Friday, January 30, 2009

Prince Albert, Makati

I have been wanting to eat here for quite some time, since I heard that this is a classic place for Steak Tartare. So I decided to have lunch to try it our. The restaurant was not full at all, including us there were only 3 other tables occupied, so we had all the attention of the waiters. Service was very good and everybody was very helpful/attentive to our needs.

For starters, I ordered a mixed Green Salad with Vinaigrette, but when I noticed the cart with the wooden bowl and all the condiments, I immediately changed my order to a classic Caesar Salad. I remember going to Marios in Makati Avenue and having this with my Dad once a month, so it was a treat watching how the prepare the salad from scratch in front of you (which by the way I think is how all places should serve the salad). Rudy, the waiter who was preparing the salad, has been doing this since 1979...I practically was not even born...hehe... ok I was a kid.

As he prepared the salad, I was getting more excited to see how there was another cart beside it where they were going to prepare my Steak Tartare. Anyway back to the salad. Once they were done emulsifying the egg yolk and all the other ingredients, they carefully put the Romaine lettuce and slowly mix it all is served on a small plate with the traditional bacon bits, croutons and Parmesan Cheese. The salad was perfect, just the right coating of the dressing, bacon and croutons. It really makes a difference when the dressing is prepared on the spot.

For main, of course Steak Tartare. The beauty of this is not just the steak itself, but how they prepare it. Carefully prepared, its a whole ceremony from beginning to end. The egg yolk is slowly beaten by hand until emulsified with the other regular ingredients like anchovies, Gherkins, capers, mustard and Oil. The sauce/dressing, once done, has a pale brown color.

Once done, the meat (Tenderloin) is slowly pressed with a spoon and slowly mixed in. The spoon is used to 'press' the meat to avoid big lumps/pieces. Once all mixed in, the final touches are added in for final flavoring (salt, pepper and Tabasco). They even make you try the Steak, so you could tell them if here is enough Tabasco. Once you have finally 'approved' it, they proceed to plate it. It is served in a mound, with mixed greens with a light Vinaigrette and a basket of toasted bread (for me this is the best way to eat this dish, rather then some places that serve it with fries). The final ingredient is Paprika, which brings out even more the taste of the meat and other ingredients.

The taste was sublime. It reminded me of the Tartare I had in Robuchon in Macau. It had a very fine, creamy texture. You could Taste all the flavors of all ingredients without any of them being over powered by another. Served with toast, it was just fantastic. I'd say that this one is probably one of the better if not the best Tartare I've tried lately. I do like the one of Antonios but it doesn't have the creamy light tangy consistency this one had.

I did not have any space left for anything so I had a double espresso to end the meal. I completely enjoyed this meal, from the food to the service was all 5star.I plan to return here and make this a regular thing, since it's quite hard to find this kind of Tartare here....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Restaurante Hisop, Barcelona

Since I've been on a diet lately, I have not really been eating out. Therefore I have nothing to blog about. But I remembered that in my last trip to Barcelona, I left out one post about a small restaurant I went to with an old friend. The place is called HISOP. Owned by 2 Catalans, they do inventive and daring Catalan cuisine yet still using the best quality ingredients. I think this is what they call "Cocina de Autor".

For starters, we had Oysters with Almond Cream and Ginger. I failed to take a picture of this. Immediately after, they served us Percebes con Sandia y pimientos (Percebes with watermelon and roast Pepper). Percebes (Gooseneck barnacles) are a shellfish with a long, soft body like the neck of a goose, hard shells at the top, and a 'foot' at the bottom that attaches them to rocks. They only grow on rocks exposed to heavy surf, and only grow in several parts of the world. They are highly sought after as a rare delicacy, savoured for their lovely texture and flavour which is somewhat like crab or lobster. Very simple dish and good contrast from the watermelon. The roasted peppers were made into a sorbet.

Next, we had Foie con Cafe y Cacao (Foie with coffee foam and cacao). It's not the first time I try Foie with Chocolate but the first time i try it with Coffee, and I must say the combination is great. Some sort of Foie Capuccino...with Maldon salt and Truffle oil...

Next on the Degustation menu was Rape con rossinyols (Monkfish with Russinyols mushrooms). The dish came with a sort of almond Ice Cream and balsamic reduction. On top of the fish was some sort of smoked bone marrow I think. I found this dish too busy and would have probably just enjoyed the fish with the mushrooms and the balsamic glaze...

Main course was Baby lamb chops with asparagus and sweetbread. I found it a bit too rare but taste was fantastic. Compared to the other dishes, this looked like a pretty straight forward dish to me.

For Dessert, we had 2 dishes: Peras Confitadas y Cacao and Cheese Tastings.

The pear confit was mixed with some kind of foam and a intense chocolate (that looked like a pear). As for the cheese, what called my attention was the fantastic blue cheese (from a small town in Spain that's I can't remember now) and the french Mimolette cheese. The platter was laid out from the weakest to the strongest tasting one, and at the end, 2 pieces of Membrillo (Quince paste) for the last 2 pieces of cheese.

Over all, I had a good dining experience. Hisop has been in operation for some years now and rumors are that it will get the coveted Michelin star soon......

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Special Dinner at SALA..

It was R's birthday last week and we decided to celebrate it in SALA. I had never been there so I wanted us to try something new. Noel, who knows the Chef very well, helped us out with the reservation and what to order.

We arrived and there were only 3 tables occupied. Perfect since this made it even more cozy and comfortable. Interiors are great and I loved that the place was just the right size. Lighting was good and the waiters were very friendly..looked like we were going to have a great meal.

After serving us the bread and wine, we ordered our dishes. Noel had requested from the Chef a special Foie dish for us that was not on the menu, and we also ordered one of their most special dishes: Twice Baked Souffle with Prawns, Feta and Dill.

The Foie was excellent...and the Rissotto perfectly cooked. R and I shared this dish and the only thing missing as a bottle of Sauternes or a for the Twice Baked Souffle - what can I say?? It was fantastic. Cooked to perfection, this dish is perfect. All flavors blending very well together. I had this with a 05 Vouvray Domaine Campalou.

For Main course, I ordered Duck Breast with Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes, Spiced Red Cabbage, Roast Pears and Cranberry Jus and R ordered the Roast Beef Tenderloin, the special of that night.

The Duck Breast was just perfection...This slices of duck breast perfectly done, slightly crispy on the skin side and tender on the inside. The Duck fat roasted potatoes were sinful and the Cranberry Jus gave this dish good contrast. The Tenderloin was equally good, medium on the inside. The mash potatoes were very creamy and done with lots of butter, plus a splash of Truffle oil.

For Dessert we had Chocolate Souffle with Ice cream. Another sinful dessert and a perfect way to end our meal. We had a long chat with the Chef (Carlo) after dinner over espresso. We talked about food and wine and it was quite an interesting chat. We even talked about the menu that will be served in his own wedding a month from now. Thank you Noel for helping me out organize this and thank you Chef Carlo. The food was excellent and service superb. Can't wait to go back there soon...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Binondo Tour - Part 2

I've decided that I will go to Binondo at least once a month (if schedule permits) with a group of friends. The objective: to try if not all, most of the best Chinese food available there(and do some shopping in between). Actually, we have already started this and this was our fourth time to go. The first 3 times, we first had the Fried Siopao in Ongpin st. corner Bahama st., which is delicious. For lunch, we ate in Wai Ying, Delicious Restaurant and Presidents Tea House.

This time, I decided I wanted to try something different so we headed towards Quintin Paredes st. to look for the NEW PO HENG LUMPIA HOUSE. I've read about this place in some blogs so we decided to have a quick bite before chhosing ourfinal restaurant destination. The Lumpia place is tucked away in the Uy Su Building (HSBC). You have to enter the side entrance and at the end, there is a courtyard. It's not really a restaurant but just a small shop with a few tables selling Lumpia. It's freshly rolled as you order, very tasty although a bit sweet. I added the hot sauce to give it a good contrast and it was perfect. It was quite filling and for 45 pesos, its a steal and well worth the long walk.

We then proceeded to walk around and try to decide where to eat. My initial preference was Lai Lai, but I did not know that they had already closed. So walking around, we decided to go to Sincerity Restaurant (in Yuchengco st. - formerly Nueva st.), which specializes in their famous chicken. The place was full so again we had to continue walking. This was good as it would really open our appetite for lunch. We finally decided to try out YING YING, in Dasmarinas st. corner Yuchengco st.

I'm was not really sure what their specialty was but it was in my list of Restaurants to try so we decided to walk in. The waiter mentioned that their specialty was seafood, but none of us were in the mood for seafood so we ordered:

Mixed Platter (suckling pig, chicken, roast pork, asado, century eggs and sea weed). Everything was delicious...most specially the suckling pig and he sea weed, which was quite spicy.
For main, we ordered Hot Prawn Salad, Butter Chicken, Salt and Pepper Squid, Salted fish fried Rice and an order of Siomai.

All the dishes were very good, my favorite being the Hot Prawn salad and the Butter Chicken. The Prawn salad was so tender and coated with a slightly sweet mayonnaise/cream...perfect. The Butter Chicken was deep fried but so tender inside - even the white meat parts very very tender and moist. Service was great (very friendly waiter) and quick. The Salt and Pepper Squid was also perfectly seasoned and fried, not chewy at all. Very far form the usual one I have in North Park... :)

As usual, we ordered too much food and had lots of take home, but it was still a very affordable meal. I will definitely return to the area soon and make sure to try all the good restaurants available. Aside form eating, shopping is also another perk in Chinatown. Everything is cheap...I was tempted to buy so many fruits (cherries, ponkan, mango etc..) at very affordable prices. i just didn't want to deal with having to carry them around since our car was parked all the way in Hidalgo st.

Can't wait to go back there next month and explore new restaurants and places to try....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How they make Majestic Ham....

If you read my posts about Ham last Christmas, I tried 3 of the best selling hams locally available (Adelinas, Excellente and Majestic) and came to the conclusion that Majestic was the best ham for me..So while I was talking to my friend E, I remembered he mentioned once that he knew the owners of Majestic Ham. I also happen to have met him (T) once so I requested if it was possible to tour his plant and see how they actually make the Ham. He agreed and asked us to go at 6 A.M. which is when they start production (they actually start at 4 A.M.). The process is not as simple as I had thought and has many steps until the final product is ready.

Once the pork legs are purchased/delivered, they are cured in brine in American Oak Barrels for about 4-5 months depending on the size of the leg. The brine is a mixture of water, salt, sugar, etc., and this creates a layer which is later on washed out after the curing time.

After the legs are washed thoroughly, they are smoked with wood from fruit bearing trees for 2-3 hours. After smoking them they are air dried for 1-2 days. At this point all the taste of the ham and smoked is locked in because the curing period. This is again cured in chillers (dry curing this time) at low temperature for another 2 to 3 months. This second curing stage is what really locks in all the flavors of the ham. As you can see this is along process but this is what ensures the taste and aroma of the ham.

After the long curing process, the legs of Ham are cooked/boiled in a mixture of water, salt, pepper, Laurel leaves, Star Anise, Cloves, etc... If I'm not mistaken the boiling takes another 2-3 hours. The skin is then removed and they proceed to glazing it. White sugars is spread all over one side of the leg than it is glazed with a hot metal rod. This glazing adds the touch of sweetness that the ham has...then the legs are then wrapped in cling wrap and vacuum packed for delivery.

This production process is done 3 times a week whole year round and they can do up to 100 legs per day production.

Some interesting Facts:

1. Majestic ham has been in operation for 60 years.
2. From start to finish, the ham looses up to 50% of it's original weight, due to curing, cooking, etc...
3. They do not use any kind of preservatives, (except salt) so shelf life is limited to 3 days in refrigerator. If frozen, up to 6 months.
4. On November and December alone they produce up to 12,000 legs

It was a great learning experience seeing how they make Majestic Ham and I'd like to thank E and specially T for allowing me to go and take all the pictures. They even gave us a fresh pack of sliced ham to take home. I'm sure many of you have tasted Majestic Ham but if you have not, I suggest you do. They have 15 to 20 stores in Metro Manila, where you can buy whole legs or sliced, or even scraps, that can be used for cooking.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Abe - where good friends dine, Makati

I Had a quick lunch in Abe last week. It was only my second time to eat there. First time was about 6 months ago. One thing I have noticed about this restaurant: It is ALWAYS full. No matter when you go or what time you go its always packed. You will usually have to wait to get seated. We were lucky we got there at 11:30 and it was empty but as soon as the clock hit 12 - it was packed.

Food is consistent and good. It specializes in Filipino food but with a little twist in some of their dishes like Lamb Adobo and others. Service is good. My only complaint is the size of the restrooms - they are tiny and claustrophobic. I'm sure they could have done a better job in designing the restrooms...anybody 6 feet tall will definitely have a hard time getting in there...

We started off our lunch with some appetizers:
* Burong Mangga
* Mango with Bagoong
* Baby squid in olive oil

I loved the Burong Mangga - it had just the right sourness and hints of sugar. The Bagoong was a disappointment - I tasted like the Bagoong you buy in the grocery (Barrio fiesta)..The squid was excellent, with olive oil and garlic plus a little of squid ink...

Four our main course, we ordered:
* Lumpia
* Gising Gising
* Lamb Adobo
* Crispy Tadyang
* Bamboo Rice

I enjoyed all the dishes, most specially the Lamb Adobo. Tons of garlic and very tender lamb cuts. The adobo sauce was not too sour nor sweet- a perfect dish. I ordered Gising Gising(Baguio beans with ground Pork) expecting it to be like the one that I normally have in a Filipino restaurant called Recipes, but it was quite different. It hardly had any 'Gata' at all - but it was still a very tasty and refreshing dish.

The Lumpia was also a bit different - no meat nor vegetables but it was stuffed with garbanzos (chick peas). The Bamboo rice is one of the specialties: Rice that is steamed/served in a dried bamboo branch. Very original. I hardly tasted it since I'm avoiding carbs but I can say that it is good(I've treid this before). As for the Crispy Tadyang (crispy beef ribs), it was indeed very crispy. I think it was overdone and too crispy since you could hardly taste any meat - but I guess that's hows it should be since its called 'Crispy' Tadyang. ??

Over all Abe is a great place if you want to eat Home cooking Filipino food at very reasonable prices. In fact I was expecting it to be more expensive being in Serendra, but surprisingly it's not. It is always full, so if you plan to go, try to make a reservation or go very early.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another Dinner at Manila's Best Private Table

Last Night we had another Dinner at Tita B's house. As mentioned by N (I hope you don't mind me using it for my title) I think her house is truly the best private table in Manila. I was happy because for once, she would sit down with us at the table and not be in the kitchen the whole night. I've had dinner in her house several times but she is busy in the kitchen. The Guest Chef was Ian Padilla, who works for Taillevant in Paris - a 2 star Michelin. He started working in Taillevant as a stagier but after only 2 months, they hired him as a full time Chef. He was back in Manila for a month to fix his papers, so when we were asked if we wanted to join the dinner, how could we say no?

The menu had been sent to us a week in advance, so we had ample time to discuss with N and R what wines to pair with the dinner. Of course all the pairing were done by the master N. We arrived at the house at around 7 pm and most of the guests were already there( I think we were all excited for this Dinner) after some champagne and some chit chat, we started the dinner around 8 PM.

We started off with the Amuse:
* Tarragon Infused Tomato water, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
* Carrot Parfait with Carrot Ginger
* Deviled Quail Egg, Basil Yolks
* Braised Beef Wanton, Thyme and Fleur de Sel

My favorite (and I think the favorite of everybody) was the Carrot Parfait. I also like the Deviled Quail Egg, which was slightly spicy. We paired this with a 2005 Henri Bourgeois Pouilly Fume.

First Course - Roasted Shallot Bisque, Creme Fraiche - Stewed Onions and Chive oil. Very tasty. The stewed onions and Creme Fraiche was a good combination with the Bisque. There were mixed reactions - some people said it had hints of mushroom and one even said it smelled like garlic bread, but over all the taste was good. With this we continued with the 2005 Henri Bourgeois Pouilly Fume.

Second Course - Roulade of Squab Confit, Salda of Haricovert, Radish and Watercress with Olive Oil emulsion. I enjoyed this dish and liked the touch of Fleur de Sel on top of the Roulade. N had a hard time making a decision as to what to pair this with, but finally decided on the Ete de Mondot par Christine Valette. Great choice and I think the pairing was perfect for this dish. A bit for "full bodied" than other Rose wines I've tried, I enjoyed this one very much.

Third Course - Macadamia Nut Crusted Foie Gras - Caramelized Banana, Chocolate Sauce. I like this dish also (of course I always love Foie). First time I try it with Chocolate sauce. Again, N was having trouble paring this one because of the chocolate sauce. R eventually decided on a Sauternes 2004 Chateau Cantegril (which I had given him for his Birthday). I think the pairing was quite ok. Nice touch of the macadamia nut. The Foie was seared perfectly, crusty outside and very tender on the inside.

Fourth Course - Poached Egg w/Duck Fat, Truffle Oil. Roasted Mushrooms, Mushroom Consomme and chives. This is one of the many versions you can have of Oeuf Cocotte. The Egg was quite dry ( I would have liked it a bit more moist). Following N's suggestion, I did not have this with any wine.

Before the Main course came out, they served us a Melon and green Tea Sorbet which I really enjoyed. It was not as citrusy as other restaurants serve them and was perfect to cleanse the palate. I think the Sorbet had a little "orange powder" which gave it a good contrast.

Sixth Course - Roasted Escolar "Sandre", Citrus Marmalade, Salad of Sweet baby corn and Mushrooms. At first, N thought the fish was "Sandre" but I think it was just cooked "sandre style". The fish was actually Cod. It was cooked perfectly and not overdone at all. I enjoyed this meal although I found the Citrus Marmalade to be a bit too overpowering. We continued having the 2005 Henri Bourgeois Pouilly Fume with this.

Seventh Course - Certified Angus Beef Braised Short Ribs, Puree de Pomme de Terre, Bearnaise Beignets, Thyme Natural Jus. The Chef commented that he marinated the beef 24 hours prior to braising it for 8 hours. The beef was as tender as it could get. I particularly enjoyed the Beef with the wine we had. Also the Bearnaise Beignet. For this, we brought 3 bottles of red wine. N brought a '01 LES FORTS DE LATOUR, R brought a '00 PONTET CANET and I brought a 96 CHATEAU HAUT-BAILLY. All 3 were excellent. As pointed out by R, The Haut-Bailly(Pessac Leognan) was peppery and quite different from the 2 others from Paulliac. We enjoyed all 3 wines and continued drinking them after dinner.

Then we had a Pre-Dessert and the main Dessert:
* Sweet Baby Pineapple baked in salt and Pink Peppercorn Crust. Ricotta and Basil
* Terrine of Chocolate, Glazed Fruits, Custard Sauce and Orange Powder

I enjoyed both desserts although I was expecting the to see more pink peppercorn and salt on the Pineapple. The Chocolate Terrine also was a good match with the cherries and the glazed orange. After dessert, we were served with Espresso coffee (Nespresso) which really went well after a meal like that. Ian and his assistant Chef (I forget her name now but she mentioned that she is the Head Chef Of Fireplace Grill at the Hyatt) joined us for a well deserved glass of wine.

A very enjoyable dinner that I hope we can repeat again some day. Thank you Chef Ian for preparing it and thank you Tita B for offering your house and for organizing the dinner. Til next time...I hope soon...