Yet while the restaurant is open to everyone, it does close early. It’s not open for dinner because seniors prefer to retire early. My friend let out a laugh when I told her.

But you can have an evening party or an event at any time of the day on the fifth level, which is equipped with a piano and audio/video equipment, and also a chapel if you need it.

The fifth level is also a music center where anyone of any generation can learn to sing and play musical instruments.

A special area, the second level, is for the exclusive use of members. It has an electronic mahjong table, home theater, library, computer and iPad tutorials, and consultation with a specialized medical team.

A third of the membership fee is consumable in the restaurant, in classes such as dance, fitness, arts and crafts, pop music lessons, rental of social areas, and personalized nutritional counseling and diet plans, where the regular 20-percent senior citizen discount applies, plus an additional member’s discount.

Senior Hub is a project of SM Corp. Its name may change, I was told, though the primary concept will still be the same: An adult day care center for those “of a certain age.”

56 Jupiter St., Makati City, tel. no. 8564162, 8564144, 0917-5155656. E-mail: pinoyfood04@yahoo.com.

Sam Miguel
01-08-2015, 08:31 AM
A resto and haven for folks of a certain age

Micky Fenix

@inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:51 AM | Thursday, January 8th, 2015

One tends to chuckle at the name—“Senior Hub.” But it describes well enough a place where senior citizens can meet, eat, relax, exercise, have a massage, play mahjong or cards or scrabble, watch DVDs, have a party, attend art lessons, even have their hair done.

Though everyone is welcome to the place to do all of the above, seniors will feel extra special because there is a medical staff just in case they are needed, plus an elevator to get them from floor to floor. The elevator is wide enough for several wheelchairs.

There are also restrooms on every floor, again wide enough for wheelchairs to get through.

Healthy should be the operative word in the restaurant. My friend was disappointed when she couldn’t order her usual soda because “we don’t serve that,” she was told. But she liked the pitcher of guyabano juice, freshly done, thick and creamy.

Organic food

The restaurant is called “Kitchen 56,” probably to differentiate it from its mother resto “Earth Kitchen” on White Plains.

I first tasted its food at a meeting of friends, where our host ordered the spring rolls packed with vegetables and shrimps. The Senior Hub offers the spring rolls as well, huge pieces cut in half, presupposing sharing, which is a senior thing.

Chef David Hizon of his family’s Hizon’s Catering takes charge of the kitchen, where he continues the commitment of his group (Got Heart Farms in Tarlac) to serve organic, sustainable food.

From Tarlac, the movement has extended support to local farmers and indigenous communities throughout the country.

A small garden viewed from the dining area has herbs growing in pots in wooden plant boxes suspended on one wall, and other greens growing beside the fence.

Some diners were delighted that the edible electric blue flowers called ternate included in the salad were picked right before the preparation.

We didn’t notice it right away, but a look at the menu revealed very soft renderings such as pasta, risotto and soft tacos.

Worth ordering is the mushroom ravioli with a filling of kesong puti, shiitake and button mushrooms, pili nuts and a light cream sauce that my friend who liked soda said she could finish all by herself.

My choice was the sweet potato tops ravioli with white cheese, pili nuts, pomodoro and basil sauce, and lots of grated parmesan cheese. How’s that for healthy?

But because the restaurant is also for everybody, there are more hefty dishes such as beef and chicken kebab, both of which give you a choice of organic Ifugao rice or flour tortillas to go with them. Grilled short ribs, braised bacon and chicken breast cooked Hainanese-style are also available.

Dessert is mostly ice cream done on site, in flavors such as green tea, tsokolate tablea, milky pastillas and “Milo.” Kitchen 56, however, is known for its goat’s cheese-frozen cheesecake with wild honey, dried figs and cashew nuts. It’s not cheesecake as we know it, but ice cream; I do wish they had the regular cheesecake and other pastry choices in case you’re not up for something frozen.

Special area

Yet while the restaurant is open to everyone, it does close early. It’s not open for dinner because seniors prefer to retire early. My friend let out a laugh when I told her.

But you can have an evening party or an event at any time of the day on the fifth level, which is equipped with a piano and audio/video equipment, and also a chapel if you need it.

The fifth level is also a music center where anyone of any generation can learn to sing and play musical instruments.

A special area, the second level, is for the exclusive use of members. It has an electronic mahjong table, home theater, library, computer and iPad tutorials, and consultation with a specialized medical team.

A third of the membership fee is consumable in the restaurant, in classes such as dance, fitness, arts and crafts, pop music lessons, rental of social areas, and personalized nutritional counseling and diet plans, where the regular 20-percent senior citizen discount applies, plus an additional member’s discount.

Senior Hub is a project of SM Corp. Its name may change, I was told, though the primary concept will still be the same: An adult day care center for those “of a certain age.”

56 Jupiter St., Makati City, tel. no. 8564162, 8564144, 0917-5155656. E-mail: pinoyfood04@yahoo.com.

Sam Miguel
01-08-2015, 08:32 AM
The side dishes alone are worth the trip to this Korean charcoal-grill resto

Reggie Aspiras

@inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:44 AM | Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Totally refined, delicious and reasonable. These are the reasons I have been to Masil three times between Christmas and New Year.

Masil is a Korean charcoal-grill restaurant that offers a wide, interesting assortment of ban chan (side dishes) to go with its food. In the mix are the kimchis; myulchi bokkeum (stir fried anchovy); namul (sautéed sayote and spinach); tangkong jorim (stir-fried peanut in soy sauce); dubu (steamed tofu with house sauce); and green salad with a dressing made of bananas.

Other side dishes are added if you order char-grilled meat, like mussam (thinly sliced radish wrap); jangachi (pickled cucumber and radish); a spicy soup with tofu; and my favorite, tasty steamed egg—an airy scrambled egg-like custard with a broth.

Aside from the ban chan, there are many other reasons to love Masil. It has an efficient exhaust system, clean and grease-free floors, and the fact that from the time you set foot in the restaurant, you know that it aims to please.

The times I was there, it gave me more than what I expected—occasional surprises such as little dishes made from fresh finds found in the market that day.

Not only is the resto generous with its side dishes, the food is also of high quality, with utmost attention given the process and the detail. From the way the food looks and tastes, there is no doubt that it is carefully prepared.

Authentic taste

Credit should go to Korean lady cook JS Yoon-Lim, who moved to the Philippines with her family in 1997. It was her friends who noted her culinary prowess and urged her to open a restaurant.

Now, every member of her family is working at Masil. The cooking, of course, remains the woman chef’s sole responsibility.

According to Sarang Lim, JS’s daughter and Masil’s manager: “From a dipping sauce like ssamjang (soybean paste) to our main dishes such as yangnyeom galbi (premium beef short ribs marinated in sweet house sauce), everything is controlled by my mom to keep the authentic Korean taste of our food.”

The restaurant’s menu seems typical, but there’s nothing ordinary about dining in Masil. When it comes to the galbis (barbecues), the flavors are simple and clean, prepared with the intention to enhance the meat rather than mask it.

The yangnyeom galbi (premium beef short ribs), though marinated, is so beef-y.

The samgyeopsal (pork belly) is sinful, though not much is done to it. It is the careful selection of the meat and the proper cooking that make it magical.

In my opinion, Masil has one of the best tasting kimchis, perfectly balanced and visually appealing. It is exactly how I want my kimchi to be—fermented yet fresh-tasting.

Sarang described their food as “conservative when it comes to taste and yet very creative in finding the right flavors, making use of a variety of cooking methods. This makes us unique.”

An example is the ingenious execution of the potato salad called heokimja gamja—thinly shredded raw potato served with black sesame seed dressing.

Another interesting dish is jokbal, pork leg simmered in an herbal sauce for almost three hours. It is then thinly sliced and served with ssamjang and shrimp bagoong. The best way to enjoy it is to wrap the thinly sliced pork leg in lettuce with sesame leaf. If you wish, add mustard sauce and naengchae (assorted pickled vegetables). Eaten this way, jokbal is a culinary delight.

Also on the menu is grilled mackerel. Even if this is all I had, I would be so satisfied. The fish is good, but with the dipping sauce, it is excellent.

An interesting culinary feast I wish to try soon is han jeong sik (a full-course Korean meal with savory side dishes, which used to be served in the royal palaces or homes of aristocrats). The simplified fusion version of han jeong sik served with charcoal-grilled meat is Masil’s specialty. But this should be after I grow tired of its regular fare, and that might take a while!

Masil’s recipe for bulgogi

Prepare 300 g of thinly sliced sirloin, further sliced into bite-size pieces. Leave the beef on a kitchen towel to drain off the blood.

Mix the following ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl: 2 ½ tbsp soy sauce, 1 ¼ tbsp sugar, 2 tsp minced garlic , 1 tbsp minced spring onion, 1 tsp sesame seed, ½ tbsp sesame oil, pinch of black pepper.

Put the prepared meat in the bowl with the marinade and mix well. Marinate the beef for at least an hour in the refrigerator.

Cook the beef in a frying pan with a little oil over high heat and serve.

Sarang’s tips:

To fully savor Korean barbecue, grill it on your table. The smell and sight alone whets the appetite.

Korean barbecue is best wrapped in lettuce, sesame leaves, even petchay Baguio. You may add pickled vegetables such as radish for a twist in taste.

“We simply love vegetables. So everything we eat, we add fresh veggies to, not just for better taste but for good digestion.”

Thanks to my dear friend Vivian Go for taking me to this Korean food haven.

Masil Charcoal Grill Restaurant is at 100 Oranbo Drive, Barangay Oranbo, Pasig City. Call 6342010, 6312173.

Sam Miguel
02-03-2015, 07:56 AM
This made for very interesting reading, and since this is the restaurant thread...

http://awareness-time.com/17-dining-mistakes-youre-making-that-you-never-knew-about/4/

To help us all out when dining, especially in public, and most especially on very important occasions.

Sam Miguel
02-03-2015, 07:56 AM
This made for very interesting reading, and since this is the restaurant thread...

http://awareness-time.com/17-dining-mistakes-youre-making-that-you-never-knew-about/4/

To help us all out when dining, especially in public, and most especially on very important occasions.

Sam Miguel
02-05-2015, 07:57 AM
Yo fellow carnivores!

http://www.spot.ph/eatdrink/58469/carnivore-haven-the-place-of-unlimited-roast-beef/

Sam Miguel
02-05-2015, 07:57 AM
Yo fellow carnivores!

http://www.spot.ph/eatdrink/58469/carnivore-haven-the-place-of-unlimited-roast-beef/

Joescoundrel
02-26-2015, 03:18 PM
Foie gras Ferrero Rocher, bone marrow smoked over a bowl of black rice and charcoal–Black Sheep raises the bar

CHEF JORDY NAVARRA STRADDLES THE LINE BETWEEN FINE DINING AND FUN DINING

Tracey Paska

@inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer

5:01 AM | Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Since it opened at The Penthouse at W Fifth Avenue in November 2013, Black Sheep has risen above the flock of trendy eateries at Bonifacio Global City by offering unparalleled city views and imaginative food that deftly straddles the line between fine dining and fun dining.

From the theatrical open kitchen, chef Jordy Navarra and his brigade produced an original menu featuring such highlights as foie gras Ferrero Rocher, a bonbon of duck liver purée rolled in white chocolate and candied nuts, and an unusual savory ice cream infused with smoked longganisa that captivated diners.

A year later, the restaurant has unveiled a new repertoire demonstrating a more refined focus on its original vision of playfully innovative food.

Simplified to two prix fixe menus pivoting around locally-sourced traditional ingredients, the new dishes draw their inspiration from five environs of Philippine food culture—the streets, sea and river, garden, farm, and sweets—with the aim of evoking nostalgic memories through taste.

The comprehensive seven-course set kicks off with a duo of amuse bouche, beginning with a creamy tartare of Bukidnon lamb on squid ink flatbread and topped with cashews, grated tuna roe from General Santos and kabayawa (a citrus akin to dayap) zest.

Street food

A pork blood meringue follows, a cascade of distinct flavors from preserved tomatoes, coconut milk, green mango, pork, squid ink to kabayawa, that eventually merges into the familiar taste of Bicol Express.

Representing street food, a “dirty ice cream” slider of warm tocino bread filled with a chilled chicken liver parfait and finished with grated durian and crisp onions provide wonderful contrasts in flavors and textures.

Next, a bottle of “Kwatro Kantos”—a pleasantly salty libation of gin and preserved calamansi—is served as palate cleanser and a tambay-style companion to pulutan of kwek kwek-inspired smoked quail egg, cooked sous-vide so that it dissolves on the tongue like velvet smoke, and a chicken meatball served in a shell with a Mandarin orange foam and salmon roe.

18 vegetables

From Philippine waters comes grilled grouper, its skin flash-fried to delicate crispness, resting on an islet of wakame in a clear broth of kamias and guava, while creamy goto is reinterpreted with finely diced cauliflower providing the texture of rice in a rich coconut cream and fatty crab roe sauce surrounding crabmeat, enhanced with shaved black truffle.

Back on terra firma, the bounty of the native garden is recreated in “Bahay Kubo,” a dish that incorporates all 18 vegetables mentioned in the classic folk song.

In chef Jordy’s edible version, dehydrated and sweetened upo (bottle gourd) sprouts from “soil” made of finely ground mani (peanuts) and talong (eggplant) and covering a buried treasure of buko (young coconut), sitaw (winged beans), kamatis (tomato), candied kundol (winter melon), puréed kalabasa (squash) and a dozen other produce.

Further afield on the farm comes Kitayama smoked beef brisket lightly soured with batuan and accompanied by a shank of bone marrow smoked over a bowl of palay, black rice and charcoal. Rich without being unctuous, the marrow is scraped onto heirloom Cordilleras rice and mixed into the grains like a smooth sauce.

To herald the end of the meal, a tart green mango sorbet is served with cool cucumber over a gravel bed of nitrogen-frozen wood sorrel that dissipates into perfumed vapor on the taste buds.

The sweet finale arrives as a napoleones of scrumptious mango, white chocolate and cream ganache piped between homemade sheets of filo pastry and nestled over spiced mango compote with sweet honeycomb candy and a mango film.

At once familiar and strange, these dishes are the creations of chef Jordy, whose culinary approach reflects the influence of an unconventional pair of Michelin-starred role models. His interest in professional cooking was sparked by a show starring acclaimed English chef Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck Restaurant in Bray, England.

“It was almost like chemistry—a different approach to food I didn’t think was possible,” he recalled.

Little did he know that, after graduating from culinary school, he would find himself in the United Kingdom under the tutelage of the alchemist-chef himself.

From there, chef Jordy parlayed a memorable meal at Hong Kong’s Bo Innovation into a spot in the kitchen, cooking alongside the wickedly inventive and self-described “Demon Chef” Alvin Leung and his brand of “X-Treme Chinese” cuisine.

“It was a bit like what Heston was doing, but with Asian flavors and Chinese ingredients. That was eye-opening for me—the fun part of food made with what you find [locally],” he marveled.

With such stellar training, he returned to the Philippines to helm Black Sheep, where guests can watch from the Chef’s Table that runs along the front of the specially designed open kitchen. Rather than feel pressured by having an audience, chef Jordy is drawn to the theatricality.

“I love that part—it’s an interactive, tableside experience. There’s more to it than just sitting down to have a meal,” he said.

And fun, above all, is the main objective of his menu for Black Sheep.

Like Blumenthal and Leung, chef Jordy revels in playing with food and with diners’ expectations. “I want to surprise, but I don’t want to challenge. It shouldn’t taste too weird,” explained the pony-tailed cuisinier. “The best way to go about it is to capture everything and not alienate anyone. Just make it fun.”

As new concepts for dishes continue to flow, the fare at Black Sheep continues to evolve. Staying constant, however, are myriad thoughtful details, from the specially made pottery ware by artists Ugu Bigyan, Mia Casal and Joey de Castro, to guests’ names printed on eco-friendly vegetable paper, that have become part of the restaurant’s hallmark.

With such details both small and large gilding a menu focused on local ingredients and familiar flavors transformed into haute cuisine, Black Sheep continues to shepherd a lofty level of dining experience in Manila.

Joescoundrel
03-05-2015, 08:20 AM
7 Chefs and Restaurant Owners Tell Us Where to Eat After Hours

By Mikka Wee/February 26, 2015

After a long day of bussing tables, taking shit from unreasonable customers, toiling over pots of boiling soup, and getting body parts sliced from the most unfortunate of knife-related encounters, all chefs and restaurant owners (and their staff) want to do is to sit down and gorge on a hearty, satisfying meal—at least, this is what we gather after interviewing several of the local industry’s most creative culinary minds. Something we noticed is that these folks like going for the cheap stuff, edging closely on Ghetto Grub, which we totally dig.

1. JP Anglo, Sarsa Kitchen + Bar

“I can think of three places at the moment. The ultimate favorite go-to is Hap Chan along Makati Avenue. It solves everything—all the stress and hangover. I order their beef and broccoli with a bowl of jasmine rice. If not that, I order the fish and tofu hot pot (just to go a bit healthy). I also love their kai-lan (Chinese broccoli) with garlic. They top it off with a bit of oil from the wok so you smell it as you eat. It’s so good.”

“Another is Sweet Ecstasy along Jupiter Street. I’ve never tried In N’ Out and Shake Shack, but their burgers are packed with this old school flavor. It’s a straightforward good burger—bread, mayo, ketchup, cheese—straight up and no fancy stuff; just really good beef that’s not from the freezer. I remember the first time I tried it and oh my god, napamura talaga ako sa sarap. I was like, ‘Putangina, sarap nito solid talaga.’ I love those kinds of restaurants where you can feel the love. I hope they don’t expand, and the way they cook is well-principled and you can tell it’s not trying hard. They menu is on a board, and you instantly know that it’s going to be a good meal. I heard their chicken is also great, but I’m a sucker for their normal burger or cheeseburger. And their onion rings—some of the best I’ve tried!”

“Lastly, Ziggurat. It’s an institution even though it could be hit or miss—on a good day, it’s really good. When they get it right—it’s bull’s eye! Good food, beer, and the red light environment make it perfect when maximizing my cheat days. I order kebabs, curries, and basmati rice. It’s also the best place to get drunk especially when you’re surrounded with all this good food, and it makes my cheat days worth it.”

2. Jonathan Choi, Magnum Opus

“There’s this place by Army Navy called Coco Hut Chicken & Fish, and they’re open 24 hours, which my staff and I like to go to after service, or even when I’m alone, haha. I like their chicken, their laing, and they have this house chili-garlic sauce that’s similar to the ones they serve at Chinese restaurants.”

“Another place we frequent after service is Eros Inasal along Tropical Avenue, which is just behind Aguirre. It used to be a tiny shop that tricycle drives used to frequent, but now they’ve expanded! We go there for the pares, ramen, lechon kawali (which comes in huuuge slabs), and of course, some Red Horse. ”

3. Nicco Santos, Your Local

“As much as possible, I have ‘family meals’ with my team after dinner service. If I eat out it would usually be at Behrouz or at Hap Chan because they’re both on my way home. But if I’m really tired, it would have to be McDonald’s and KFC Drive-Thru.”

“If I could, though, I would have some hot soup. I enjoy a piping-hot bowl of bah kut teh, laksa, or ramen. I love the soothing silence it brings as it also calms my mind. I can enjoy a bowl alone or with friends since it takes me back to the kitchens of the aunties and uncles who’ve taught me how to cook.”

4. Allen Buhay, Wildflour Bakery + Café

“Hap Chan on Makati Avenue because I love Chinese food! I’ll always order some siomai, congee, and some crispy squid. Hap Chan, for me, is also closest to a ‘California Chinatown restaurant’ here in Metro Manila, so I can feel at home having it.”

“Also, Sarsa—after shift or any time of the day, really. I love their inasal, garlic rice, and crispy dilis! Sarsa never ever fails.”

5. Ed Bugia, Pino/Pipino/Pi Breakfast and Pies

“Chefs usually finish work late, so they want something cheap, fast, and…dirty! We usually go to pares joints, but personally, I go to the one near my house in Commonwealth. I order a beef pares with an extra fried egg and lots of chili sauce!

Another option nowadays is El Chupacabra—really good and cheap street tacos. I love how they cook their lengua there! And a few steps away is Tambai. Get their beef rib fingers and ice cold single serve sake.”

“Finally, probably my most-frequented late night destination is Countryside along Katipunan Avenue. I get the goat papaitan, beef kaldereta, and chicken ass!”

6. Gab Bustos and Thea de Rivera, The Girl + The Bull & 12/10

“Since we always end late, our options are always limited. On nights that we’re in The Girl + The Bull, and we’re lucky enough to leave before 11, we usually try to catch Ramen Yushoken for our usuals—Tantanmen for myself and Tokusei + Gyoza for Thea.

“But before 11pm is a different story, haha. Otherwise…

“Nihonbashitei! It’s not the best Japanese restaurant, but it is our go-to spot after midnight. Our usuals would be the spicy toro maki, salmon head yaki, ebi tempura, or the bacon enoki. I guess we always go here because it’s one of the few good and quiet options past midnight—plus it’s close to the Skyway! I never get sick of Japanese food. (It sucks that Kikufuji closes the same time we do!)”

“Also, Family Mart! JOHNSONVILLE HOTDOGS —because JOHNSONVILLE HOTDOGS!!! It’s clean, and that snap…. To be the honest, it’s the only place I know where I can get a properly snappy dog.

“Beni’s Falafel—although you’re sure to smell like Beni’s Falafel for the rest of the night, their falafels with hummus are bomb.”

“Others are Uncle Moe’s and SSC—our go-to places when we crave for Persian! Kebabs with margarine, rice, ox brains, hummus, and a shit ton of garlic sauce. Army Navy is the classic The Girl + The Bull go-to. Their Freedom Fries are the best; Thea and I always get their steak/chicken quesadillas. North Park, too! Lemon chicken, salt and pepper squid, lechon macau, sweet and sour pork, and congee never fail. If Thea is in the mood to drink, Blind Pig! And if we can sneak out of service, Your Local. Man, I can give you a longer list, but these would have to be our usuals, I guess, haha!”

Joescoundrel
03-05-2015, 08:23 AM
Is Locavore in Kapitolyo as Good as Everyone Says It Is?

By Pamela Cortez/Today

Everyone’s been talking about Locavore. Since it opened last December, people have been flocking to Brixton, Pasig, to get a hold of their modern, hip take on Filipino food that will remind one of what JP Anglo does at Sarsa.

The menu reads pretty easy, with almost everything sounding appetizing–there’s fried chicken, tapa, longganisa, crispy pata, and the prices are affordable, too. Around this area, there are a lot of hungry office workers willing to share a meal or two during their lunch break. The place is smart, too, separated in two sections, designed with no-frills, but still comfortable enough to hang out in. But we’re here for the food, and everyone’s praise for the restaurant might just be well-deserved.

The infamous Sizzling Sinigang is every bit as good as the hype. It’s an ingenious idea, the kind so simple that you wonder why no one has done it before. Tender, falling-off-the-bone pieces of unctuous meat are doused in a thick gravy that is just as sour as sinigang should be. I appreciate the careful construction of it as well, with the vegetables separated from the lot so that none of the crisp beans, roasted onions, and tomatoes lose their integrity. It’s pretty stellar stuff. Oyster sisig is the kind of dish that anyone on a drunken night out will appreciate; juicy local oysters covered in a tempura-like batter will surely soak up your alcohol intake back to sobriety. My only issue is that there is too much of this aioli/mayonnaise combo that if you get a bite doused in some, the flavor of the fried oysters gets a tad lost. But that is merely a little fault.

Liempo buns were an inventive take on the bao craze that everyone is into these days, with sweet pork incased in soft fluffy bread, topped with pickles and coleslaw. It’s decent stuff especially for what you’re paying, with just a few flaws–too much mayo, bread a little too thin–that you’re willing to overlook because essentially, it still delivers a good bite.

Ensaladang pakwan was the only dish we had that presented any sort of real let-down; individually each component was too much. Tapa was too salty, dressing was too sour–there was too much of it, that even the watermelon’s sweetness couldn’t really balance things out. In its essence however, there were good intentions, and careful thought in putting together the dishes on their menu.

Locavore is one of those places that will have a steady following for a long time. It is approachable food, that is sometimes novel, but never delves into territory that is too outrageous for its clientele. The service may be a little bit stilted and inattentive, and their food a few mistakes from perfect, but that stuff doesn’t detract from what you come here for. It’s perfect for a meal with your barkada, or drinks and grub after work, and a welcome new spot to the ever-growing Kapitolyo food scene. We give it a 7/10.

Sam Miguel
03-24-2015, 11:43 AM
Michelin-starred French chef closes Moscow restaurant

Agence France-Presse 6:32 AM |

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

MOSCOW–Michelin-starred French chef Pierre Gagnaire is to close his restaurant in a Moscow luxury hotel, a spokeswoman said Monday, with Russian media blaming the economic crisis and the embargo on many Western foods for the decision.

“After five years of fruitful cooperation with Pierre Gagnaire, Les Menus restaurant is closing because of the agreement running out at the end of March,” a spokeswoman for Lotte Hotel, which houses the restaurant, said.

Business daily Vedomosti suggested the reason for the closure was the difficulty in obtaining many Western food products due to the embargo imposed by Russia in retaliation for Western sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine.

The report also said the economic crisis, which has seen inflation soar as the ruble plunged in value was to blame–most luxury foods have to be imported to Russia.

Alexei Zimin, the editor of Afisha-Yeda food magazine, told Vedomosti that haute cuisine failed to see growth in Moscow even during the years of economic stability.

“Now when business activity is falling, the demand is shrinking all the more,” he said.

Zimin also pointed to Russia’s embargo on food imports, saying restaurants like Gagnaire’s simply cannot find local equivalents of ingredients.

Gagnaire, one of France’s superstar chiefs, is known for his innovative molecular cuisine. His Paris restaurant gained three Michelin stars in 1998 and has retained them ever since. He has 11 restaurants in cities across the world from Dubai to Las Vegas.

He is among a number of top chefs to have opened restaurants in Russia during the years of economic prosperity fueled by high oil prices.

French chef Helene Darroze, whose restaurant “Helen Darroze” in Paris has gained one Michelin star and whose London restaurant in the prestigious Connaught Hotel has two stars, opened a Moscow restaurant in 2012.

Numerous attempts to transplant Michelin-starred chefs to Moscow have ended in failure in recent years, however.

Jeroboam restaurant, which opened in the Ritz Carlton hotel under German chef Heinz Winkler closed in 2009. Koumir restaurant, a franchise of the Maison Troisgros restaurant in Roanne, central France, launched in 2006 but closed its doors after a year.

Lotte Hotel’s spokeswoman said it would open a new restaurant with a “chef renowned worldwide” offering “modern European cuisine.”

The current economic crisis in Russia has led to rampant inflation, particularly of food prices, amid falling spending power.

It has already led to the closure of hundreds of restaurants in Moscow and fueled a trend for restaurants using high-quality fresh local produce.

Sam Miguel
03-24-2015, 11:43 AM
Michelin-starred French chef closes Moscow restaurant

Agence France-Presse 6:32 AM |

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

MOSCOW–Michelin-starred French chef Pierre Gagnaire is to close his restaurant in a Moscow luxury hotel, a spokeswoman said Monday, with Russian media blaming the economic crisis and the embargo on many Western foods for the decision.

“After five years of fruitful cooperation with Pierre Gagnaire, Les Menus restaurant is closing because of the agreement running out at the end of March,” a spokeswoman for Lotte Hotel, which houses the restaurant, said.

Business daily Vedomosti suggested the reason for the closure was the difficulty in obtaining many Western food products due to the embargo imposed by Russia in retaliation for Western sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine.

The report also said the economic crisis, which has seen inflation soar as the ruble plunged in value was to blame–most luxury foods have to be imported to Russia.

Alexei Zimin, the editor of Afisha-Yeda food magazine, told Vedomosti that haute cuisine failed to see growth in Moscow even during the years of economic stability.

“Now when business activity is falling, the demand is shrinking all the more,” he said.

Zimin also pointed to Russia’s embargo on food imports, saying restaurants like Gagnaire’s simply cannot find local equivalents of ingredients.

Gagnaire, one of France’s superstar chiefs, is known for his innovative molecular cuisine. His Paris restaurant gained three Michelin stars in 1998 and has retained them ever since. He has 11 restaurants in cities across the world from Dubai to Las Vegas.

He is among a number of top chefs to have opened restaurants in Russia during the years of economic prosperity fueled by high oil prices.

French chef Helene Darroze, whose restaurant “Helen Darroze” in Paris has gained one Michelin star and whose London restaurant in the prestigious Connaught Hotel has two stars, opened a Moscow restaurant in 2012.

Numerous attempts to transplant Michelin-starred chefs to Moscow have ended in failure in recent years, however.

Jeroboam restaurant, which opened in the Ritz Carlton hotel under German chef Heinz Winkler closed in 2009. Koumir restaurant, a franchise of the Maison Troisgros restaurant in Roanne, central France, launched in 2006 but closed its doors after a year.

Lotte Hotel’s spokeswoman said it would open a new restaurant with a “chef renowned worldwide” offering “modern European cuisine.”

The current economic crisis in Russia has led to rampant inflation, particularly of food prices, amid falling spending power.

It has already led to the closure of hundreds of restaurants in Moscow and fueled a trend for restaurants using high-quality fresh local produce.

Sam Miguel
03-27-2015, 08:24 AM
Why many restaurants don’t actually want you to order dessert

By Roberto A. Ferdman

February 10

If you think you're doing a restaurant any favors by ordering dessert, you might want to think again.

Dessert can be delicious. And it can be profitable, too. But generally speaking, when diners extend their meal with slices of chocolate cake, cups of ice cream, and servings of crème brûlée, it can come at restaurants' expense.

"It's hard to make money on desserts in the restaurant business today," said Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University who has written extensively about the economics of eating out. "I don't think many [restaurants] benefit when people order them anymore."

There are many problems with dessert, but it all starts with one pretty simple truth: The restaurant industry is a place of razor thin margins, and dessert tends to offer one of the thinnest.

Food in general is tough to make money on. Restaurants have long relied on the mark-up they tack onto drinks, not grub, to boost profits. As food costs soar, that reality has only become more true, because there's a limit to how much people are willing to pay for different parts of their meal. For many mid-scale restaurants, that limit is $30 for entrees, no matter the ingredients, Todd Kliman noted recently in the Washingtonian. For desserts the ceiling is much lower, and much less flexible, says Cowen.

"Dessert needs good ingredients to taste good, but you can't psychologically convince people to pay even $20 for dessert," Cowen said. "You can't really go cheap on it, but you really can't charge extra either."

Forbes, for that very reason, noted in 2011 that dessert is often a great deal — for diners.

But it's also made serving it a growing pain for many restaurants. The cost of serving a house-prepared line of desserts includes employing a pastry chef and dedicated space in the kitchen to the craft. Some restaurants, instead of using pastry chefs, have opted to serve simpler desserts made by line cooks, while others "have given up entirely" and outsourced their sweets, according to Kliman.

Dessert is also problematic for restaurants because the course creates a bottleneck at the end of meals. At restaurants serving food in some of the country's busier cities, turnover is essential to their bottom line. Time is quite literally money.

"The more people they serve, the more revenue they get," Cowen said. "A lot of restaurant costs are fixed. Being able to serve more people, to sell them food, drinks, and especially expensive wine, is what varies."

Parties that might have finished their dinner in a little over an hour instead linger for closer to two when they opt for dessert. And they stay the extra 30 minutes while consuming only a fraction of what they did during the first part of the meal. It would be different if people ordered drinks more often alongside cake, but they often don't. It would change things if dessert wines were more popular, finer and more expensive, but they aren't, Cowen said.

"A cocktail brings in twice as much money as a dessert, and it doesn't hold up a table at the end of the meal. You have to turn the tables," Mark Bucher, who owns D.C. restaurant Medium Rare, told Kliman.

Dessert isn't, of course, problematic for all establishments. Restaurants with slower traffic, where open tables are less of a rarity, would obviously prefer to sell more food than sell no food. Higher-end restaurants, where prices are less elastic and people are willing to spend well over $20 for a dessert, aren't as affected either. It's the popular, mid-priced restaurants that don't benefit as much.

Desserts aren't going to disappear from restaurant menus. Too many people like them (rightfully so, I would say, though Cowen begs to differ). People also expect them, which makes eliminating them a risky endeavor. The price of alienating people is probably too great, especially in the age of Yelp reviews.

But the next time a waiter is being coy about showing you the dessert menu, know why: He probably would prefer it if you and your party asked for the check instead. Unless, that is, you might be interested in another round of drinks.

Sam Miguel
03-27-2015, 08:24 AM
Why many restaurants don’t actually want you to order dessert

By Roberto A. Ferdman

February 10

If you think you're doing a restaurant any favors by ordering dessert, you might want to think again.

Dessert can be delicious. And it can be profitable, too. But generally speaking, when diners extend their meal with slices of chocolate cake, cups of ice cream, and servings of crème brûlée, it can come at restaurants' expense.

"It's hard to make money on desserts in the restaurant business today," said Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University who has written extensively about the economics of eating out. "I don't think many [restaurants] benefit when people order them anymore."

There are many problems with dessert, but it all starts with one pretty simple truth: The restaurant industry is a place of razor thin margins, and dessert tends to offer one of the thinnest.

Food in general is tough to make money on. Restaurants have long relied on the mark-up they tack onto drinks, not grub, to boost profits. As food costs soar, that reality has only become more true, because there's a limit to how much people are willing to pay for different parts of their meal. For many mid-scale restaurants, that limit is $30 for entrees, no matter the ingredients, Todd Kliman noted recently in the Washingtonian. For desserts the ceiling is much lower, and much less flexible, says Cowen.

"Dessert needs good ingredients to taste good, but you can't psychologically convince people to pay even $20 for dessert," Cowen said. "You can't really go cheap on it, but you really can't charge extra either."

Forbes, for that very reason, noted in 2011 that dessert is often a great deal — for diners.

But it's also made serving it a growing pain for many restaurants. The cost of serving a house-prepared line of desserts includes employing a pastry chef and dedicated space in the kitchen to the craft. Some restaurants, instead of using pastry chefs, have opted to serve simpler desserts made by line cooks, while others "have given up entirely" and outsourced their sweets, according to Kliman.

Dessert is also problematic for restaurants because the course creates a bottleneck at the end of meals. At restaurants serving food in some of the country's busier cities, turnover is essential to their bottom line. Time is quite literally money.

"The more people they serve, the more revenue they get," Cowen said. "A lot of restaurant costs are fixed. Being able to serve more people, to sell them food, drinks, and especially expensive wine, is what varies."

Parties that might have finished their dinner in a little over an hour instead linger for closer to two when they opt for dessert. And they stay the extra 30 minutes while consuming only a fraction of what they did during the first part of the meal. It would be different if people ordered drinks more often alongside cake, but they often don't. It would change things if dessert wines were more popular, finer and more expensive, but they aren't, Cowen said.

"A cocktail brings in twice as much money as a dessert, and it doesn't hold up a table at the end of the meal. You have to turn the tables," Mark Bucher, who owns D.C. restaurant Medium Rare, told Kliman.

Dessert isn't, of course, problematic for all establishments. Restaurants with slower traffic, where open tables are less of a rarity, would obviously prefer to sell more food than sell no food. Higher-end restaurants, where prices are less elastic and people are willing to spend well over $20 for a dessert, aren't as affected either. It's the popular, mid-priced restaurants that don't benefit as much.

Desserts aren't going to disappear from restaurant menus. Too many people like them (rightfully so, I would say, though Cowen begs to differ). People also expect them, which makes eliminating them a risky endeavor. The price of alienating people is probably too great, especially in the age of Yelp reviews.

But the next time a waiter is being coy about showing you the dessert menu, know why: He probably would prefer it if you and your party asked for the check instead. Unless, that is, you might be interested in another round of drinks.

Sam Miguel
01-12-2016, 10:20 AM
Seafood, lamb and quail–Spanish entrées worth spending for

IF YOU WANT A RESTAURANT EXPERIENCE, STEER CLEAR OF DONOSTI’S SMALL PLATES AND THE MORE CONVENTIONAL COMFORT FOOD FAVORITES

By: Clinton Palanca (Contributor)

@inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer

03:30 AM January 7th, 2016

Here’s a bit of a quandary. For quite some time now, the people behind Donosti have been inviting me to check out the place. And I’ve been dodging the invitation for almost as long.

I have no interest in writing negative reviews; so if there’s talk that a particular restaurant isn’t that great, I don’t cackle with glee, or crack my knuckles, and hotfoot it to the same place and then write a vitriolic piece. And people—including my wife who tried it early on—have been saying, since it opened, that Donosti was mediocre and outrageously expensive at that.

Thus I mentally drew a line through its name and forgot about it, until I reviewed Masseto late last year. I received another invitation to come and dine at Donosti (disclosure: at their expense). I also had heard that things had changed quite a bit since Tippi Tambunting, chef at Masseto, had brought her team over and was now also handling Donosti, although chef Pablo Lopez Iglesias still retains creative control over the kitchen.

I went with my family for lunch on a weekday, and we all had a fantastic time.

This put me into something of a dilemma, because even if I had made reservations with another name and arrived at Donosti unannounced, it still was a complimentary meal. The most doggedly ethical thing to do would be to go there again under yet another false name and pay for my meal this time, but the lineup for 2016 is already backed up with new restaurants to try.

I’m writing this review as honestly as possible. I will also try eating in Donosti again soon, pay the bill, and report back if I feel any differently or if my experience is any different.

The main beef leveled against Donosti is that the food is outrageously expensive and comes in tiny, tiny servings, which annoys me a great deal. It’s simply not how I eat and, I am willing to wager, not how most Pinoys like to eat. We like the table to be groaning with huge platters which we fall upon like a plague of locusts until it is ravaged.

I am aware that tininess is the essence of pintxos or tapas, and the restaurant’s full name is Donosti Pintxos y Tapas, which should give fair warning.

Managed expectations

Another problem with small plates, especially when one isn’t drinking, is that of pricing versus expectation. If a dish on the menu is priced at P450, you order it thinking that’s not bad for something using ingredients at a restaurant on the main road of Bonifacio Global City (BGC). But then it comes as tiny bites and then you feel cheated, but since you’re already there, you might as well try and get full, and then the bill arrives and you get a shock down your spine.

Donosti is for those who like food in miniature sizes as a chaser to alcohol. The wine selection is expectedly exceptional, especially with the expanded wine list since the Masseto team came on board, and they have kept the pintxos menu.

What they seem to have done is expand the possibilities of eating there the way Filipinos like to eat, which is to have a whole lot in one go. The “big plates,” as they might as well be called in contrast to the first half of the menu, now seem to have a wider selection; the menu is augmented by a chalkboard for specials.

True to expectation, a lot of the dishes break the psychological price barrier of P1,000 that most restaurants have been careful to steer their way under (unless it’s steak or lobster or something with truffles).

For those who want a restaurant experience rather than a bibulous one, my advice would be to steer clear of Donosti’s small plates since they are, well, small. Also, unless you’re really craving, you might as well avoid the more conventional Spanish comfort food favorites, not because they’re bad but because you can get them cheaper at Terry’s. An exception: The acorn-fed ham might have been intended to pair off with a sinewy red wine, but it’s almost as good with iced tea for a teetotaller’s lunch.

Inventive main courses

As a restaurant, Donosti shines with the more inventive, interesting main courses rather than old-fashioned family favorites. For years the food critics have been raving about Spanish, especially Basque, cuisine, crowing that it isn’t just fabada and paella anymore. Dishes like the seafood main courses (many of them on the chalkboard), the lamb and the quail, are proof of Spain’s increasing relevance on European fine dining, more than the molecular mystique of the El Bulli alumni.

I would suggest that Donosti expand this aspect of its menu, because real grown-up fine dining is actually in short supply in BGC.

It might be that I’ve reached the age when I’d rather pay for P1,850 for quality lamb chops rather than a bargain price for a morass of charred ligament and fat.

Donosti’s prices mean that it’s not going to be an everyday sort of restaurant, and for steady-handed classical cuisine I’d still choose Masseto over its sibling. But I will stick out my neck and say that Donosti’s identity is evolving to become something other than a watering hole for plutocrats. Given its location, it’s the perfect place to go, say, to celebrate a clean bill of health from your internist at St. Luke’s.

Sam Miguel
01-12-2016, 10:20 AM
Seafood, lamb and quail–Spanish entrées worth spending for

IF YOU WANT A RESTAURANT EXPERIENCE, STEER CLEAR OF DONOSTI’S SMALL PLATES AND THE MORE CONVENTIONAL COMFORT FOOD FAVORITES

By: Clinton Palanca (Contributor)

@inquirerdotnet

Philippine Daily Inquirer

03:30 AM January 7th, 2016

Here’s a bit of a quandary. For quite some time now, the people behind Donosti have been inviting me to check out the place. And I’ve been dodging the invitation for almost as long.

I have no interest in writing negative reviews; so if there’s talk that a particular restaurant isn’t that great, I don’t cackle with glee, or crack my knuckles, and hotfoot it to the same place and then write a vitriolic piece. And people—including my wife who tried it early on—have been saying, since it opened, that Donosti was mediocre and outrageously expensive at that.

Thus I mentally drew a line through its name and forgot about it, until I reviewed Masseto late last year. I received another invitation to come and dine at Donosti (disclosure: at their expense). I also had heard that things had changed quite a bit since Tippi Tambunting, chef at Masseto, had brought her team over and was now also handling Donosti, although chef Pablo Lopez Iglesias still retains creative control over the kitchen.

I went with my family for lunch on a weekday, and we all had a fantastic time.

This put me into something of a dilemma, because even if I had made reservations with another name and arrived at Donosti unannounced, it still was a complimentary meal. The most doggedly ethical thing to do would be to go there again under yet another false name and pay for my meal this time, but the lineup for 2016 is already backed up with new restaurants to try.

I’m writing this review as honestly as possible. I will also try eating in Donosti again soon, pay the bill, and report back if I feel any differently or if my experience is any different.

The main beef leveled against Donosti is that the food is outrageously expensive and comes in tiny, tiny servings, which annoys me a great deal. It’s simply not how I eat and, I am willing to wager, not how most Pinoys like to eat. We like the table to be groaning with huge platters which we fall upon like a plague of locusts until it is ravaged.

I am aware that tininess is the essence of pintxos or tapas, and the restaurant’s full name is Donosti Pintxos y Tapas, which should give fair warning.

Managed expectations

Another problem with small plates, especially when one isn’t drinking, is that of pricing versus expectation. If a dish on the menu is priced at P450, you order it thinking that’s not bad for something using ingredients at a restaurant on the main road of Bonifacio Global City (BGC). But then it comes as tiny bites and then you feel cheated, but since you’re already there, you might as well try and get full, and then the bill arrives and you get a shock down your spine.

Donosti is for those who like food in miniature sizes as a chaser to alcohol. The wine selection is expectedly exceptional, especially with the expanded wine list since the Masseto team came on board, and they have kept the pintxos menu.

What they seem to have done is expand the possibilities of eating there the way Filipinos like to eat, which is to have a whole lot in one go. The “big plates,” as they might as well be called in contrast to the first half of the menu, now seem to have a wider selection; the menu is augmented by a chalkboard for specials.

True to expectation, a lot of the dishes break the psychological price barrier of P1,000 that most restaurants have been careful to steer their way under (unless it’s steak or lobster or something with truffles).

For those who want a restaurant experience rather than a bibulous one, my advice would be to steer clear of Donosti’s small plates since they are, well, small. Also, unless you’re really craving, you might as well avoid the more conventional Spanish comfort food favorites, not because they’re bad but because you can get them cheaper at Terry’s. An exception: The acorn-fed ham might have been intended to pair off with a sinewy red wine, but it’s almost as good with iced tea for a teetotaller’s lunch.

Inventive main courses

As a restaurant, Donosti shines with the more inventive, interesting main courses rather than old-fashioned family favorites. For years the food critics have been raving about Spanish, especially Basque, cuisine, crowing that it isn’t just fabada and paella anymore. Dishes like the seafood main courses (many of them on the chalkboard), the lamb and the quail, are proof of Spain’s increasing relevance on European fine dining, more than the molecular mystique of the El Bulli alumni.

I would suggest that Donosti expand this aspect of its menu, because real grown-up fine dining is actually in short supply in BGC.

It might be that I’ve reached the age when I’d rather pay for P1,850 for quality lamb chops rather than a bargain price for a morass of charred ligament and fat.

Donosti’s prices mean that it’s not going to be an everyday sort of restaurant, and for steady-handed classical cuisine I’d still choose Masseto over its sibling. But I will stick out my neck and say that Donosti’s identity is evolving to become something other than a watering hole for plutocrats. Given its location, it’s the perfect place to go, say, to celebrate a clean bill of health from your internist at St. Luke’s.

Sam Miguel
01-14-2016, 11:11 AM
15 Restaurant Finds in Banawe Worth Visiting

POSTED ON AUGUST 24, 2015 POSTED BY AILEEN ANG

For residents of Banawe and Quezon City in general, most of these places are all too familiar, but that familiar (and same comforting) feeling is also what keeps these places swarmed by regulars. The Banawe area is a relatively quieter neighborhood with more family-style restaurants than night bars to hang out in. In short, it’s silent but deadly to the belly.

In this list, we focused more on the smaller restaurants as well as some hip new cafes and steak diners that most foodies from other cities probably haven’t heard of. If you love finding holes-in-the-wall, then you’re guaranteed to enjoy completing this list!

For people who find Quezon City foreign, it is the biggest city of the greater Metro, and is an open treasure trove waiting to be explored and taken. Aside from Banawe, you can also wander off to Tomas Morato, UP Town Center, Katipunan, Maginhawa, and the new StrEAT: Maginhawa Food Park.

Highway Ribbery Grille – N.S. Amoranto St.

Highway Ribbery Grille is a BBQ diner specializing in baby back ribs ribs and other American comfort food such as pulled pork sandwich, grilled sausage, wings and fish & chips.

No reservations accepted

Unit 105 R Place Bldg., 255 NS Amoranto St. (near Banawe), La Loma, Quezon City
+63 917 600-1847

Happy Lulu Kitchen – Ubay St.

Happy Lulu Kitchen is an Asian fusion kitchen serving homecooked style Chinese and Filipino dishes in a homey ambiance. Its specialties include sizzling oyster, grilled liempo, and spicy clams.

Reservations are accepted

19 Ubay St. (near Banawe) cor. NS Amoranto, Quezon City
+63 2 712-3933

Caffe da illy – Z Square Mall

Caffe da illy is a specialty cafe dedicated to Italian espresso brand, illy. It also serves a number of light dishes and desserts, including gelato.

No reservations accepted

Trellis Park, Z Square Mall, Del Monte Ave. cor Banawe St., Quezon City

All Day Cafe – D. Tuazon St.

All Day Cafe serves international dishes and coffee that bring feelings of comfort from morning ’til night. Its big menu includes all-day breakfast, steaks, sandwiches, pasta, burgers and desserts.

No reservations accepted

D. Tuazon St. (beside Holiday Spa), Banawe, Quezon City
+63 2 731-9701

Bugis Singaporean Street Food – Nicanor Roxas St.

Bugis is a popular shopping street, food hub and tourist spot in Singapore. Bugis, as its name suggests, serves Singaporen hawker-style street food favorites such as the Hainanese chicken, their signature steamboat Laksa soup, fish tofu and curry balls.

No reservations accepted

81 Nicanor Roxas St. (near Banawe), Sto. Domingo, Quezon City
+63 2 732-6491

Eat Fresh Famous Hong Kong Street Food – Ma. Clara St.

From a little school joint along Masangkay, Manila, they have since grown to being one of the must visit restaurants in the Banawe area. Eat Fresh is famous for serving authentic HK street food such as dry noodles with sauces, street egg waffles, fragrant claypot rice variants, dimsum and other small eats on skewers.

No reservations accepted

100-A Maria Clara Street, Quezon City
+63 2 516-8022

Qubiertos – D. Tuazon

Qubiertos is a family-style Filipino grill and restaurant serving all-time favorites such as bagnet, kare-kare, inihaw na pusit, chicken inasal, and their extra large spicy pork ribs. Qubiertos also operates with a sub-brand called Kuya Tom’s, which sells their signature-spiced Cebu lechon to go. It is opening another new branch in Kapitolyo soon.

Reservations are accepted

D. Tuazon cor. P. Florentino St., Banawe,Quezon City
+63 2 411-8193

Shuin: The Smoked Chicken Food House – Ma. Clara St.

Shuin is a Chinese restaurant most popular for its in smoked chicken and fried chicken chop. Other specialties include fried dumplings,

No reservations accepted

100B Maria Clara St. (near Banawe), Sto. Domingo, Quezon City
+63 2 354-1166

Healthy Day – Banawe St.

Healthy Day is a day and night nail spa and a farm-to-table concept restaurant serving healthy and fresh food options and beverages in one. Fresh fruits and produce, grown and sourced from local farmers are also available in store.

No reservations accepted

739 Banawe Street, St. Peter, Quezon City
+63 2 871-7753

Oedo Japanese Restaurant – Sto. Domingo Ave.

Oedo is a Japanese restaurant built on a corner street of a residential area. The Shinto shrine inspired entrance, the Japanese lamps and the zen garden complete the exterior look, while the main restaurant is a big 2-floored space with function rooms for private events. Japanese specialties like sushi, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, soba and gyudon are served.

Reservations are accepted

105 Sto. Domingo Ave., Quezon City
+63 2 255-5993

Red Baron Ribs & Steaks – D. Tuazon St.

Red Baron is an American steakhouse and a carwash eatery concept specializing in ribs and steaks sold at fairly affordable prices. It also now serves a full menu with salads, soups, burgers, pastas and sandwiches and desserts.

No reservations accepted

143 D. Tuazon cor. Calamba St., Quezon City
+63 2 354-5970

Caerus Coffee – D. Tuazon St.

Caerus Coffee is a third wave neighborhood cafe serving house blend and other specialty espresso beverages, pastries and desserts. It’s a cozy place to hangout with friends and good cup of coffee. From mythology, Caerus or ‘Kairos’ is the youngest son of Zeus, the Greek god of opportunity, luck and favorable moments.

No reservations accepted

87B D Tuazon St. cor. Dapitan St., Quezon City
+63 2 524-2936

The Big Cheese Pizza – D. Tuazon

The Big Cheese! Pizza is a casual dining pizza place that serves fresh and delicious pizzas and pastas. Choose among 9 flavors, one of which is their special 10-cheese pizza! Watch out for more new flavors soon.

Reservations are accepted

2/F SJD Bldg, 62 D. Tuazon St., Lourdes, Quezon City
+63 2 714-8111

Regions Organic Coffee – D. Tuazon St.

Regions Organic Coffee is a purveyor of organic coffee from around the coffee regions of the world. It serves a big selection of iced and hot coffee, teas, smoothies, fruit juices, and even alcoholic beverages for drinks, and some light meals, pastries, cupcakes and chips for nibbles.

No reservations accepted

D. Tuazon cor. P. Florentino St., Santa Mesa Heights, Banawe, Quezon City

Tuen Mun Roasts – Nicanor Roxas St.

Tuen Mun Roasts is a HK-inspired eatery serving everyone’s favorite roasted items on rice. Feast over generous servings of barbecued pork, lechon macau, roast duck and soy chhicken with rice or noodles. Here’s an insider tip: Tuen Mun Roasts and Eat Fresh are run by the same owners and we read that you can order from Eat Fresh here.

No reservations accepted

81A Nicanor Roxas St., Sto. Domingo,Quezon City
+63 2 216-6711

We’re pretty sure there are so many more restaurants around Banawe that we missed to include here since we focused on the smaller restaurants, so don’t panic if you don’t see your favorites. But please do share other places and neat insider tips in the comments section below for us and all foodies reading this blog.

Sorry if we ruined your impending diet.

Sam Miguel
01-14-2016, 04:09 PM
‘Adobo with foie gras has no place here’–or why this restaurant is drawing diners to Tagaytay

By: Marge C. Enriquez

@inquirerdotnet

Inquirer Lifestyle

04:38 AM January 14th, 2016

Along the Tagaytay highway, a large teal-colored building adorned with quaint balusters beckons.

Balay Dako (“big house” in Ilonggo) is becoming a dining destination, the newest restaurant of chef Antonio “Tonyboy” Escalante.

Unlike his eponymous restaurant, Antonio’s Tagaytay, which caters to the who’s who, Balay Dako has been attracting a wider clientele.

“Unlimited garlic rice,” scrawled on the billboard, heralded opening day. The place was packed. Escalante wanted a share of the market of Filipino restaurants by the ridge that offered more familiar home-cooked meals than innovative cuisine.

“My guests are not yuppies who eat Pinoy fusion,” he says. “They come from Cavite and Batangas. They want the real thing… Adobo with foie gras, for instance, has no place at Balay Dako.”

Balay Dako is the third restaurant of the Antonio Group of Companies after the award-winning Antonio’s in Barangay Neogan, Tagaytay, Breakfast at Antonio’s and Antonio’s Grill.

Accustomed to the resplendence of Negrense hospitality, Escalante recalls traveling to two towns outside his family’s native Cadiz just to gather hibiscus flowers for a party in his grandfather’s house called “Balay Dako.” The grandchildren would then line up the staircase and give hibiscus garlands to guests.

His grandfather, Manuel Escalante, loved to hold parties.

“Desserts would be prepared three days before the party,” recalls Tonyboy. “Drinks were served in the trolley before the bar became fashionable in the home. I still prefer the trolley for drinks.”

For Balay Dako, he closed down Antonio’s Grill and leased the adjoining property. He tapped architect Kathleen Henares to design a contemporary structure. The three-level house follows the layout of the Escalante ancestral home.

The silong or basement has the function rooms that overlook Taal Lake. As in the houses of old, the second floor has the living room and main dining area.

The top floor, a breakfast area by day and a bar at night, is an eclectic mix of industrial finishes and patterned tiles inspired by prewar patterns. Guests can chill at The Terraza which opens to the view of the lake and sky.

Escalante puts his chefs on the frontline: Joselito Santiago was a provincial bus driver with a gift for cooking; and Ricky Sison was a butcher of the now-defunct Mandarin hotel for 15 years.

Ilonggo cuisine

One of Balay Dako’s specialties is the Ilonggo chicken inasal, grilled chicken with crispy skin and extra luscious meat with a hint of annatto.

The menu includes items from the old Antonio’s Grill such as Ilonggo comfort food, kadyos, a meal of pigeon peas, jackfruit and tender pork belly, spiked with a souring agent called batuan.

The ginataang monggo with flaked tinapa is a bestseller. The batchoy, an Ilonggo staple, is made from scratch with soup stock boiled for hours and fresh noodles and pork innards. The piyaya, following an old recipe from Silay, Negros Occidental, is a delicate crispy flatbread with melted muscovado sugar filling.

There are familiar favorites. Chef Sison’s version of the bistek Tagalog has the subtle balance of soy-sauce saltiness and calamansi zing.

The crispy pata, lechon kawali and barbecue are brined for days so that the meat still looks healthy pink and not brown. The chicken and pork adobo is marinated for hours, pan fried and boiled to retain its chewy texture. The adobong pitaw or cultured squab is perfectly golden brown and crisp, its moist meat and robust flavors are derived from the briny solution of souring agents and spices.

An iconic Tagaytay dish, the bulalo or beef shank and marrow, is cooked for half a day until the fat completely dissolves into the soup. The outcome is a clear soup with no tallow or gruet even after several hours.

Unlike the local tradition of dunking and braising to make stewed kambing, Balay Dako’s version uses the classic technique. The meat is marinated overnight, pan-fried, and braised in tomato sauce. It is then cooked in slow moist heat to preserve the succulence.

The laing, tofu wrapped in taro leaves, is cooked the traditional way, from the removal of the midrib of the leaves to the long hours of simmering. The shredded water spinach (kangkong) salad is topped with shrimps and dressed with a sweet sour mixture of vinegar, sugar, garlic, calamansi and chili.

The dishes can be accompanied with purée pickle relish, blackened onions and baked chicharon.

The desserts include papaya sago, satin-soft maja blanca, puffy ensaymada with a buttery top, and turon with purple yam and custard, wrapped in sweet sticky rice.

“You bring your family here. This is what they look for,” says Escalante, who credits his collaborators such as Jill Sandique, the celebrity chef-baker who shared the recipe for the perfect pie crust of the buko pie.

Another Tagaytay signature, the buko pie is topped by a light, flaky crust and filled with slices of coconut meat, unlike the popular version of an extended filling.

Lydia de Roca, co-founder of the eponymous lechon chain, also helped out in putting up the lechon carving station for the weekend brunch.

Ike Miranda concocted Balay Dako’s coffee blends.

Although Escalante uses quality ingredients such as imported meats, the prices are affordable. You can have pork barbecue for P60 and chicken liver for P70. A set menu of viands for 10 people costs P5,400-P5,600. Six people with hefty appetites can have bulalo for P840; or the pinakbet na kanin at crispy pata (fried rice with vegetables and deep-fried pork leg) for P850. The sizzling bulalo, served like a steak on a cast-iron plate, is P940.

Escalante believes that he’s not competing with the other restaurants: “I’m a collaborator. If I were in Manila, I would not have made it. I wanted to challenge myself.”

Getting started

There’s the oft-repeated story of Escalante who dropped out of medical school and became a flight attendant for Philippine Airlines. He pursued his passion for cooking by studying at Regency Park Institute of Tafe in Adelaide, Australia.

He worked at the now-defunct Mandarin Manila under the tutelage of executive chef Norbert Gandler.

In the early 2000s, Escalante and his family moved to the still idyllic Tagaytay. He would cook dinners for a group of 10 under a tent in his place in Neogan. The dinners evolved into what is now Antonio’s, which opened in November 2002.

When Inquirer Lifestyle featured its refined continental cuisine and charming ambience then, Escalante recalled his phone kept ringing. In two months, the restaurant doubled its seating capacity.

In 2013, he set up Breakfast at Antonio’s, leasing the home of a former Cabinet member.

Good employer

Citations have been the rewards of his hard work. When Escalante was named Chef of the Year in 2014 by Philippine Tatler’s Best Restaurant Guide, he didn’t show up at the ceremony. “I like hosting, but not going to parties,” he admits. “Besides, I don’t have a suit. Probinsiyano ako.”

Last year was good to him. Antonio’s Restaurant was no. 48 in San Pellegrino’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.

In the past five years, it has been in the Miele Guide to Asia’s Top 20 restaurants. Escalante is the only Filipino chef on both lists.

Escalante was also a finalist in Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Apparently, Escalante has also been a good employer. Some old-time staffers have taken lucrative jobs in cruise ships, only to come back to work with him. To make them stay, he gives jobs to both the husband and wife so that they become a two-income family.

Escalante says he is strict but he always explains the reason things should be done properly: “You set a standard and there are no shortcuts.”

He is also concerned about the safety of his employees. When the parking lot filled up with his employees’ motorcycles, he gave a memo that management would not pay for their medical bills if they drove without a helmet.

Asked what keeps him going despite the challenges, Escalante replies: “How can you do more for your people? The business essence is to uplift their lives.”

He shares stories of employees, like the former tricycle driver who now runs Breakfast at Antonio’s. Some staffers have also saved up enough to build their own homes.

Escalante has turned down offers to open more restaurants and get into partnership. “At the end of the day, how much do I really need? You don’t have to kill yourself,” he says. “I’ve been very blessed.”

Sam Miguel
01-29-2017, 10:16 AM
Why I love Mickey D.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Qa6QXBxxWw

Joescoundrel
10-20-2017, 10:28 AM
'We're closing': Restaurant Andre, Singapore's top eatery, returns Michelin stars

Evelyn Chen, CNN - Updated 12th October 2017

(CNN) - On October 11, Singapore foodies woke up to one of the darkest culinary announcements the vibrant dining city has witnessed in recent times.

Andre Chiang, chef-patron of Restaurant Andre, Singapore's highest ranked restaurant on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2017 list at number two -- second only to Gaggan (Bangkok) -- is returning his restaurant's two stars to the Michelin Guide.

"I wish to kindly return my Michelin stars and also request not to be included in the 2018 edition of the Michelin Guide," says Chiang in a letter to the press, in which he announced his decision to "prioritize" his "professional life".

Chiang sent this email at 3:44 a.m., just hours after he celebrated his restaurant's seventh anniversary.

As if that alone was not enough, the feted chef also announced that February 14, 2018, would be the last day of service at Restaurant Andre.

Chiang's surprise move sent shockwaves through the world of gastronomy.

Culinary world shocked

"When Andre told me about his intentions, I was in shock," says Massimo Bottura, chef-owner of Osteria Francescana (number two on World's 50 Best Restaurants 2017).

"In his house, I had one of the best meals in recent years, it is a sad day for the gastronomic world but we love him and support him."

Over in Bangkok, Gaggan Anand of Gaggan (No. 1 on Asia's 50 Best 2017) expressed disappointment.

"Honestly, I want him to stay, it's a big loss to the culinary scene in Singapore," he says.

Chiang, famed for creating the eight-spoked Octaphilosophy-guided menu at Restaurant Andre, trained in France with chefs like Pierre Gagnaire and Joel Robuchon.

"I'm a perfectionist and for the past 30 years of my career, I've been looking for that unrealistic moment of perfection; three Michelin stars, World's 50 Best Restaurants," says Chiang, whose restaurant at Bukit Pasoh garnered two stars in Michelin's inaugural Singapore edition last year and again this year.

"Until now, I realized at this moment that it is as perfect as it is now," says the 41-year-old Taiwan native.

Chiang says everything -- from his team and the starched table linens to the height of the candle glow at every table -- is as immaculate as he has hoped for.

Beneath this picture of perfection, however, the industry has been abuzz with chatter about Chiang's disappointment at not clinching the third Michelin star that he's been widely tipped to earn this year.

But the chef disputes it.

"My decision to close Restaurant Andre is not related to any awards," says Chiang, who owns one of the most extensive collections of the Michelin Guide France (from 1960 to the most recent edition) in Singapore.

"I do not have to prove anything to anyone."

"Exploring my Taiwanese roots"

In his letter to media announcing his decision to close, Chiang says he will focus on education, developing others and cooking at his RAW (Taipei) restaurant after his retirement from Restaurant Andre.

He also respectfully requested that RAW not be included in Michelin's future guide for Taipei.

"It is my duty to pass on everything I have to the next generation in Taiwan and China," he says in the address. "It is an urgent priority for me to provide young chefs with a better education and culinary culture."

When prodded about how he could contribute to the next generation of chefs in China and Taiwan, Chiang was tight-lipped about an upcoming project.

"In recent years, I have been spending a lot of time on restaurant management," says a distinctly relaxed and happier Chiang during our meeting at his shop house 12 hours after his announcement.

His business portfolio now includes ownership interests in restaurants including Burnt Ends and Bincho in Singapore, Raw in Taipei and Porte 12 in Paris.

"When Restaurant Andre closes, I want to spend more time exploring my Taiwanese roots and understanding Taiwanese produce," he says. "The 16 to 18 hours a day I put in at Restaurant Andre restricts the time available for these."

"There are also many things I want to do apart from cooking," adds the chef, who has been dabbling in visual arts.

Unbeknownst to most people, Chiang is also a sculptor and a potter and he has been quietly working on launching a range of copper, wood and ceramic objects designed for chefs with applications ranging from decoration to vessels.

Having spent most of his working life in France and Singapore, Chiang is also looking forward to spending more time with his aging parents, who are based in Taipei.

Fears that Chiang is making a clean break from his adopted hometown of Singapore are unfounded, given he's a permanent resident and will retain his business interests and apartment in the Lion City.

"The current three-story shop house Restaurant Andre occupies will be redeveloped and rebranded into a more relaxed F&B concept," Chiang tells CNN, emphasizing that while he would be a stakeholder in the new eatery, it would not be branded after him.

"Although Restaurant Andre's legacy will soon become a fond memory to the world's gourmets, I have no regrets," says Chiang with a warm smile as he sends us off at his wood-decked entrance.

Sam Miguel
10-25-2017, 03:45 PM
Food Feuds: 7 Controversial Break-Ups in the Restaurant World

Food fight!

By NICAI DE GUZMAN | A day ago

Break-ups aren't just for couples. Restaurants too experience the heartbreak of splitting apart. It could be a difference in vision, a temptress in the form of profit, or simply just a falling out. It could be amicable or it could be salacious.

We list seven of the most famous restaurant shake-ups in the Philippines.

From S to Z: Elar?s Lechon and ElarZ

We can't fault anyone who's confused between Elar's and ElarZ. Apart from the spelling, they also share a history. According to ElarZ's website, everythign began with the founders, couple Jose Lontoc and Leonor Rodriguez.

Back in the '40s, the couple was given a piece of land in Leonor?s hometown Montalban, Rizal. They started raising hogs and supplying pork to market vendors. They also roasted some of the pork as well, which became a hit with their family, friends, and neghbors. In 1972, they made a business out of it, combining the initials of their surnames (L and R) to come up with Elar Lechon (no S's or Z's yet).

Leonor died in 1997 and Jose followed in 2000. Their descendants experienced some estate-related issues. Two of the grandchildren, Manjo and Manric, who were exposed to the family business at an early age, decided to put up their own lechon business in 2001. They called their incarnation ElarZ, alluding to the original but using native pigs. The original, which became Elar's, was continued by other members of the family.

A Tale of Two Pares: Jonas Pares and The Original Pares Mami House

This pares narrative is well-known to locals who live in the Mayon and Retiro area. It all started in 1979 when Lolita Tiu opened a small eatery called Jonas using only P6,000 as capital. The bestseller was beef pares, which is something like a Chinese-style beef stew, garlic rice, and broth combo.

According to a rumor in the '90s, Jonas, the cook, begrudgingly quit his job to put up his own pares place just a few blocks away from his former employer. The Original Pares Mami House (the one actually owned by Jonas) was born.

Today, The Original Pares Mami House still serves their customers carinderia style, offering cheap but filling servings of pares that regulars swear by. Jonas, on the other hand, now has their own buildings as well as outlets in malls.

Family Friendly: Savory, The Original Savory, and Classic Savory

The Savory brand was established shortly after World War II by the Ting brothers who hailed from the Fujian Province in China. It was supposed to be a panciteria in Quiapo but their chicken became more popular. Soon, they opened their first actual restaurant in Escolta, which served their bestsellers, lomi and chicken.

The restaurant continued to grow its base. Soon, the third generation Tings decided to launch another brand under the name "Classic Savory," which combines the time-tested recipes with innovative new dishes. They now have over 100 stores nationwide. Meanwhile, ?The Original Savory,? however, ironically keeps things classic. It only has 13 branches.

There's also a third incarnation, Savory, which isn't as popular as the other two. In an interview with Inquirer, their marketing manager Dennis Ting said that even if the brand was split into three among the different branches of the Ting family, family relations remain cordial. Even if they work independently from one another, they do not consider the other Savory brands as competition.

Royalty Pain: Luz The Original Razon?s Versus Copycats

In 1972, Virginia, Severina, Elena, and Roger?also known as the Razon siblings of Guagua?set up a simple halo-halo stand in front of their ancestral home. It had sweetened macapuno, sweetened aba, leche flan, sweetened kundol, jackfruit, and pastiallas, and it became a hit in the neighborhood. Word spread and soon, people were going out of their way to try their delicious cooler. Eventually, they dropped the kundol, jackfruit, and pastillas to become the legendary Razon's dessert know today. Except that most of us probably aren't eating the real Razon's halo-halo.

In an interview with GMA, Lola Virginia expressed her disappointment at people who would blatantly use their name and recipes to start franchises of their own. Lola Virginia claimed that she had never received royalties from these franchises. Her niece, Luz Razon-Cabrera, in fact, only runs three Luz The Original Razon's branches.

Family Legacy: Aristocrat, Serye, Reyes

Engracia, more commonly known as Aling Asiang, was a grade school graduate; her husband, Alex Reyes, was a judge. They had 13 children and needed to supplement their income. Fortunately, Aling Asiang was an excellent cook. It was the '30s and she started a canteen serving school children in the Ermita area. She also transformed an old Ford van to a rolling food store. This van sold adobo sandwiches, fish fillet, and other Filipino snacks in Luneta.

Back then, Aling Asiang wanted to name the van "Andy's" after their first son. Andy, however, rejected the idea. Aling Asiang thought that Andy was embarrassed around his "aristocrat" friends from Ateneo. She then used the name ?Aristocrat? and the rest was history. When the full service restaurant was set up along Roxas Boulevard, Andy?s ?artistocrat? classmates, politicians, foreigners, and even members of high society became regulars. Their bestseller was chicken barbecue with a special sauce.

When Aling Asiang passed away, her kin created their own businesses, tapping into her legacy. One of her children started the Reyes Barbecue chain. A grandson opened Alex III while another put up Serye. A granddaughter who trained abroad is the executive chef and partner of the 1771 group while yet another enterprising granddaughter started Mama Sita, which sells pre-mixed sauces and condiments.

Tapatan: Lutong Bahay vs. Kapit Bahay

The University of the Philippines Diliman welcomes students from all over the country and most of them reside in dorms, craving home-cooked food. This need helped push for Lutong Bahay in Area 2. Back in 1979, Area 2 was just a row of apartments and boarding houses. According to the owner, they made sure that Lutong Bahay didn't look like a canteen or karinderya but a house where students can even watch TV. The concept was such a hit that the house in front of Lutong Bahay decided to adopt the same concept and christened themselves Kapit Bahay. Friction!

A Murder Mystery: Aling Lucing and her Sisig

It's always difficult to pinpoint a dish's origin, but most people attribute the modern sisig (sisig was mentioned in historical documents as far back as 1732, but it's hardly the saucy dish we know today) to dear Lucia Cunanan or Aling Lucing.

In the '70s, the Cunanan family set up a food stall along a crossing in Clark to cater to Filipino workers and American servicemen. What set Aling Lucing?s dish apart was the twist she incorporated into the dish: she grilled meat and served it with chicken liver and pig brains. It became such a hit that people would make their way to Pampanga just to get a taste of Aling Lucing?s sisig. People have tried to recreate her recipe, but what it is exactly is a closely guarded family secret.

In 2008, the 80-year-old Lucing was found dead in her home. She was stabbed 10 times. Motives are mostly speculation: some people suspected that it may be one of her many competitors trying to get ahold of the secret, original recipe while others assume that it may be one of her former employees trying to rob her. However, the primary suspect of the case was Aling Lucing?s own husband, Victorino, who found her body but had no solid alibi for that night. However, he was released due to lack of evidence and the case remains unsolved up to this day.

Sam Miguel
10-25-2017, 03:48 PM
This Hawker Stall Became the World's Cheapest Michelin-Starred Restaurant And It's Coming to Manila

Chef Chan Hong Meng shares the secret behind Singapore's famous soya-sauce chicken.

By IDA ALDANA FOR SPOT.PH | 4 days ago

Look left. Look right. You're probably going to see a chicken joint at some point, whether it's a a fancy restaurant peddling French poulet or your favorite fast food and their golden fried chicken wings. Filipinos love chicken, but there's more to it than simply roasted or dipped in oil. Singaporean restaurant Liao Fan Hawker Chan is en route to the Philippines to show us yet another way to fall in love with these beloved fowl.

Chef Chan Hong Meng seamlessly blends in with the crowd as he makes his way through the long lines and crowded tables of his casual diner. It doesn't seem out-of-the-norm when you see the esteemed chef among the eatery's hungry customers, regulars and first-timers alike. After all, he is a usual sight in all of his Singapore outlets.

There are dots of sauce on his otherwise pristine chef's jacket. You can tell that he just made his way from across the street where his original stall is. As busy as this Smith Street branch is, one could only imagine the chaos happening at the sidewalk stand for lunch.

He sits down at the head of the table, with eyes scanning everyone's faces and plates, probably to see if they left any leftovers (There aren't. All that's left are bones gnawed clean and tiny morsels of pork skin). He smiles as his translator Daniel Wee stands by his side, ready to take any questions for the Mandarin-speaking chef.

Chef Chan's parents were humble Singaporean farmers, and he learned the basics of Hong Kong cuisine from a Hong Kong chef. He, however, created his famous savory and not-so-sweet soya sauce chicken on his own. It comes with either rice or noodles, though the former seems to be a crowd famous.

In 2009, Chef Chan put up the small food stall at Chinatown Complex. A cross between a wet market and a food court, it is the biggest hawker center in Singapore. There's no air conditioning, the tables and seats are firmly screwed to the ground, and the smell of delicious cooking wafts through the humid air. The stall is called Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle. The name is a mouthful, but so is the freshly roasted, chopped, and seasoned chicken they make on site.

The simple stall surprised the culinary world and Chef Chan himself when it received a Michelin star in 2016 along with another Singaporean hawker stall, Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle. Chef Chan commuted to the exclusive event via train, received the star, and went home taking the MRT.

If you want to see the hawker stall for yourself, then you have to get there early. They usually close earlier than usual because they sell out quickly. When you pass by, the Michelin badge blends in with other notices: health inspection gradings, business registrations. You might not see a queue at first glance, but turn around the corner to see a long line the length of five more stalls.

A lady behind the counter tries to shorten the queue by efficiently chopping up the chicken, putting it in a takeout container, and calling for the next customer. She repeats the whole process without missing a beat. The lady is Chef Chan's wife.

Except for the fact that the line seems to grow longer each time, nothing has changed for the humble chef, who still takes public transport every day and works with his wife. His success, however, prompted him to partner with Hersing Culinary, the group behind Tim Ho Wan, to open up Liao Fan Hawker Chan, the dine-in version of the original hawker stall. While the price of the soya sauce chicken at the stall is still SG $2.50, they had to adjust the menu prices of Liao Fan Hawker Chan to pay for rent and air conditioning. But still, SG $3.80 for a Michelin-starred meal won't burn a hole through your wallet.

Liao Fan Hawker Chan has since opened two other outlets in Singapore: one in Tai Seng and the other at Toa Payoh. What's more impressive, though, is how it's slowly making its way around the world. Wee shares that the chef actually just came from Thailand. He just opened a branch in Ayutthaya.

The restaurant now has two branches in Thailand and two in Indonesia. They're hoping to open one in Australia in October, one in China early 2018, and another in Manila by December 2017. When asked why they chose to set up shop in the Philippines, the chef's answer was short but accurate: "I know Filipinos love chicken."

With so many branches popping up not just in Singapore but around the world, one has to wonder how they maintain the quality of the food. A well-trained chef is assigned in every outlet. Roasting happens on-site, but the main sauce comes from the central kitchen, explains Chef Chan. "The sauce actually is the most important part to maintain the quality."

The condiment is so vital to the whole process that the chef makes them in the original hawker stall himself every single day. "Now, because there are more branches, I run around to make sure that the quality is there," Chef Chan says. But what happens when the branches are no longer just a street away from each other?

The chef is still hands-on with everything that goes on in the international branches. Chef Chan himself trains the chef for each branch to make sure they know everything there is to know about cooking the perfect soya sauce chicken.

"Even the ones abroad, he trains them. He will come to the outlet to train them himself," Wee says. This strategy is also what they will be doing when Liao Fan Hawker Chan opens its doors in Manila. "The franchiser in Manila will actually hire the chef, an experienced chef and then there will be training. The [chosen] chef will come to Singapore to train for two weeks," explains Wee. "So, Chef Chan will personally give guidance from there."

FooDee Global Concepts, the restaurant group Todd English Food Hall, Tim Ho Wan, and Pound will be bringing Liao Fan Hawker Chan to Manila. They will also be opening Tsuta, the Michelin-starred ramen restaurant from Tokyo.

While the Chef is sticking to his tried-and-tested recipe for chicken, he also knows Pinoys need for something fried. "The choices will be the same but the chef heard that Filipinos like to eat more of fried chicken," says Wee. So, there might just be a couple of new choices especially for the Philippine market. "Basically, it's still the same but maybe as time goes by, there'll be additional new menu [options] coming up."

Chef Chan can already tell that his pork belly will also be a hit in the Philippines. He's also looking into whether or not he'll add dessert options.

Just like the opening of all his other branches, Chef Chan will be heading to Manila when Liao Fan Hawker Chan opens its doors. With his humble attitude and hands-on approach, there's no doubt that Filipinos will be more than welcoming.

Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle is at 335 Smith Street #02-126, Singapore. Liao Fan Hawker Chan is at 78 Smith Street; 18 Tai Seng; and 450 Toa Payoh Hersing Centre, Singapore.

This story originally appeared on Spot.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

Joescoundrel
11-21-2017, 02:30 PM
McDonald's Is Hiding 4 New Burgers on Their Menu

Or should we say...behind their menu

By SASHA LIM UY | 4 days ago

There have always been rumors of a secret menu at McDonald's. In other countries, there are talks of a Big Mac Chicken or a a Monster Mac. There was that 10-piece Chicken Nuggets option that was eventually overshadowed by the widely covered 20-piece set. There are Internet hacks like the McGangBang (a McChicken sandwiched by two burger patties then sandwiched with the buns) and the cheat to get less salt in your fries (ask for them fresh and hold the salt).

But most of these are Internet fantasies. It's only now that McDonald's Philippines is actually pushing through with a four-item-strong secret menu. And if the trend in food seems to be back to simplification, the fast-casual giant is all about supersizing.

Behold:

The Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese (P215), which we're personally calling a Half-Pounder.

A Double McChicken (P149). Think of your favorite chicken sandwich but double in flavor.

For the cheesiest sort, how about a Triple Cheeseburger (P149)

And last but not the least, the Surf N Turf (P159), your regular Big Mac but with a wedge of fish fillet.

The menu is so new—it became available only today, November 17—that the prices can only be accessed through one cash register. As with most of McDonald's offerings, you can have it either as a meal or ala carte. According to the manager, there hasn't been an end date for the promotion, so right now all you have to do is whisper "I want the secret menu, please."

Joescoundrel
03-22-2018, 10:58 AM
My latest go-to Italian resto in the metro

By: Sandy Daza -Columnist Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:15 AM March 22, 2018

I believe there is no foreign cuisine in the world that isn’t good, when it’s prepared the authentic and proper way.

The first time I tried Italian cuisine I thought it was good, but nothing I’d write home about. Yet I realized that Italian food was not well represented in our shores. Whenever someone suggested eating in an Italian restaurant, I would feel bad.

Soon, when international hotel chains started opening in Manila, along came foreign chefs and imported ingredients. Slowly, good Italian food became appealing.

I once asked a friend who loves Italian fare what makes it taste good. “Fresh ingredients,” he replied.

This reminds me of the corn that chef Anne Dy made me try in Isabela. It was freshly picked and boiled white corn, and the most delicious one I had ever tried. Indeed, freshness is a major factor. If you notice, many Italian dishes have very simple ingredients, but the taste is superior.

I love a well-made aglio e olio with al dente pasta, garlic, parmesan, chili and good olive oil. Yum!

I can name less than three restaurants in Manila that serve good, authentic Italian food. Recently, I added another to this list.

Freshly baked bread

The restaurant, Francesco’s Kitchen, is named after its owner and chef. He worked at Paparazzi at Edsa Shangri-La hotel. I remember having dinner there once, on the invitation of a friend, chef Robert Bolanos. I believe we had a superb experience. And so I was excited to try Francesco’s own offerings.

Francesco bakes its own bread, like the ones placed on our table that came with mashed green olives, garlic and superior extra-virgin olive oil.

More olive oil

The other appetizer that grabbed my attention was freshly-made burrata cheese with cherry tomatoes, again with delicious olive oil.

The bread was crusty and chewy. So good! Francesco told me it was from the pizza crust.

Then came the antipasti of grilled tender octopus with baby tomatoes, haricot beans and salmoriglio dressing. The char of the octopus made this dish more delicious. Of course, there was olive oil again.

These were followed by roasted scallops and portobello mushrooms with crispy pancetta ham and truffle vinaigrette, and Italian meatballs with tomato—a light and tasty version of meatballs.

Favorite pasta

Then came pasta vongole—one of my favorites, incidentally. The pasta was al dente, the clams were fresh, and the blend of the simmered white wine plus the drippings of the water from the boiled pasta made the simple dish yummy.

The ear-shaped pasta that was served next was cooked with light, spicy broccolini, garlic and anchovy sauce on olive oil—quite good, though I still preferred the vongole.

For mains, we had grilled lamb chops with ratatouille. Perfectly cooked, they were tender and tasted very good.

For dessert, the ones I really liked were the lemon tarte and the panna cotta with truffle honey and fresh figs. The lemon tarte was dusted with powdered sugar, mildly sweet and sour with a semisweet crust, which added to the appeal of this dish.

I loved the combination of panna cotta and honey and the crunchy figs.

Italian restaurants like Francesco’s changed my whole perspective of Italian food served in the Philippines.

Until I find another, this place will be my go-to Italian restaurant.

Happy eating!

Francesco’s Kitchen, 863 A. Mabini St., San Juan. Call 7779777.

Joescoundrel
03-22-2018, 11:00 AM
Newfound favorites: chili-garlic ‘lechon,’ oyster cake and empanada–a different take on old-time classics

By: Reggie Aspiras -Columnist Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:20 AM March 22, 2018

General’s was one of the first to offer lechon in different flavors.

My memory of its garlic variant is vivid. I recall how the whole room smelled of it when the knife pierced through the lechon. It made us very hungry!

Apart from the cavity stuffed generously with garlic, the pig’s skin is rubbed with more garlic before roasting. This step gives the crisp skin a distinct quality.

Another creation by General’s is the curry lechon, infused with yellow Thai curry and coconut milk. Clearly not for everyone, this variant is unique.

Aromatic and made sweet by adding coconut milk, it is complex yet subtle compared to the garlic and the chili-garlic variants. In 2013, I was told that though not as popular as the garlic, the curry lechon has gained followers who repeatedly request for it.

Rightfully so, as it pairs perfectly with bold-flavored viands.

This time, I was pleased to have tasted the chili-garlic. I was in awe when I unraveled it, impressed by the level of skill of the lechonero. I was happy to see how lechon has evolved over the years for the better.

What I had before me was sheer perfection—glistening, evenly browned and a feast for the eyes. I was euphoric. It looked terribly delicious!

As my guests and I dug in, we were even more pleased. Our tastes buds came alive. On the palate it was vibrant, fragrant, garlicky, spicy, tart, salted to perfection.

Not only was the skin very crisp, the meat was flavorful, too. The rib portion was to-die-for. I collected the drippings to spoon over the meat.

It is the type of lechon that is good for lunch, dinner, after-dinner and most perfect for happy hour!

General’s Lechon owners Bryan and Lynn Ong claim the pigs they roast are free range, of the native black variety, and given no injections nor boosters.

I was most amused by its logo, which is attached to the snout. It caught everyone’s attention. A novel marketing strategy!

Call General’s Lechon at 09178532466.

Interesting menu

As a huge fan of oyster cakes, I’m glad to report that I’ve tried a really good one at Shi Wei Jie Fang Cai restaurant.

It was simply delicious.

Served on a sizzling plate, the omelette had a crunchy bottom and a gooey top. It teemed with plump, fresh off-the-sea-tasting oysters.

Another dish worthy to mention is its pork vinegar—a deconstructed, colorless, variation of sweet-and-sour pork.

Thin strips of tender pork, lightly battered and fried to golden are tossed in a thin sweet vinegar glaze, served with fruits on the side—an interestingly delicate dish. It was good with mustard rice.

The mustard fried rice was given texture by its ingredients—ground meat, pork floss and preserved mustard greens. It was rounded in flavor, mildly salted and spiced.

Shi Wei Jie Fang Cai is worth a visit. Its menu is an interesting mix. Many of its offerings are familiar yet interpreted in their own style. There are many other dishes that are foreign and waiting to be savored.

Apart from the food, the restaurant’s ambiance was impressive. It was designed by one of the partners, Wang Liang Ting, who was inspired by “The Dream of the Red Chamber,” also known as “The Story of the Stone.” I didn’t expect to walk into such a plush place in Binondo. I was pleasantly surprised.

Shi Wei Jie Fang Cai, 1080 One Soler Building, Soler St. Binondo, Manila. Call 2756666.

Chicken empanada

Sweet Taste, makers of tikoy, now makes empanada, too.

According to Jocelyn de Joya, “our tikoy sells well during Chinese New Year, but in between, I developed a product that will sell throughout the year.”

Her baked empanada were first made solely for family and friends, before gaining popularity for its distinct, homemade appeal. Simple, easy to eat, yet satisfying. Each bite, for some reason, reminded me of cheese pimiento with chunks of chicken.

“Our humble empanada are all home-baked and made from the choicest ingredients. No preservatives or additives have been added,” said Jocelyn.

Sweet Taste has chicken and tuna empanada; call 09178370529, 7317147.

Joescoundrel
03-27-2018, 03:22 PM
7 chic restaurants housed in former gas stations

Susan Shain, CNN • Updated 27th February 2018

(CNN) — The sea-salt flaked biscuit overflows with decadent scoops of jam and butter.

The cappuccino, made with locally-roasted beans, comes complete with a flawless flower swirled in the foam.

Filled with light, subway tile and loopy hand-lettering, Tandem Bakery in Portland, Maine has all the hallmarks of a hipster enclave. Heck, it's even named after a type of bicycle.

But its location might take the cake. Few things could be more hip -- more industrial chic -- than its home in an old gas station where a "treat" might have once meant a stale doughnut or endlessly-rotating corn dog.

These days, corn dogs are out. Converted gas stations are in. From Burlington to Biloxi, entrepreneurs are refurbishing old Shells and Standard Oils, creating trendy spaces to eat, drink and mingle. Here are seven worth checking out.

Tandem Bakery, Portland, Maine

From gas to laundry to pastries: This 1960s gas station was first converted into a laundromat before the current owners got their hands on it.

"It had been sitting empty for years," said co-owner Kathleen Pratt, who also runs Tandem Cafe and Roastery. "It actually was slated to become a bakery opened by other folks. That fell through, so they asked if we wanted it. We immediately jumped on the opportunity -- the building was too cool to let go."

Today, the hot spot nearly always has a line, with patrons jostling each other for a look at the elegant display of baked goods.

The breakfast sandwiches are rightfully popular, but first-timers should give the aforementioned "loaded biscuit" a try. It might settle the sweet-versus-savory breakfast debate once and for all, proving that the answer is not one or the other -- but, rather, a combination of the two.

Tandem Bakery, 742 Congress St, Portland, ME 04102; + 1 207 805 1887

Tank Garage Winery, Calistoga, California

When oenophiles picture sipping wine in Napa, they probably picture something a bit upscale, even bougie. Not, say, a gas station.

Tank Garage Winery's founders wanted to bring a different vibe to the valley -- and, according to co-founder James Harder, "liked the idea of doing something nostalgic."

For several years, he and business partner Jim Regusci searched for the perfect location, until, finally, they came across a 1930s service station with the art-deco shape they'd envisioned.

After two years of restoration, they started serving their small-batch California wines in 2014. The grapes come from all over the state, and each blend is unique: Once it's gone, it's gone. Right now, it's the Chrome Dreams blend that's receiving buzz, thanks to its one-of-a-kind chromed wine bottle.

Continually inspired by its location, the winery has vintage gas pumps out front and a '20s-style speakeasy out back. A shiny Indian Chief motorcycle is also on display; a tribute to the station's original owner Eddie Bratton, who raced and repaired the classic bikes.

Tank Garage Winery, 1020 Foothill Blvd, Calistoga, CA 94515, + 1 707 942 8265

The Gold Fish, Corpus Christi, Texas

A recent addition to the scene, The Gold Fish opened its doors in 2017 -- in a station that had been built 80 years earlier. Turning it into a bar took five months of "relentless" restoration, according to co-owner Robert Cooper.

The result is a lofty space filled with rustic painted brick, metal accents and a wooden bar top whose pine was salvaged from a 1930s cold storage facility. Eleven-foot French doors flood the interior with light, leading out onto a roomy patio that has fire pits, long picnic tables and live music. Specialties include craft cocktails -- with many of the all-natural juices squeezed in-house -- and an extensive selection of whiskey.

"We weren't searching for a gas station," said Cooper. "All we knew was that we wanted a building with character -- and we found that here."

The Gold Fish, 724 N Mesquite St, Corpus Christi, TX 78401, + 1 361 980 7171

The Spot, Burlington, Vermont

Surfing and Vermont aren't two things that usually go together -- but try to tell a Southern Californian that. When Roxanne and Russ Scully left Santa Barbara for Burlington in 1997, they found neither waves nor a breakfast spot that was up to snuff.

California swells could not be found, but breakfast? They took care of it.

"We purchased this gas station knowing it would be a perfect place to run a restaurant," said Russ Scully. "And when it came to decor, we poured our stoke for surfing into the place."

Housed in a 1950s service station, the Spot does feel like an oasis from the harsh Vermont winters. Surfboards, plants and ocean blues light up the beachy interior, and the locally-sourced menu has a Hawaiian bend, with fish tacos and sandwiches named after surfing terms and destinations.

The Spot, 210 Shelburne Rd, Burlington, VT 05401, + 1 802 540 1778

The Fillin' Station, Biloxi, Mississippi

For a diverse, homegrown crowd, head to this joint in downtown Biloxi. It started as a Standard Oil station in the 1920s, fell empty in the '80s and then reopened as The Fillin' Station in 2008; a welcome part of Biloxi's revitalization.

The restaurant focuses on southern cooking with a creole flair, and is known for its shrimp and grits and unique cheeseburger po-boy. You also can't go wrong with the daily blue plate special for $8.95, which includes local favorites like a bowl of gumbo and fried shrimp po-boy.

When it's not screaming hot outside, the doors roll up so everyone can join the party -- including the descendants of the building's original owners, who remain patrons to this day.

The Fillin' Station, 692 Howard Ave, Biloxi, MS 39530, + 1 228 435 2522

Olio, St. Louis, Missouri

Those who've never felt beckoned to a gas station before should take a look at this cozy restaurant when it's lit up inside.

Housed in a 1930s Standard Oil station, Olio bursts with charm: the interior paneled in subway tile, the garage doors that roll up on pleasant evenings and the patio strung with romantic white lights. Patrons linger over wine and cocktails served in antique glassware, and a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean small-plate menu starring olives, eggplants, nuts, cured meats and bread baked fresh with Missouri wheat.

"The gas station was an opportunity to have an interesting space and also help renew the neighborhood," said chef and owner Ben Poremba. "The aesthetics matched the theme of the decor: found objects, rustic, urban."

Poremba owns several other restaurants in this historical area of South St. Louis -- including the adjoining Elaia, located in an 1890s house where the gas station's owner used to reside, now known for intimate multi-course fine dining.

Olio, 1634 Tower Grove Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110, + 1 314 932 1088

Fuel, Charleston, South Carolina

On a nice day, head straight to the spacious, dog-friendly patio at this former Esso. It's got bocce ball and cornhole, plush seating, palm trees -- and one nod to the venue's practical past: a rusty fuel pump.

The restaurant has catered to a laid-back, local crowd for nearly a decade. Highlights of its Caribbean-inspired menu include jerk chicken sandwiches, braised pork tacos and rum drinks.

When he first toured the space in 2008, owner Joshua Broome said he "immediately fell in love" with its history and architecture.

"The building clearly had a story to tell," he said. "The fact it's always been a blue collar space helped shape what we've become... We're continuing the tradition of 'fill-er-up' -- just with jerk chicken and cold beer."

Fuel, 211 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403, + 1 843 737 5959

Joescoundrel
03-27-2018, 03:39 PM
Can Venice turn the tide on 'tourist trap' restaurants?

Adrian Mourby, CNN • Updated 4th February 2018

(CNN) — So-called "tourist trap" restaurants in Venice have long been a bone of contention for visitors to the Italian city.

But in recent months there's been a sea change in attitudes towards these establishments with locals and officials looking at ways to help travelers avoid rip-offs.

Previously, despite some protestations, the city seemed largely indifferent to their plight.

When a British tourist publicly complained about being charged €526 ($653) for a light lunch for three people in November 2017, the city's mayor immediately went on the offensive.

Famed for his Trump-style outspokenness, former businessman Luigi Brugnaro took to Twitter to announce that the complainant, a university lecturer, was a "cheapskate" for objecting to the charge of 297 euros ($369) for a one-person platter of grilled fish.

"Shameful episode"

Brugnaro also mocked tourists who arrive in the city with so little knowledge of Italian that they cannot understand they are being conned until the check is presented.

Widespread condemnation of the mayor -- and of the restaurant, Trattoria Casanova -- followed on social media, so much so that Brungnaro tried a different tack when a similar incident happened in January.

On this occasion, four Japanese students filed a complaint after being billed €1,100 ($1,366) for four steaks, a plate of mixed grilled fish, and bottled water at Osteria da Luca, another "tourist trap" restaurant, near Piazza San Marco.

"If this shameful episode is confirmed, we'll do all we can to punish those responsible," the mayor tweeted.

Although no action was taken on the actual issue of overcharging, City Police Chief Marco Agostini quickly uncovered breaches of health and safety, and food hygiene regulations at the restaurants.

Commercial code infringements -- such as the inaccurate description of dishes -- were also leveled.

Faced with fines believed to total at least €14,000 ($17,303) Osteria da Luca is expected to close temporarily.

Shift in attitudes

The mayor's shift in attitude brings him in line with many Venetians and top restaurateurs who hope to re-establish their city's reputation for fine dining and reasonable prices.

Marco Gasparinetti, spokesperson for the Venetian civil rights association Gruppo 25 Aprile (April 25 Group), has announced the publication of "a user's guide for visitors on how to survive in Venice, with details on what kind situations to avoid."

According to Gasparinetti, only 1% restaurants in the San Marco area are owned and operated by locals, which has led to a rise in tourist trap restaurants.

Among those Venetians running well respected restaurants in the city center are Benedetta Fullin and her brother Luca, who recently opened Local, a trendy and stylish new restaurant in the Castello area.

"I have been getting very upset about all this negative press on Venice," she says.

"There are many tourist traps and they are not run by Venetians. Most of the time they are run by foreigners who don't know what being a restaurateur means.

"They don't have a kitchen, they don't have chefs, or use local suppliers. All they have are tables, cutlery, a microwave to heat up a frozen lasagne at ridiculous prices -- and boards outside with pictures of the food.

"These are the places to avoid! They have never been reviewed by any guide and never been visited by any journalist, because they are not restaurants. You can recognize them because there is always someone outside trying to get people in".

Venetians and restaurateurs are growing frustrated by the negative stories on the city's restaurant scene.

Benedetta advises visitors to use guide books rather than sources like TripAdvisor when looking for a restaurant in Venice.

This point is echoed by Raffaele Alajmo who is the co-owner of Ristorante Quadri, a famous Michelin-starred eatery on Piazza San Marco itself.

"Personally, I suggest using established guide books rather than the web," he says.

"These guides are produced by professionals and not your average Joe with a computer and internet connection.

"If you use a reputable guide, you have almost no risk of ending up in a tourist trap. And I am not just talking about the guides to fine dining restaurants, but those for osterias or "lower cost" establishments as well."

And according to Benedetta, the best restaurants are always very happy to recommend other good places to eat.

"Once you find a place you like, run by a Venetian, don't be afraid to ask for advice on where to go next time!" he adds.

"We are always full of suggestions as we want our guests to leave with a beautiful memory of their trip, and come back many times because Venice is a city to love!"

But in the short term, the best advice seems to be -- if there is a man outside urging you to come in, walk on by. Especially if there are photographs of food.

Where to eat

While Venice's restaurant scene may have attracted a wave of bad press, there are many eateries in the city that offer good food at affordable prices. There are also plenty of fine dining establishments worth the hefty price tag.

Here's our pick of six of the best:

Expensive but worth it

Antinoo's Lounge and Restaurant at Centurion Hotel, Dorsoduro, 173, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy; +39 041 34281

Club del Doge at Hotel Gritti Palace, Campo Santa Maria del Giglio, 2467, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy; +39 041 794611

Cheaper but not cheap

Al Giardinetto da Severino, Salizada Zorzi, 4928, 30122 Castello, Venezia VE, Italy; +39 041 528 5332

Local, Salizzada dei Greci, 3303, 30122 Castello, Venezia VE, Italy; +39 041 241 1128

CoVino, Calle Pestrin Castello, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy; +39 041 241 2705

Antica Locanda Montin, Fondamenta de Borgo, 1147, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy ; +39 041 522 7151

Adrian Mourby is an Oxford-based novelist and broadcaster who has traveled the world writing about his experiences for the last 25 years.

Joescoundrel
03-27-2018, 03:49 PM
Cloud 9: A floating pizza bar in the middle of the South Pacific

Kate Springer, CNN • Updated 2nd March 2018

(CNN) — As our two-engine speedboat starts the journey back to Port Denarau Marina, a major port on Fiji's main island, we lurch to an unexpected stop.

A seal on the fuel injector on the engine has loosened, so we sputter back to the mainland at half the usual pace.

But the possibility of such a transit hiccup is the chance you take when visiting a floating pizza bar in the middle of the South Pacific.

Opened in 2013, Cloud 9 bobs above Roro Reef in the Mamanuca archipelago, about 45 minutes off the west coast of Fiji.

"Prior to Cloud 9, Fiji was famous for family getaways and swaying palms, but it was really, really quiet," Bar'el Wachtel, co-founder of Cloud 9, tells CNN Travel.

"There's still not a lot to do, but Cloud 9 offers a gathering spot for people to come from all the hotels and experience a different kind of place."

If a buoyant bar in the middle of the ocean sounds like someone's pipe dream -- that's not too far off the mark.

An Australian DJ, sailor and avid surfer, Wachtel dreamed up the remote bar with friends during a surfing trip in Fiji.

"I'd always been from a marine background -- my father is a yachtie and circumnavigator -- and the sea has been my home for a very long time," recalls Wachtel.

"Surfing brought me to Fiji as a visitor about seven years ago. It's a really tricky place to surf, because the breaks are so isolated. You really need a boat to access everything. We thought it'd be amazing to have a meeting place, closer to the breaks."

When scouting locations, Wachtel and his business partner chose the spot carefully.

They finally settled on a crystal-clear lagoon, about nine miles southwest of Fiji's famous Cloudbreak swell.

Thanks to surrounding islands, the relatively shallow water is generally protected from the strongest winds and waves.

The restaurant has one mooring, so it sways gently in the breeze and, in case of a storm, a boat can tug it to safety in about one day.

Build it and they'll come

Designed by Fiji-based architect Lisa Philp, the floating restaurant was constructed using three different types of local wood: mahogany, raintree and treated pine.

The two-story structure sits atop two pontoons, while sun shades protect guests from the intense rays and solar panels power the entire operation.

"We wanted people to be able to move easily in and out of the water, to have some dry areas, and also plenty of shade," says Wachtel.

"The over-water structure allows guests to access the reef in a way that's not possible if we were to have just set up on land."

The most complicated part of the process wasn't in the restaurant's construction, but in the building of relationships with various local stakeholders.

"Here in Fiji, there is the government and then there are the land owners, the indigenous custodians of any area. Gaining their support is crucial to being able to operate everywhere in Fiji," explains Wachtel.

The hardest part was about six months after opening.

"We encountered a lot of hurdles," he adds. "I needed to move to Fiji and take over the operation, because my first business partner, who was the original manager, didn't get it right."

Cloud 9 was mostly a hangout for serious surfers when it first opened, but the guest list has expanded considerably over the years to include young couples, groups of friends and even a few families.

With two daily sessions, Wachtel estimates that the place welcomes roughly 200 visitors a day during peak season.

When guests disembark from the ferry, they tend to find their own little nook.

Each level offers varied seating arrangements, including large day beds, shaded communal tables, bar seating and rows of sun-soaked reclining chairs.

Once settled, you can rent snorkel gear, jump from the top deck and swim around the reef, where you'll find colorful coral and a smattering of fascinating fish.

"A lot of places offer a party on an island, but I was attracted to this project because it's unique and it's authentic," says Wachtel.

"You get the feeling of being really far out, but you still have a sense of proximity to a lot of important tourist destinations, such as Port Denarau."

“It allows guests to access the reef in a way that's not possible if we were to have just set up on land.”

The floating paradise also lures music lovers from all over the world, thanks to a rotating roster of guest DJs, including international DJ Ant J. Steep -- an Australian DJ and composer who fills the air with mellow, moody electronic beats.

"Since I was coming from a music background, it was important for me to figure out a way to throw parties out here and provide a cutting-edge music policy," says Wachtel.

Following each guest DJ performance, Wachtel uploads the set to Cloud 9's Soundcloud account so visitors can tune in at home.

How's the pizza?

Served on thick wood butchers' boards, thin crust, wood-fired pizza is the order of the day.

There are about six options available, including classic Margherita and Hawaiian (topped with ham and pineapple).

It's maybe not the best pizza we've ever had, but we were impressed with the homemade dough (made fresh every morning) and crispy crust.

"Pizza was an elegant solution, because we have environmental considerations out here," says Wachtel. "With a full menu, you need to have a full kitchen."

"Waste is obviously a very important logistical consideration for us -- we have to transport everything back to the mainland and we want to preserve the beauty of the area, so we do everything we can to minimize waste."

At the bar, day drinkers can order tropical cocktails from every shade in the rainbow, a few local beers like Fiji Gold and Fiji Bitter, and a handful of wines and bubbly.

"Obviously having a fully stocked bar was very important," recalls Wachtel. "We wanted to have the raddest lounge bar in the world -- a meeting place in the middle of the ocean."

Joescoundrel
04-05-2018, 10:44 AM
Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants: Why we should look beyond controversy

‘Since it started, there has been so much more dialogue between chefs from all over the world...’

By: Angelo Comsti Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:25 AM April 05, 2018

Awards usually come with controversy. There will always be people who will dispute and doubt the win and/or the process. The sixth staging of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, at the Grand Theater of the Wynn Palace in Macau last March 27 again raised questions and some eyebrows.

However, the chefs being given recognition apparently know better and prefer not to be affected by issues. Instead, they focus on the value of such an undertaking in the restaurant industry.

“Being awarded the best in anything related to gastronomy is very subjective so I choose not to focus on a label or title, but instead on what it can do for the Thai culinary scene,” says Paste Restaurant’s chef Bongkoch “Bee” Satongun, who was named Asia’s Best Female Chef 2018.

“I was not expecting this award at all so it came as tremendous shock. But I’m tremendously happy with the exposure it gives Thai cuisine, Thailand and female chefs so I take this award as a great privilege.”

The winners of the Highest Climber Award, Mume from Taiwan and The Neighbourhood from Hong Kong, both climbed 22 spots to land No. 18 and No. 22, respectively.

The chefs of both restaurants welcome and acknowledge the recognition, but for them, Asia’s 50 Best is really more about the event than the award itself.

“One great thing is that it gets all like-minded people together,” says Kai Ward of Mume. “You get all these great chefs around Asia and the world, and bring them together. It’s a great way to exchange ideas and to look towards collaborations, or see how we approach different things, especially since we’re too busy cooking in our restaurants and we don’t get to travel to Macau or Japan or see each other.”

David Lai of The Neighbourhood says, “A lot of us chefs do what we do independent of these lists. It’s not a primary motivation but it’s good that sometimes we get recognized. Since Asia’s 50 Best started, there has been so much more dialogue between chefs from all over the world. That, in itself, is very good.”

If anything, Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants can help raise the standards of the food business, especially in the Philippines.

This year, no Philippine restaurant made it to the list. Rather than questioning the winners and the award-giving body, it might be better to ask, what else can we improve on, not with the intention to be noticed and land on the list, but to simply be better.

Top 10 winners:

1. Gaggan (Bangkok)

2. Den (Tokyo)

3. Florilege (Tokyo)

4. Sühring (Bangkok)

5. Odette (Singapore)

6. Narisawa (Tokyo)

7. Amber (Hong Kong)

8. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet (Shanghai)

9. Nihonryori RyuGin (Tokyo)

10. Nahm (Bangkok)

Special individual awards:

Andre Chiang, winner of The Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award

Bongkoch Satongun, elit Vodka Asia’s Best Female Chef 2018

Nicolas Lambert, Asia’s Best Pastry Chef, sponsored by Valrhona

La Cime, Highest New Entry Award, sponsored by Aspire Lifestyles

Yoshihiro Narisawa, Chefs’ Choice Award, sponsored by Estrella Damm

Ultraviolet, Art of Hospitality Award

L’effervescence, Sustainable Restaurant Award - CONTRIBUTED

Joescoundrel
04-19-2018, 08:25 AM
The best tacos in town are in Sucat

By: Clinton Palanca Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:40 AM April 19, 2018

While attending the pompous, vainglorious, glamorous and utterly enjoyable ceremonies in Macau for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, we filled the time between delectation and mastication with speculation as to which of the current generation of chefs would get on the list next year.

It’s almost certain that Chele Gonzalez would return to the list once the renovated Gallery Vask reopens. But which new chef would be next to sidle in? For most of us gathered in Macau, two names kept cropping up: Josh Boutwood and Bruce Ricketts.

Ricketts invited me and a few other friends down to La Chinesca in BF Homes Parañaque, a few doors away from where his first restaurant, Sensei, opened. He is obliged to be present at Mecha Uma at night, which only makes sense because it is such a chef-driven experience that it wouldn’t run without him.

So we went to La Chinesca for lunch. Logistically, it’s also the best time to go if you live anywhere north of the Sucat interchange. The idea is to take advantage of the traffic lull after the morning rush hour, and leave before the afternoon rush hour starts.

I don’t normally drive that far for tacos, or pretty much anything at all, but I was happy to make an exception for Ricketts’ food. Everyone who had been there said it was worth the journey.

I also don’t know much about Mexican food, which is one of the reasons I’ve felt ill-equipped to review the place. And no, having grown up with Pancake House tacos (best eaten with the head tilted at 90 degrees) doesn’t count. The crisp, boat-shaped taco shells that form the basis for the American taco originated in the earlier days of the 20th century, when cross-border interchange between Mexico and Texas influenced foodways in both directions.

Crisp taco

The earliest crisp taco was most probably closed along the edges and fried, rather like an empanada. Glen Bell, of Taco Bell fame, ran with the idea of a crisp-fried taco shell and filled it with the ingredients that are found in a McDonald’s cheeseburger: ground beef, iceberg lettuce and cheddar cheese.

At La Chinesca, they make tortillas from real Mexican corn, in-house, and by hand. Although for the new branch set to open in the food hall at Rockwell, they will be investing in a machine to do the heavy lifting, or rather rolling. The avocados are also flown in from central America, and join the rest of Ricketts’ cargo of seafood destined for Mecha Uma, which is delivered by courier to Manila in time for the weekend. (Considering that the avocado is one of the oldest fruits still around, it’s odd how difficult it is to find good ones that don’t go from rock-hard to overripe without ever being edible.)

We started with a ceviche taco that was a bit drippy to eat but well worth the mess. Ricketts said he uses a technique borrowed from the Japanese to keep the vinegar from attacking the proteins in the fish and turning it into little white rubber bullets. We had beef tacos, fish tacos, beef intestine tacos, and lamb tacos. “This is food I could have every day,” Ricketts said.

Inevitably we talked about the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Ricketts outlined his dream of having a number of small restaurants which operate almost guerilla-style, doing a taco restaurant along with a tiny, boutique sushi restaurant.

I reminded him that the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants was awarded to a restaurant, not a chef—with the exception of the Best Female Chef award, and as far as I know, Ricketts is not a woman. But I also pointed out André Chiang’s advice not to play to the awards, but to just follow your passion and do good work. Chiang’s recalcitrance has been rewarded with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the age of 41.

Working the line

Ricketts likes to draw comparisons between cooking and his other passion, martial arts. He is that increasingly rare chef who likes working the line. The irony of the restaurant world is that generally, you spend many years as an apprentice peeling potatoes and juicing lemons to work yourself up to the glamour of working the line. And then, once you get there, the only way to rise among the ranks is to become head of a section or of the kitchen, which involves not working the line.

Chef de cuisine is, ultimately, a managerial position that makes sure everything works together synchronously. There is very little sparring going on there. And beyond that, chefs and restaurateurs don’t have the same job description.

In the old days of classical French ascendancy, there was only one kind of high-end cuisine that might have been possible. But in today’s world of the “concept restaurant,” the restaurateur needs a degree of imagination, a sense of the market, and the ability to explain what the place is trying to do in soundbite-sized chunks.

There’s an element of Hamlet in whether or not he is to become Bruce Ricketts—’tis this question. Or perhaps whether he will become the Bruce Ricketts we want him to be—at the helm of the creative end of things, dreaming up crazy good food.

If this sounds very far from being able to cook a perfect yakitori, or balance the spices in a salsa just so, that’s because it is. Many people, including myself, are waiting for Ricketts to settle down, weave the disparate strands of Japanese, Mexican and Filipino influences together in a signature style, and open a tentpole restaurant that embodies his philosophy.

But it sounds like he’s too busy having fun working hard right now. In the meantime, don’t wait for La Chinesca to open in Rockwell and get yourself down to Sucat for the best tacos in town. –CONTRIBUTED

La Chinesca is at 248 Aguirre St. BF Homes Parañaque. Call 7380724. (No reservations; also take note: closed Mondays and Tuesday morning.)

Joescoundrel
04-19-2018, 08:59 AM
Perfect dumplings, spareribs with Batangas coffee sauce, ‘malunggay’ sorbet–a virtuoso performance by chef Jereme Leung

By: Norma Chikiamco -Columnist Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:20 AM April 19, 2018

I winced as chef Jereme Leung demonstrated his knife skills in rapid-fire movement. There was a rhythm to his motions, the Chinese cleaver pounding on the chopping board like the steady beat of a drum.

But there was also danger. He was slicing a piece of char siu pork into thin strips without looking at what he was doing. His fingers seemed perilously close to being cut by the knife, yet he kept on talking to the class, as if unaware of any potential harm.

Fortunately, no such harm befell him, and in hindsight I shouldn’t have worried. After all, this was Jereme Leung, the renowned chef-owner of China Blue restaurant in Conrad Hotel Manila, and other restaurants all over the globe. He has been working in the kitchen since he was 13 years old, rising from the ranks to become one of the most prominent Chinese chefs worldwide, and a true pioneer in modern Chinese cooking.

He has won a number of awards—the Five Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Science, and the XO Hennessy Culinary Award, among others—and now runs his own company, the Jereme Leung Creative Concepts, which offers food and beverage consultancy services.

Hence, chopping a piece of meat while giving a lecture was, for him, probably just another easy task at the office.

Dumplings

That day, he taught us the intricacies of making two kinds of dumplings: a savory dumpling with char siu pork filling, and a sweet one, filled with purple yam. To the class, it seemed like a complex task, but for him, a no-brainer.

Working deftly, he mixed glutinous rice flour, wheat starch, fine sugar, pumpkin, boiling water and vegetable shortening into a smooth dough, which turned into a shiny golden color, with flecks of pumpkin which he said will make the dough taste even more delicious. Afterward he made us feel the dough, which was sleek, well-polished, with no rough surfaces.

Filling the dough and sculpting them into pumpkin and carrot shapes was another thing. Leung rolled pieces of dough into smooth balls, then flattened them to form a kind of bowl to hold the filling. He then used a stick to mark indentations on each slice of rounded dough, then stuck a stick of clove on top to serve as a stem.

And, like magic, the dumplings turned into pumpkins. Then Leung wrapped char siu pieces into elongated shapes and stuck some leaves on top. Presto: instant carrots.

I managed to approximate the procedure and made dumplings that remotely resembled the ones he made (with a lot of help from executive Chinese chef Khor Eng Yew). Then we fried the dumplings in carefully tempered oil (60°) for three to five minutes. The dumplings are done when they start to float in the oil, Leung said.

The best part, of course, was the tasting. The dumplings were a seamless blend of yin and yang: magically crunchy, yet meltingly smooth. The char siu filling in the carrot dumpling was rich and tasty, while the purple yam was like the best ube jam I’ve ever tasted.

Summer offering

Yet all that was just a prelude. With obvious enthusiasm, Leung served us a five-course set menu, which he has specifically created as a summer offering in China Blue. The menu was of special significance to him, said Leung, because he created it based on the indigenous ingredients he has discovered in the Philippines.

“I want to explore these ingredients and see how I can use them in my restaurants in other parts of the world,” he told us.

True enough, our pre-starter was braised beef with native eggplants encased in popiah wrapper. The starter of barbecued chicken, on the other hand, was flavored with tamarind sauce, while the wok-fried spareribs were laced with Batangas coffee sauce and topped with native pili nuts.

As good as they were, Leung really outdid himself with the soup. He was so proud of it, in fact, that he insisted on pouring it himself into each of our bowls. Kept piping hot by a flickering flame underneath the bowl, the consommé made with local kamias had a fullness of flavor that had just a wisp of the kamias’ sourness. In the soup were a large disk of poached scallop and fish lips, a gelatinous slab that reminded me and my seat mates of sinfully rich beef tendon.

Equally impressive was the main course: deep-fried fresh lapu-lapu fillet with mango calamansi sauce, a finely nuanced interplay of textures (crisp, flaky fish) and flavors, the sweetness of the mango cubes alternating with the tangy calamansi juice and the slightly spicy flecks of red pepper.

As we feasted on it, we could hear the crackle of something frying in one corner of the room. The sound was meant to be heard, said Leung, to heighten the anticipation of what was to come.

And what came was an enormous, fat prawn with an upturned tail, studded with a black rice coating. With a crunchy texture, the coating reminded us of the popped rice we used to eat as kids, which added a childish nostalgia to the appeal of this dish.

Refreshing dessert

For dessert, we had a refreshing chartreuse-colored sorbet made with malunggay leaves and cucumbers, surrounded by cubes of strawberries, melon and honeydew. Again, Leung insisted on spooning the topping of chia seeds personally on each of our sorbets.

It was a virtuoso performance by a master chef, one who had never wavered from his love of the culinary arts, his fame notwithstanding. In hindsight, I think we should have given him a big, resounding applause.

The tasting menu is P4,000 net per person, for lunch and dinner until April 30 in China Blue, Conrad Hotel Manila.

Joescoundrel
04-19-2018, 09:01 AM
Café Sansó–where the famous artist indulges his sweet tooth

Churrasco pork belly, ginger-infused Paella Valenciana–the resto offers Spanish fare with a Pinoy twist

By: Raoul J. Chee Kee Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:05 AM April 19, 2018

Tucked in a narrow street in San Juan, Café Sansó has been quietly operating for three years, offering a selection of Spanish-inspired dishes. Next to it is Fundacion Sansó, a multilevel museum highlighting some of the works of Catalonian painter Juvenal Sansó.

The frail 88-year-old artist was at the museum during our recent visit, quietly painting a page torn out of a coloring book of his works. His caregiver held a tube of green paint that Sansó took a dab of now and then, haltingly applying it to the elongated leaves outlined in black.

The artist seldom goes to the café, but when he does, he likes to indulge his sweet tooth, head chef JB Calungcaguin said.

The café’s churro cups with ice cream have been a crowd pleaser since it opened. The batter is made fresh daily, cooked on order, and topped with scoops of vanilla, double chocolate and salted caramel bacon ice cream.

The residual heat from the just-cooked churros gently melts the ice cream, making it easier to spoon into one’s mouth.

As part of the café’s starting team, Calungcaguin conceptualized the menu, which includes Francesinha, a hefty sandwich with layers of jamon Serrano, chipolata sausage, wild mushrooms, and three kinds of cheese on sourdough bread.

“It’s a sandwich famous in Portugal that nobody else makes,” he said, adding that he gave it a twist by concocting a beer-infused tomato sauce to go with the seasoned fries.

Calungcaguin’s version of Pinoy fave lechon kawali is Churrasco Pork Belly served with sautéed haricot verts and marble potatoes. His paella Valenciana is given some local flavor with the chicken and pork pieces cooked in gingery tinola broth.

Another paella, Chorizo y Quezo, combines homemade chorizo with melted manchego and mozzarella. “One couple who ordered it had just been to Spain. They told the staff the paella was not traditional but that they liked it,” he said.

“Our vision for Café Sansó is to focus on Spanish food—since Señor Sansó is from Catalonia —but not limiting ourselves to just that. The food has to be relatable to our customers, many of whom are families with children in tow.”

This week, the café is rolling out a new menu that now includes a selection of steaks and chops, as well as a kids’ menu with fried chicken and sweet meatball pasta.

Don’t miss out on the churro ice cream cups.

Café Sansó is at 32 V. Cruz St. Little Baguio, San Juan.

Joescoundrel
04-19-2018, 09:02 AM
Josh Boutwood cooks with primal instinct at Savage

Eschewing high-tech kitchen equipment, the young chef is going back to basics with food finished over embers from an open fire

By: Angelo Comsti Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:15 AM April 19, 2018

Josh Boutwood always swings for the fences. At 31, he has collected golds, silvers and bronzes at the Philippine Culinary Cup—even the Chef of the Year award, not once, but twice.

He has supervised kitchen operations of 14 casual dining brands under the Bistro Group, with branches that are just too many to count. And his restaurant, The Test Kitchen, has rightfully exposed the capacity of his skills and genius, still leaving enough room for people to wonder about the other tricks up his sleeve.

His notable streak continues with the opening of Savage, a 60-seater casual dining, open flame restaurant in BGC. With this new project, he is going back to basics, with food finished over embers from an open fire, adding that smoky essence to every dish.

“Cooking with an open flame is not a gimmick for us,” he says. “It is really about returning to the fundamentals of preindustrial cooking: old-world techniques coupled with quality ingredients. In the end, we just want to make good food with a unique flavor.”

It’s quite a departure from The Test Kitchen, where he got extra help from multiple burners, a sous vide machine and other kitchen gadgets.

At Savage, there’s no gas or electric stove. His only sources of heat are burning wood and charcoal. There lies the challenge, as tempering the fire can be tricky. There’s no telling where the hot spots will be, or what the temperature of the grill is, after some time.

Boutwood and his team of young chefs are forced not to rely on technology and the typical industrial cooking equipment they are used to. They have to depend largely on their experience, gut feel and intuition.

All about grilling

“This is leagues apart from The Test Kitchen,” he says. “It was fun for me to step out of The Test Kitchen’s constraints, even though there weren’t that many. We could do whatever we wanted to. Here, it’s all about grilling, the wood and the embers. It’s challenging, but definitely more rewarding. The reward is bigger because of the challenge that’s being given to us. When we come in every morning, it’s like lighting a campfire.”

At Savage, the main dishes are grilled upon order. And since food cooked the preindustrial way takes time, guests can first enjoy snacks from the cold section as they patiently wait. The menu lists deviled eggs with smoked oil and ash, head cheese terrine with cornichons and house pickles, local and imported cheese, and cured duck breast with Kalamata olives.

An alternative can be the salads, like the grilled pear and capicola, and the heirloom tomato with fresh mozzarella.

Sticky toffee

When it comes to grilled meats, there are 10 to choose from, plus a handful of options for the sides including charred leeks, grilled corn and roasted baby potatoes.

A whole barramundi comes with a blanket of arugula and preserved lemons, salt-baked prawns are complemented by a rich crab fat emulsion, and monk fish tail is served with two types of garlic: confit and wild. The lamb chops are dressed with mint and malt, the King Edward pork chop with mustard leaf chimichurri, and the flank with pickled ramps.

Imparting its flavor in every dish - including desserts like sticky toffee pudding - is the oak wood used to fire up the grill, which lends a lovely, sweet aroma and a rounded smoke flavor, not acidic like a lot of the fruit-bearing trees.

For someone who thrives on challenges, Boutwood couldn’t have picked a better battle. - CONTRIBUTED

Sam Miguel
07-12-2018, 07:59 AM
As Not Seen on TV

Restaurant Review: Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square

Guy's American Kitchen & Bar

220 West 44th Street, Times Square Theatre District 646-532-4897

By PETE WELLSNOV. 13, 2012

GUY FIERI, have you eaten at your new restaurant in Times Square? Have you pulled up one of the 500 seats at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar and ordered a meal? Did you eat the food? Did it live up to your expectations?

Did panic grip your soul as you stared into the whirling hypno wheel of the menu, where adjectives and nouns spin in a crazy vortex? When you saw the burger described as “Guy’s Pat LaFrieda custom blend, all-natural Creekstone Farm Black Angus beef patty, LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion + pickle), SMC (super-melty-cheese) and a slathering of Donkey Sauce on garlic-buttered brioche,” did your mind touch the void for a minute?

Did you notice that the menu was an unreliable predictor of what actually came to the table? Were the “bourbon butter crunch chips” missing from your Almond Joy cocktail, too? Was your deep-fried “boulder” of ice cream the size of a standard scoop?

What exactly about a small salad with four or five miniature croutons makes Guy’s Famous Big Bite Caesar (a) big (b) famous or (c) Guy’s, in any meaningful sense?

Were you struck by how very far from awesome the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders are? If you hadn’t come up with the recipe yourself, would you ever guess that the shiny tissue of breading that exudes grease onto the plate contains either pretzels or smoked almonds? Did you discern any buttermilk or brine in the white meat, or did you think it tasted like chewy air?

Guy Fieri is a pox on professional chefs. I think the Donkey Sauce may be seasoned with the tears of Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain.

Why is one of the few things on your menu that can be eaten without fear or regret — a lunch-only sandwich of chopped soy-glazed pork with coleslaw and cucumbers — called a Roasted Pork Bahn Mi, when it resembles that item about as much as you resemble Emily Dickinson?

When you have a second, Mr. Fieri, would you see what happened to the black bean and roasted squash soup we ordered?

Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?

At your five Johnny Garlic’s restaurants in California, if servers arrive with main courses and find that the appetizers haven’t been cleared yet, do they try to find space for the new plates next to the dirty ones? Or does that just happen in Times Square, where people are used to crowding?

If a customer shows up with a reservation at one of your two Tex Wasabi’s outlets, and the rest of the party has already been seated, does the host say, “Why don’t you have a look around and see if you can find them?” and point in the general direction of about 200 seats?

What is going on at this new restaurant of yours, really?

Has anyone ever told you that your high-wattage passion for no-collar American food makes you television’s answer to Calvin Trillin, if Mr. Trillin bleached his hair, drove a Camaro and drank Boozy Creamsicles? When you cruise around the country for your show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” rasping out slangy odes to the unfancy places where Americans like to get down and greasy, do you really mean it?

Or is it all an act? Is that why the kind of cooking you celebrate on television is treated with so little respect at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar?

How, for example, did Rhode Island’s supremely unhealthy and awesomely good fried calamari — dressed with garlic butter and pickled hot peppers — end up in your restaurant as a plate of pale, unsalted squid rings next to a dish of sweet mayonnaise with a distant rumor of spice?

How did Louisiana’s blackened, Cajun-spiced treatment turn into the ghostly nubs of unblackened, unspiced white meat in your Cajun Chicken Alfredo?

How did nachos, one of the hardest dishes in the American canon to mess up, turn out so deeply unlovable? Why augment tortilla chips with fried lasagna noodles that taste like nothing except oil? Why not bury those chips under a properly hot and filling layer of melted cheese and jalapeños instead of dribbling them with thin needles of pepperoni and cold gray clots of ground turkey?

By the way, would you let our server know that when we asked for chai, he brought us a cup of hot water?

When you hung that sign by the entrance that says, WELCOME TO FLAVOR TOWN!, were you just messing with our heads?

Does this make it sound as if everything at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar is inedible? I didn’t say that, did I?

Tell me, though, why does your kitchen sabotage even its more appealing main courses with ruinous sides and sauces? Why stifle a pretty good bison meatloaf in a sugary brown glaze with no undertow of acid or spice? Why send a serviceable herb-stuffed rotisserie chicken to the table in the company of your insipid Rice-a-Roni variant?

Why undermine a big fist of slow-roasted pork shank, which might fly in many downtown restaurants if the General Tso’s-style sauce were a notch less sweet, with randomly shaped scraps of carrot that combine a tough, nearly raw crunch with the deadened, overcooked taste of school cafeteria vegetables?

Is this how you roll in Flavor Town?

Somewhere within the yawning, three-level interior of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, is there a long refrigerated tunnel that servers have to pass through to make sure that the French fries, already limp and oil-sogged, are also served cold?

What accounts for the vast difference between the Donkey Sauce recipe you’ve published and the Donkey Sauce in your restaurant? Why has the hearty, rustic appeal of roasted-garlic mayonnaise been replaced by something that tastes like Miracle Whip with minced raw garlic?

And when we hear the words Donkey Sauce, which part of the donkey are we supposed to think about?

Is the entire restaurant a very expensive piece of conceptual art? Is the shapeless, structureless baked alaska that droops and slumps and collapses while you eat it, or don’t eat it, supposed to be a representation in sugar and eggs of the experience of going insane?

Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?

Did you finish that blue drink?

Oh, and we never got our Vegas fries; would you mind telling the kitchen that we don’t need them?

Thanks.

Sam Miguel
07-12-2018, 08:02 AM
The Unrecognizable Genius of Guy Fieri

By Jason Diamond, Sep 7, 2016

It's supposedly 97 degrees and I'm grossly sweating through my shirt on a rooftop in the middle of Manhattan. From where I'm standing, New York City is all floating buildings and blue skies; no sidewalks overcrowded with tourists bumbling past self-important men in suits rushing to wherever they have to get to. All around me are grand buildings like St. Patrick's Cathedral, 30 Rock, and the Scribner Building, and the roof I'm on has the greenest grass I've ever seen in the city, a little pool, and four huge steel letters that spell out M-E-A-T with unlit light bulbs that I'm guessing will be turned on once the sun sets. I'm on this rooftop with a beer in one hand and a plate in the other that's piled with Andouille sausage and chicken. That's when I realize: Holy shit, I'm in Flavortown.

I let that sink in as I take one last sip of the warm beer, and begin to follow a very tan woman who leads me to meet the ruler of this mythical land, Guy Fieri.

I know a fair amount about Fieri. He was born Guy Ferry, and he changed his last name to honor his immigrant great-grandfather. I know he hates eggs—not necessarily eggs in his food, but actual eggs: scrambled, sunny side-up, omelets. I'm aware he's the subject of a fair amount of ridicule from some of our best restaurant critics and biggest celebrity chefs. Some people confuse him for a member of Smash Mouth or Insane Clown Posse. He's practically a meme walking among us. I get all that, I do. But I need to put all of that to the side of my overflowing plate for now.

As I start talking with Fieri, who is in town to promote his new BBQ venture with Carnival Cruise Line, I think about all of that stuff, but I try to be a good interviewer and strip away any preconceived ideas I might have about him. He greets me with an enthusiastic fist bump. (Later I notice a nick on my knuckle oozing blood from where I grazed my hand on one of his impressive signet rings.) We strike up a conversation about Sammy Hagar. ("I was even more of a Hagar fan when he was just Hagar and not Van Hagar," he says.) It's hard not to look up above the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives host's face and focus on his famous head of bleached blond hair. It sticks so straight up that you could imagine him lowering his head and charging toward a line.

I have a small rush of panic that shoots through me—like when I worry I left the house with the faucet running or forgot to feed the cats—when I can't find his famous pair of white sunglasses, usually perched on the back of his head. My eyes dart desperately and I see them resting atop a bag nearby. There they are. The fear subsides and we continue.

Here's where I admit I'm an unabashed fan of Fieri's television shows and that I definitely watch several hours of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives each week. "Because you have good taste," Fieri says when I make my confession. Of course, I tend to agree with Fieri, but when I tell any of my friends how much time I spend watching Triple D, and I see the look they give me in response, I feel the need to also mention that I really enjoyed reading Dan Fox's Pretentiousness, that I love to work to William Basinski's minimalist masterpiece The Disintegration Loops, or that my wife and I put money away every few months because we're on a mission to eat at Blue Hill at Stone Barns at least one time for each month on the calendar.

I feel as if I have pretty decent taste by the standards of those strange enough to share them, yet when I mention that one of my favorite things to do is to sit on my couch with my dog and watch any of the Fieri shows that pretty much make up the bulk of the Food Network's programming, people tend to laugh—or worse, assume I'm hate-watching. "No," I tell them. I really enjoy watching Fieri drive around America in search of what he calls "real food for real people."

Sam Miguel
07-12-2018, 08:03 AM
^^^ (Continued)

I love food television. I'll watch Julia Child reruns or anything with Andrew Zimmern, plus Chef's Table and, of course, The Great British Bake Off. I also love Anthony Bourdain's many shows and books, and I understand why he'd find a person like Fieri such a personal affront. But while Bourdain looks at the bigger picture on his shows, examining the political economy of every city he visits, Fieri visits the real unknown. He takes that bright red convertible to little spots that are uniquely unexciting, places that aren't owned by celebrity chefs, and parks firmly outside of the hype stream that steers the bastions of good taste. His episodes don't have unifying themes. They don't even focus on one geographic area, a strangely democratizing choice when it comes to place and space. Not one city is elevated among the rest, even by editing. Yet once Fieri shows up, all of his fans are in the know—and more often than not, they tend to remember.

There's this place called Sidecar on the southern end of Park Slope. It opened in 2006, and I'd have to imagine it's considered older by Brooklyn standards since good restaurants don't tend to last a decade around there thanks to rising rents, ticket-happy health department employees, and the finicky tastes of New Yorkers (not to mention a host of personal dramas that factor into a restaurant's longevity). I've been going there since around the time they started serving food and drinks, and from the fried chicken and club sandwiches to the "Hangover Soup" they serve at brunch (it has saved my life more than once), I've never been disappointed in a visit to Sidecar. It's a late-night place, the kind of spot chefs go to when they get off work and want to grab a few beers at two in the morning.

Yet there it was, resting prominently on the bar's chalkboard for at least a year: a hyper-realistic drawing of Guy Fieri. Having seen the episode where Fieri stands outside of Sidecar and says that brothers John and Bart DeCoursy are "rockin' the neighborhood" with the best Cuban sandwich (disclaimer: I've never had the Cuban at Sidecar, so I can't vouch for the validity of the statement), I finally had enough drinks at the bar one night to ask why the hell they've kept that thing up so long. The bartender looked at me and smiled. "A lot of us pay our rent because Guy Fieri tourists come here to eat."

Yes, Guy Fieri tourists. They're a thing. Even in New York City, a place with never ending things to do and places to eat, has benefitted by the constant loop of Fieri's shows driving foot traffic into restaurants. They get a leg up from the boost. All across the country, restauranteurs can attest to the "Fieri Effect" that starts when the Bleached One features a place on his show. "They told us, 'We can do a lot for your sales,'" Ann Kim, co-owner of Pizzeria Lola in Minneapolis, told MinnPost last year. "We had no idea." Another restaurant owner reported his sales were up 500% after Fieri rolled up in his red '68 Camaro.

As somebody who travels quite often, I'll admit to have taken a few of Fieri's suggestions and enjoyed the occasional thrice-fried monstrosity when out of town. I can't always follow the Eater Heatmap, so I take the leap.

Beyond all the jokes about his appearance and the fact that, no matter how much I wanted to think otherwise, the New York Times' Pete Wells was totally right about the place being truly terrible (even Fieri seems to know that), I know that Fieri is a smart chef. You watch reruns of the second season of Food Network Star that he won, which aired ten years ago starting this past April, and you realize he's got skills. A French-trained chef with a Michelin star would probably rather feed whatever Fieri makes to dogs, but that's never been who he was cooking for. The art of cooking was never what he was interested in.

"I was pretty driven with what I wanted to do," Fieri tells me. His dad, his hero, helped him lay out his plan at an early age. Fieri never wanted to be Thomas Keller or Daniel Boulud. "I wanted to work in corporate restaurants," he says, repeating something I've heard him say proudly a thousand times in various interviews. But it's a line that speaks volumes about Fieri's personality: He had a plan this entire time. Fieri's food is not an art, but a craft—practiced with care but not pretension. And yet he takes every plate piled high with burgers and fries as seriously as you might an entry in the Bocuse d'Or. Simple food—diverse American Food, in all styles, made by Americans—is Fieri's rallying cry and religion.

"Real food for real people," I think to myself as I listen to him talk. It's so damn simple, yet totally brilliant. It's the food version of bipartisanship in politics: You can't make fun of it because then you're a classist snob, but you also have to take it with a grain of salt because it's really perfectly pandering. And that's what Fieri intrinsically understands. He knows he's not Oprah or Ellen. He's not a good-looking late night talk show host like Jimmy Fallon. He'll never be America's sweetheart. His first job is to get viewers, and he does that by making everything super simple. He knows more viewers are going to tune in to see him talk about good pulled pork (for what it's worth, Fieri knows a good deal about BBQ—enough to get him inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame) rather than some young hot shot chef in Los Angeles talk about his experimental cooking with compost.

You can watch his Food Network audition tape from a decade ago; it's clear that he's stuck to that plan all of this time—and it has made him incredibly wealthy. He's also helped out a number of small, independent businesses along the way; no matter what you want to say about him, it is hard to argue with his success.

As our interview winds down, I notice how many handlers Fieri has around him—including his publicist, his manager from William Morris, another publicist, and a few other folks with clipboards. I know the drill. I've done a few of these before. These people are here because I might ask some questions to trip up their client, to get some sort of funny quote out of him, or to press him into a mold that I walked in with in mind. The media wants him to be a clown, to perform the sort of comedy that comes at his expense. A journalist scheduled for an interview after mine told me, "I just want him to say something dumb."

Yet Fieri is articulate and engaging. He's got his spiel. He curses. He talks about business—not like a person with an M.B.A., but like a person who has learned what he knows by paying attention and doing the work himself. He's off the cuff and unscripted, but he's genuine, clever, and warm. You can call Guy Fieri a lot of things, and by the end of our brief time together I know that "smart" is definitely one of them. How many of us are as resolute in our self-knowledge, in our personal aesthetic, and in our plans for life and work? Fieri is more confident and assured than I am—and certainly more well liked. I shake his hand when I turn off the recorder.

I watch his shows, often claiming that they help me zone out after a long day at the office—comfort TV, if you will. Just about everybody has a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. But it dawns on me that even I've been taking Fieri for granted. I'm not yet giving him the credit he deserves. When I get up to leave, he gestures at my Chicago Cubs hat and asks if I'm really from Chicago. I know it's suddenly trendy to wear a Cubs hat now that they're finally good, but yes, I answer proudly. "I am." He stares me dead in the eyes and tells me that my hometown is his favorite food city. He's probably told people from Boston to Seattle the same thing for all I know, but the conviction with which he says it rings true. My heart leaps with the places he names off—a little Cuban spot, a random Greek joint, not somewhere cool like The Publican or Longman and Eagle.

Guy Fieri's on the ground, eating with locals like locals, never giving a thought to Yelp but rather turning to somebody's grandpa and asking about the counter stool they've occupied for 30 years. The shades he wears don't shield his eyes from the sun; they're there because his star shines fucking bright. The spikey hair, the flames on his collared shirts, the over-accessorizing? That's all part of his plan, but also part of a diversion from the reality of his empire: that despite everything, Guy Fieri might actually be a genius.

Sam Miguel
08-01-2018, 03:21 PM
From GQ online - - -

Lyon Is the Real Capital of French Food

By Brett Martin

March 12, 2018

Meet the ultimate second city. Long ignored by tourists but adored by chefs as a mecca, Lyon remains France's great gastronomic secret. Our food critic, Brett Martin, made his first pilgrimage and found a place perfectly poised and bursting with fatty, rich deliciousness, both new and old.

“I can't believe I'm here,” my friend Riad Nasr said as we headed toward Paul Bocuse's flagship restaurant, L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges, outside Lyon. Riad had worn a look of something approaching religious bliss since we'd arrived in the city. Riad is a veteran of Daniel Boulud's kitchen and the founding chef, with Lee Hanson, of New York's Balthazar, Pastis, and Minetta Tavern.

In search of inspiration before opening a new restaurant, he had come back to the Holy Land—not just the Holy Land, but to Lyon, its most sacred city. And now we were on the way to see the Pope himself, Bocuse, who, even before his death in January, just shy of 92, had passed into a kind of immortal gastronomic sainthood. We were not mere diners; we were pilgrims. “I think I'm going to cry,” Riad said. He is a New Yorker, of Lebanese and Trinidadian descent, raised in Montreal. But he had come home to France.

You remember France, don't you?

It's the one north of Spain, south of Denmark. Somewhat famous in cooking circles, back in the day. Sure, culinary pilgrims have been more likely, in recent years, to trek to Copenhagen, to San Sebastián, to Bologna, Lima, Penang, or Chengdu. And, sure, they have been dining in restaurants more explicitly influenced by those destinations in their own hometowns. French food spent those years as an afterthought: stodgy, old-fashioned, and representative of all the things those more fashionable cuisines were breaking from. That's okay. France didn't mind. France waited patiently.

And the wheel turned. All over America, diners and restaurateurs have been rediscovering the pleasures of the bistro, the brasserie, and the classical French repertoire. Those looking for further immersion might find themselves buying tickets for Paris, but those looking for deeper roots should take the two-hour high-speed train ride south, to where the Saône River is absorbed by the Rhône before rolling on toward the sea, to where the modern food world was born and where it continues to evolve.

That is: Lyon is the city to go eat in right now because it's been the city to go eat in for at least 100 years.

“France has never been trendy,” says Boulud, who grew up on a small farm outside Lyon, where his parents still live. (Granted, it's a small farm, now with a tennis court and a walk-in fridge in the barn.) Boulud remembers his days as an apprentice in the city, how each morning at the market he would see Paul Bocuse and a dozen other chefs making their daily search for ingredients. It was then, and remains, a place singularly obsessed with dining, even by French standards, a city of charcutiers, cooks, butchers, cheese and fish mongers, bakers of bread and pastry alike.

“That tradition is not going anywhere,” says Boulud. “But at the same time, there's a changing of the guard.” Indeed, to dine in Lyon today is to see a city at the inflection point between old and new, a place balanced between the still-living culture it created long ago and the new world that it wrought, all of it fueled by a civic belief in food as daily sacrament, a creed so deeply bred as to seem almost casual.

It is a city of unexpected views and sparkling water. It can feel like a miniature Paris, with its bridges, its Métro, its Haussmann-style apartment buildings looming over the stone banks of the river. There is even a markedly Eiffel-ish tower atop Fourvière, built defiantly in 1892 (taller than the original, locals will tell you…if you count the hill) and now used as a TV antenna. It has the energy of a college town; thousands of students flow in and out each year, to attend the University of Lyon. You see them in the evenings gathered on the sidewalk outside wine shops and cafés, or down by the Saône, sprawling with their backpacks and hoodies around haphazard picnics of wine, tallboys, baguettes, and cheese.

But as urbane as Lyon may feel, it's the bounty that lies just outside of it, in every direction, that has made it a culinary mecca. “Here you have one foot in the city and one in the countryside,” says Greg Stawowy, who, with his wife, Yun Lee, moved to Lyon and opened a small restaurant called Le Suprême two years ago. “You have mountains, you have lakes, you have wineries.” Lyon is near enough to the vineyards of Burgundy, the fisheries of the Mediterranean, the pastures of the Rhône-Alpes—and also to the capital, with its flow of talent, ideas, and rich diners.

It was all this that made Lyon the center of the radical transformation known as nouvelle cuisine. But it's useful to start with what that movement grew out of. If you know anything about nouvelle cuisine, it's probably that it was responsible for “lightening up” the leaden, over-sauced French food of Escoffier. “Light,” you learn quickly, while, say, staring down a lobe of foie gras the size of a potato at Bocuse's restaurant, is a deeply relative term.

To orient yourself, you start at a bouchon—Lyon's local mash-up of bistro, café, and brasserie, the porkiest, offaliest, Frenchiest institution there is. They are not all identical, though I have to admit the details swirl together in a fog of fat and Chartreuse. I see tables laden with great mustardy salads of beef snout and pigs' ears; tranches of pâté; platters of deep-fried tripe; dishes of sausage and lentils, sweating age and fat—all the glories of cuisine bourgeoise. I see a quenelle de brochet, drowned in Nantua crayfish sauce, and a shoulder of lamb glistening as the waiter deftly separates its muscles tableside at Daniel et Denise. I see a sizzling dish of kidneys roasted with cream sauce—on some days my favorite French food, if not food, period—at Le Bouchon des Filles, with its raw wooden barn beams and bordello red walls. I see three businessmen sitting next to me at a communal table at La Meunière, tucking napkins into their shirts and calmly and efficiently making their way through two bottles of wine and a battered cocotte of veal blanquette, gingerly wiping their mouths and returning to work in the time it takes me to struggle through an appetizer of pâté en croûte. I see a framed print there, too, of a fat swine seated at a bouchon, gorging himself on platters of other hogs. I feel a shudder of recognition.

This is the food from which nouvelle cuisine sprang, as both inspiration and opposition. You know the movement's effects, even if you don't know you do. It is one of those revolutions, so sweeping, so fundamentally altering of all that comes after, that it becomes paradoxically hard to see what the big deal was at the time. It is the Sopranos of culinary turning points, the Pet Sounds.

Henri Gault, who, along with his partner, Christian Millau, helped popularize the idea of nouvelle cuisine in their Gault & Millau guide, a direct challenge to the old guard of Michelin, famously laid out the movement's “Ten Commandments.” Among them: “Thou shalt not overcook. Thou shalt lighten thy menu. Thou shalt be inventive.” It was a revolution on the plate but also in the kitchen, a bold assertion of the chef, not as mere technician or worker bee but as autonomous artist.

When you get a plate of food that has been assembled in the kitchen, by a chef, instead of tableside, you are experiencing the long tail of the revolution that Paul Bocuse and his compatriots started. Likewise, when you're served a piece of fish cooked anything less than well-done. Or a sauce that is thickened by reduction instead of flour. Or food prepared in a food processor.

The legacy is there in the burst of new restaurants opened by young chefs, even those as influenced by the goings-on in Brooklyn, Copenhagen, and Barcelona as at a bouchon. It's in a silky fillet of Alpine trout over white beans and a puree of nearly raw cauliflower, served for lunch one fall day at one of two seats at the tiny counter of Le Kitchen Café, which Connie Zagora opened near the university last year with her partner, Laurent Ozan, a baker. She had worked at the Ritz in Paris, but in the capital, she told me, it was all “métro, boulot, dodo”—subway, work, sleep—a condition that many a New York chef would recognize well. They asked themselves the emblematic question of their generation of chefs, “What kind of place do I want?” and went looking for the right city to live, checking out Toulouse, Marseille, and others before arriving in Lyon. “We wanted a city but smaller, near the countryside, with young people,” Zagora said.

They quickly found they were not alone. Young chefs from all around France were arriving, drawn by the same things and opening small, idiosyncratic restaurants: like Bijouterie, which serves bright, creative tasting menus. Or Les Apothicaires, which blends global influences into its modernist café food. In a city long ruled by the old-fashioned Toques Blanches guild, the new generation has formed its own informal club—one that some call the Bandes Des Gourmands.

“We're really close. We share recipes, we share producers. There are no secrets, like there were in the old days,” says Tabata Mey, the Brazilian-born chef who studied at the Institut Paul Bocuse before opening Les Apothicaires with her husband. In rebuke of the most venerated of French restaurant traditions—the nearly universal August vacation—several take turns closing their kitchens one month later. I came to think of them as the Septemberists.

Sam Miguel
08-01-2018, 03:23 PM
^^^ (Continued)

Not everything new need be revolutionary, though. Somewhere in between the old and the new lies Le Suprême—opened two years ago by Stawowy and Lee. The two met while cooking at Boulud's Restaurant Daniel, in New York. He had one of those French culinary childhoods that seem to have one foot in the 19th century—gathering mushrooms in the forest; attending the birth of livestock in the spring, their slaughter in the fall—even if he was born in 1979; she is from Seoul. They married and moved to Paris, where, as if in a children's book titled French Chef, they both found work at the Eiffel Tower. Eventually they felt the pull of opening their own place. Boulud nudged them toward Lyon, to a space on Cours Gambetta, and became an investor. It's spare but comfortable; you eat under the gaze of a giant photo of a chicken. Stawowy and Lee may be young guns, but they are, at heart, conservatives. Their food is clean, modern but reverent. The gâteau de foie blond is a light-as-sponge-cake confection of chicken livers whipped with crème fraîche, cream, and flour—a take on an Alain Chapel classic that relies, Stawowy says, on using Bresse-chicken livers. “You can't just make it anywhere,” he says. The dish for which the restaurant is named—suprême de volaille—is a breast of that same precious bird, napped in a blanquette and served next to an amber tuile that looks like a roasted onion but reveals itself as a roulade of potato and leek. It's a take on Lyon's most identifiable export—lyonnaise potatoes—as witty, inventive, and delicious as any of its nouvelle forefathers.

But it was The Source—not just the new Lyon—that Riad and I were after, and so it was those forefathers that beckoned. That's how we ended up in a cab twisting up the left bank of the Saône, past cafés and bars overlooking the river, through wooded patches that brought to mind the Hudson Valley and toward the place that brought Riad close to tears.

At the Altar of Bocuse

It's named: L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges, but everybody calls it simply “Bocuse.” This can be confusing, given that everything else in Lyon seems to bear some variation of that name. The man himself may have withdrawn in the final years of his life, but, even in death, he is hardly absent. His name adorns restaurants, markets, and schools. Close your eyes and imagine the cartoon face of France: puffy eyelids; imperious beak; thin, supercilious lips; toque rising above like a Doric column. Now, open your eyes, and if you are in Lyon, it is likely that face will be staring back at you: from the sides of buses, the walls of bouchons, in mural form, four or five stories high. It would be insufficient to say that Paul Bocuse is the papal city's Pope; he is also its Mao, its Ayatollah, its Vishnu.
Or as Abbie Hoffman wrote (after a stint traveling across Europe cadging meals with a forged Playboy credential): “Ego seems to have been invented for Bocuse. He is the Muhammad Ali of pots and pans.” At L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges, which has held three Michelin stars since 1965, he appears in as many guises as skeletons in Grateful Dead merchandise. He's there in the courtyard where the cab drops you off, and staring imperiously from a set of murals depicting the history of French cuisine. These are as dense and filled with gnostic symbology as church tapestries: Here is a tower of crayfish, in honor of Fernand Point's legendary crayfish gratin; here is a statue of Mickey Mouse, standing on a platter in Bocuse's son's hands, representing the family's restaurants at Epcot Center. You grab the toque of a shining Bocuse-shaped door handle to pull yourself into the restaurant, a tufted, gilded, mirrored jewel box, smaller and warmer than all the fuss led you to expect.

Not far from the kitchen, on the way to the restrooms, is the gift shop, where you can purchase a bottle of Paul Bocuse XO Cognac for $198, among other mementos.

It is easy to make fun of, or be bummed out by, the collision of commercialism and grandiosity. I chose to embrace it as a way of joyfully demolishing the myth of snooty French reserve. Somehow it's easier to feel comfortable in that grandmother's parlor of a dining room once you've tramped through the kitchen and taken a photo with the chef de cuisine, later to be presented to you in a commemorative sleeve, as though you've just come off the log flume.

And Bocuse isn't a cynical experience. It doesn't serve cynical food. Granted, that may be an extraordinary thing to say about a $110 bowl of soup: the famous Soupe aux Truffes Noires V.G.E, the initials being those of the French president for whom it was created. This is a soup that comes not only under a dome of perfect puff pastry, but with its own pamphlet. But I will crave that consommé, with its flotsam of black truffles and tiny cubes of foie gras in each spoonful, every time I eat ramen for the rest of my days. Likewise, the rouget barbet en écailles de pommes de terre, the sweet white fish sheathed in a chain mail of perfect potato “scales.” Or Point's crayfish gratin. Here were all the lusty pleasures of the bouchon—refined, inverted, dressed in truffles, and served on a golden platter, without losing their primal power.

None more so than the volaille de Bresse en vessie. I knew all about this dish before it arrived at my table. It is an emblematic nouvelle cuisine showstopper. I'd even watched Daniel Boulud prepare it in his kitchen in New York once—sweating and cursing as he and his executive chef wrestled a Bresse chicken into a pig's bladder, as though stuffing an oversize foot into a rubber sock. Protected and pressurized therein, the chicken would bob in simmering stock until it emerged, infused with the flavor of the truffles stuffed under its skin and with its own intensified juices.

It is, essentially, a primitive form of sous vide or pressure cooking. “A similar effect can be achieved by wrapping chicken in aluminum foil,” says Wikipedia, to which I can definitively answer: No. No, it cannot. Because for all my confident familiarity, I was unprepared for what appeared tableside at L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges: a great swollen balloon, pale and veiny as Darth Vader's unmasked head. It wobbled queasily as the bow-tied waiter presented the platter, looking even more glaringly homely in the context of the overstuffed, gilded dining room. “Smile,” our captain whispered to the waiter in French. “You're holding a masterpiece.” He received the bladder on his gueridon, produced a fork and knife, and with strokes so rapid and deft I could barely see them, excised the chicken, leaving it slippery and wrinkled on the cutting board. I watched the delivery and birth of my two daughters, and those were the moments I flashed on: fast, squelchy, gross, and thrilling, albeit with considerably less complaining on the part of the bladder. (Yes, I have been smacked for that joke.) The chicken inside embodied that perfect French balance of manipulated and natural, tasting equally of kitchen and barnyard.

Part of the pleasure, too, was knowing I was having one of the foundational experiences in Western cuisine. Remember, at the heart of nouvelle cuisine was the conviction that food is art, the chef an artist. There is a reason that people are drawn to stand, in person, before the Mona Lisa. Even today—when the average computer screen offers a clearer and closer view than you could ever get amid the scrum of tourists; even when you've seen it so many times, in so many guises, that it's become a terrible cliché—the object exerts an inexorable pull. We take that for granted in most areas of art: the ability to put on a record, open a book, download a movie, walk into a museum and experience the artistic achievements of the past. The culinary equivalent is far more elusive. That's what makes Bocuse's restaurant precisely what snarky commenters sometimes try to label it: a “museum.” It is no insult. It is sublime.

Sam Miguel
08-01-2018, 03:24 PM
^^^ (Continued)

The Old “Best” Is the New Best

But there is also another way to experience the living manifestation of nouvelle cuisine's giants.

There's a poster that hangs throughout Lyon depicting the founding chefs of nouvelle cuisine arranged in the poses of Da Vinci's The Last Supper. In the Jesus spot, of course, is Bocuse.

But he is not nouvelle's only deity. Among his equals in the kitchen, if not necessarily the publicity department, were Jean and Pierre Troisgros, brothers who worked alongside Bocuse at La Pyramide and then took over their father's restaurant, across the street from the train station in Roanne, an hour's trip north. From the beginning, the restaurant was noted for its spirit of restless innovation—all the more so after Jean's death, when Pierre's son Michel, who had worked at Chez Panisse, among other stops, came home to cook with his father and eventually take over. (Another son, Claude, owns the great restaurant Olympe, in Rio de Janeiro.)

Astonishingly, the Troisgros family never owned the building that housed their restaurant in Roanne; for nearly 90 years, despite numerous attempts to buy the property, they were renters. Last year, they finally moved, settling on a property 15 minutes up the road, in the village of Ouches. At the same time, Michel decided to step back and allow his own eldest son, an intense 30-year-old named César, to take the lead in the kitchen.

You now approach Maison Troisgros by winding through pastures, tall hedges, and stone walls, stared at impassively by the brawny white Charolais cattle of which proud gentrymen used to commission portraits. It is a dramatic entry: through a stone gate, past the chicken coop, through a long, low-ceilinged hallway on either side of which you glimpse the wine cellar through arched windows, and finally into a vaulted lobby that resembles the inside of a haystack. There were two existing buildings on the property—an ancient stone millhouse and a large, somewhat gaudy Italianate villa that is now a small hotel. The Troisgroses' brilliant stroke was to build a dining room between the two—a single-story hallway of steel, exposed ducts, and floor-to-ceiling glass, interrupted by a huge tree growing out of its center. At once elegant and industrial, bucolic and brutish, it brings to mind James Turrell's art sheds in Marfa, Texas. During the day, the space is flooded with light; at night, viewed from outside, where you may have gone to enjoy an eau-de-vie by the fire pits, the glass disappears and the people inside look like ghosts dining among the trees. It's spectacular.

Anybody who has ever spent time in a cramped restaurant kitchen may be even more impressed by the one here—a vast, open space with hidden vents above and rows of gleaming counters below. If it weren't for the windows, overlooking a horse pasture, it would feel like the deck of a spaceship. Michel has a Picasso body: shortish and barrel-chested. His son César is also small, but wiry, bespectacled, and bearded. He looks a little like the college kid who would insist on reading you his Marxist poetry. If there's Oedipal drama afoot, it's not on display. César is, of course, blessed by his last name—the luckiest 30-year-old chef in the world—but he also carries the kind of easy authority that sends ripples through a brigade of older, more battle-scarred cooks as he moves around the kitchen.

He's also not afraid to flirt with sacrilege. “I don't think Bocuse was the culinary leader,” he says when I ask why the two restaurants look so radically different. “He was the leader with the media, with journalists. The genius of communication.”

“The philosophy of our family is change,” says Michel, more diplomatically.

It occurred to me that Bocuse had in fact lifted a great burden from his compatriots. By cornering the market on preserving and representing the old guard, he had allowed them to grow and change. What that means in 2018 is a menu and service strongly influenced by the modern international style pioneered by Noma and other Scandinavian restaurants while remaining unmistakably French at heart. As summer slid into fall, there was a delicate tart of apples and cèpes; a “red” dish (monochrome riffs are all the rage these days) that balanced the acidity of mulberries and strawberries with bitter radicchio and fingers of cold pigeon breast; a meaty knot of sweetbreads, served with a roulade of eggplant poached in dashi; a trompe l'oeil egg for dessert with a delicate casing like Magic Shell and a vivid yellow “yolk” of mango cream.

It's as though Bocuse and Troisgros split the nouvelle cuisine playbook. Bocuse got the recipes, and the Troisgroses—freed from the duty to act as a culinary museum and blessed with the energy of heirs—took everything else: the creativity, the experimentation, the embrace of new technology, the revolutionary spirit.

Not that they've lost all the recipes. The dish above all others that made the Troisgros name famous was saumon à l'oseille, a barely cooked fillet of wild salmon, dressed in a fresh and buttery sauce made of sorrel. It's one of those Pet Sounds dishes, hard to appreciate as remarkable unless you try to imagine what it might have been like to have never tasted salmon any way but well-done before. There was a period when Michel refused to make the dish anymore, but, as documented on Netflix's Chef's Table, César recently persuaded him to allow it back, upon request.

I have to admit that I was among those who sheepishly made the request. The dish arrived looking precisely as it does in the pages of The Nouvelle Cuisine of Jean & Pierre Troisgros, published in America in 1978, but otherwise fit seamlessly into the rest of lunch, slotted between a glossy and delicate white raviolo made from milk skin, hiding a velouté of mussels, and a ruby-hearted lamb chop surrounded by tiny mushrooms and a dab of curry.

On the way out, I passed an elderly, stooped man being fussed over by both staff and visitors as he, too, headed for the exit. Somehow, automatically, I also shook his hand as we passed. Only once he was out the door did I realize it was Pierre Troisgros himself, leaving after dinner. What did he think of the new direction of the restaurant bearing his name, I asked his son. “He likes the audacity,” Michel said.

Have I been gushing? What can I say? In 1968, Christian Millau, one of nouvelle cuisine's first and most influential proponents, declared of Maison Troisgros: “I have discovered the best restaurant in the world.” Half a century later, I floated out of Ouches thinking the very same thing.

Brett Martin is a GQ correspondent.