Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Special Dinner at La Tienda

I had planned a special dinner in La Tienda with a group of friends...the reason?...of course to eat good food and drink good Vino. So with the help of N, we planned the menu for the dinner. Aside from our 'favorite' dishes that we always order, I wanted them to try a special dish that I enjoy: Kokotxas al Pil-Pil. Translated, Kokotxas is the delicate pendulums of flesh growing in the throat of the fish. In Spain, it's typical to have Kokotxas de Bacalao al Pil-Pil. Here, since its hard to find fresh Bacalao, Chef Javi decided to use Lapu Lapu. It took him almost one month to collect all the kokotxas of the Lapu Lapu, plus eventually harassing the supplier to give him some more.

As soon as everybody arrived, we started the night with a bottle of Cava that Jay brought, a Freixenet Cordon Rosado Brut. They also served us as an appetizer, Chorizo Cocido, which is Chorizo Bilbao but boiled instead of fried. The Cava was very refreshing and went down very well. By that time, I knew I was going to enjoy the dinner....

Moving on, they served us the appetizers: Boquerones, Escalivada and Pulpo a la Gallega. For the wines, we thought this would go perfect with Spanish Albariño, a typical fresh and crisp wine from Galicia. N brought a bottle of Laxas and I brought a bottle of Pazo de San Mauro, which I got from Barcino. I enjoyed most the Boquerones and escalivada with the white wine, a perfect combination.

For main course, I had initially asked for Paella de Verduras and Fideuada, which is a noodle Paella. Unfortunately the noodles were not available so I decided to order a Paella Negra instead. With that, they served us the Besugo al Horno, Chuleton and Kokotxas al Pil Pil. A usual the Paella was perfectly done with Basmati rice. Just the right moisture. Such a simple but great dish. The Paella Negra was also done with Basmati Rice. and had a combination of Seafood and vegetables.

The Kokotxas were done al Pil Pil, which means slight simmered in olive oil and a little garlic. After 3-4 minutes, the clay pot is 'shaken' continuously to create an emulsion that looks very much like a mayonnaise. The fat of the fish together with the garlic is what causes the oil to emulsify. They were quite tasty and felt like gelatin in your mouth. This was also perfect with the Albariño wine.

As they served the Chuleton, we started with the red wines. For starters, we tried my bottle of 00 Venus La Universal (decanted for about 2 hours)- from the Montsant region in Tarrgona, Catalunya. It was a peppery, spicy wine typical from the region. Next was a 01 Finca Dofi Priorato, 2nd label of the L'Ermita made by Alvaro Palacios. J had brought several bottles of wine and asked me to choose which one to open. My first choice was the 95 Dalmau Reserva - first label of Marques de Murrieta. I had been to Marques de Murrieta some 5 years ago and remember enjoying all the wines specially the Dalmau. It was a medium bodied very elegant wine.

We then decided to open the other bottle of J, the 82 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva. I had also visited this winery during my La Rioja trip and tried several vintages but never the 82. I could not even believe that someone from here could have wines like this, so this was a special treat for all of us to try. Last wine we tried was again from La Rioja - Johnny's bottle 01 Beronia Gran Reserva. I first tried this wine with N in another La Tienda dinner and I really enjoyed it. 01 was a good year for La Rioja and this wine was not an exception. Very typical which we all enjoyed. We also had the 2000 Grans Muralles, a Torres wine from D.O. Conca de Barbera, in the Southern Region of Catalunya. Quite different from the other Catalunya wines we had but very enjoyable also.

For Dessert, Javi served us Torrijas, a typical dish served during Mardi Gras. It is bread soaked in milk and wine then fried in Olive Oil. It was served with a special home made Chhese Ice Cream and black Olives. Perfect way to end our meal. We had some espressos and a shot of Cardenal Mendoza, courtesy of JayL.

It was a great dinner that I truly enjoyed. Thank you Chef Javi for preparing such a great meal. It was also nice to meet Jojo, Jay and Johnny. We should do this again soon, maybe tring other typical dishes from San Sebastian, which is where the Chef was born...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Birthday Dinner at Gourmand

It was my Dad's birthday on Feb 14, so as always we normally celebrate it a day before. This time we wanted to do something special as he always treats us and pays for all our meals (that's what Parents are for right??). So we(my sisters and I) decided to treat him for a dinner at Gourmand. If I am a creature of habit, my dad is worse...he has dinner 3-4 times a week in La Tienda with his friends and 'only' drinks Marques De this time I planned something different.

I had planned this dinner 3 weeks in advance with Chef Marc Aubry and I asked Marc to prepare us 6 appetizers that were not on the menu and we would just order our main from the regular menu.

For starters, we had the Terrine of Foie (one of my favorites). With that we opened 2 bottles of 2006 Raimbault-Pineau Pouilly-Fumé. As soon as everybody else arrived, the appetizers started coming.... We had:

* Goose Confit and Mushroom Filos on Greens - I enjoyed this dish since I love anything that is wrapped with filo and also love Goose - so how can I go wrong??

* Baked Stuffed White Clams - Big clams with a sort of Pesto Sauce. Very good although a bit salty, but we still enjoyed it.
*Roasted Scallops with Bone Marrow with Red Wine Jus - Perfect Combination of the Scallop and Bone Marrow. This went very well with our Pouilly-Fumé
* Mini Roesti top with Roasted Foie Gras - this was the favorite of the night. Roasted Foie gras a top the mini Roesti. I had a Sauternes prepared for this dish but the sauce/glaze on the Foie was rich/Sweet so I decided to keep the Sauternes for dessert.
Steak Tartare .. (of course) - I will not post a picture anymore of the Tartare, since there are several on my blog, but needless to say it was good, very tasty. Next time I'll ask Marc to make it a bit more spicy...

For main, I had (as usual) the Goose Leg Confit which is one of my favorites. This time I requested it to be served without the sauce on the side. It was just how I expected it and paired very well with my 01 Ch. La Tour Haut-Brion. R had the special of the night, Wild Pheasant. It was quite tasty although a bit tough and not as fatty since it was wild...but still very good. It was also a bit gamey but it was expected. Once the Pessac-Leognan bottle was polished, my Dad pulled out his favorite wine (the only one he drinks actually), a Marques De Caceres Reserva. It was a typical Rioja wine, easy to drink and also went well with the steak and the lamb that others ordered.

For Dessert, I ordered in advance the Chestnut Soufflé. I had first tried this during a Christmas lunch we had with N in Gourmand. Then, he paired it with a 1988 Domaine Hugel et Fils Gewürztraminer Sélection de Grains Nobles, which was fantastic. I had no chance to bring a Gewurzt to the dinner so I decided to pair it with an 06 Carmes de Riussec, which I think was a good paring. I love this dessert and have to thank N for introducing me to this. I will definitely have this again soon.

After Dessert, we capped off with a Port that was served on the house plus a small cake for my Dad's birthday (Including waiters singing..). Everybody was quite to the limit of alcohol so only my Dad and my self drank the Port (plus we drank all the others of course, since it would be a shame to leave the glass full) and a couple of espressos. We truly enjoyed this special dinner and thank you Marc for going out of your way to prepare such a great dinner for us. Service was spot on as usual, very efficient and fast.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

SALA - Revisited

I'm a creature of habit and once I like a place, I keep on coming back. So after the Birthday dinner I had there for R, I just had to go back. I still have a pending tasting from the Chef, he mentioned he could make great Steak that still has to be seen...and I'm hoping that when Chef Carlo comes back from his wedding/Honeymoon I can finally try his Steak Tartare.

Anyway Back to SALA, I had a lunch meeting in Makati and first thought of going to Greenbelt 5. When I got there, I really did not know where to eat so I asked a friend what he could recommend. He told me he did not like any of the restaurants there and suggested SALA. So without even thinking, I walked from GB5 to SALA. I got there quite late so there was hardly anybody in the Restaurant. While waiting, I ordered a glass of refreshing Sauvignon Blanc.

For starters, I had to order the Twice Baked Souffle with Prawn, Feta and Dill. This dish is simply delicious...firm and crusty on the outside, soft and moist on the inside. I think this is a dish that has been on the menu of SALA since the day it first opened years ago.

Since I couldn't have Steak Tartare, I decided on the next best thing: Wagyu Beef Carpaccio with Port Jelly, Creamed Horseradish and Parsnip chips. Another great dish...fine Wagyu beef, went perfectly well with the port Jelly and creamed also comes with some greens slightly tossed with a vinaigrette...this is definitely the next best thing if there is no Tartare...

For my main, I asked for the Porcini and Parmesan Crusted Chicken Scallopini with Truffle Oil Mash and Marsala Jus. I definitely also enjoyed this dish, the contrast from the Parmesan and Truffle and the heavenly mash potatoes french style. We also had Roast Pork Tenderloin with White Bean and Bacon Cassoulet. Another great dish, the Pork so tender and tasty, while the Beans on the Cassoulet were just right and gave the dish good contrast and made it very hearty..

For Dessert, Dark Chocolate Souffle with Almond Ice cream. Simply perfectly done, with cream and Ice Cream. We shared this together with some espressos and really enjoyed this lunch. SALA is a definitely a place that is in my top 5 list of places to go back and back again until I have tried everything on the menu..

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mori Mori, Alabang

We had an impromptu get together last night with our group of friends and decided to have dinner in our favorite Japanese restaurant in Alabang - MORI MORI. As far as I remember this place has always been there. Owned by a Japanese who has been living in the Philippines for years, this restaurant is a very simple place and specializes in serving Yakiniku. Beef is always top quality fresh. I think that's why this place has been in business for such a long time.

They also have other specialties/favorites that we normally always order like Kimchi, Bean Sprouts and Tempura. The food - so simple but so well made and fresh. even the rice is fantastic (moist white Japanese rice).

For Dinner, we ordered the mixed beef sampler and the Super fine Kalbi platter. Thin slices of Beef with marbled fat. So fresh it looks like Sashimi. We cook them in a piping hot grill in the middle of the table, with a foil of fresh garlic in oil. Its served with a special sweetish sauce, mixed with finely chopped garlic paste and chili.

The tempura is not like the typical oily/tiny ones that I've tried around. Huge shrimp coated in a thin coating of batter perfectly fried and not oily...the way it should be. One of my favorite restaurants in the Alabang area. The only problem: You really smell like food when you walk out - so make sure you have no where else to go after you eat here. Its definitely worth it. Its not cheap, but you are always assured of great service and Top quality food.