“I am eating warm chorizo pao de queijo now. So good!!!” my friend Leslie texted me. I could almost hear her moaning with pleasure inside the restaurant while I was stuck in traffic, hungry and lost in the maze of one-way streets in Legazpi Village.
I wanted to unfriend her right then and there. And then another text came in. “They brought out a second bowl. Hurry!!!” Whew. There was gonna be enough for everyone. Friendship saved.
Chorizo Pao de Queso
Five. The number of the chewy parmesan puffs I stuffed into my mouth before I managed to pull myself away from the table to admire the rest of the newly opened restaurant Allium.
It was beautiful
The dining room was polished but not stuffy, elegant yet exuded warmth and coziness
On the second floor was Chef Mark Tan’s playground, the dream kitchen of every chef
It was handsomely equipped, enabling the restaurant to bake its own breads, extrude its
own pastas, dehydrate its own bacon...
And the list of possibilities goes on and on...
Best of all, a chef’s table sits right by it, allowing diners to witness the behind-the-scenes while they savor their meals. Watching food and smelling food while eating food… ahhh, what could be more pleasurable to our senses?
There is also CCTV to spy on the guests! :P
Our table was adorned with spherical flowers in my favorite color. “These are alliums,” our smiling
server introduced us to our purple centerpiece. Allium is a plant of a genus that includes garlic,
chives, onions and leeks – the family which makes up the backbone of the flavors Chef Mark
uses for his contemporary American dishes, hence, the restaurant name.
I sat down and popped another chorizo pao de queso into my mouth. Talk about addictive!
Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Amuse bouche was a nice and tangy dorade royale ceviche served with dehydrated Kurobuta
bacon chip. The small piece of fish was big enough in flavor to cause my salivary glands
to function over-excessively. It literally whetted and wetted my palate!
Fresh Brittany oysters, a duo of David Herve and Jean Luc Le Gall, arrived on half shells.
The molluscs were swimming in cocktail consommé and dotted with freshly grated wasabi.
I consumed each oyster in one hungry slurp and each time it was like my tongue dived into
the deep blue sea.
The tartare of kampachi, red onions and chives sat on a perfectly toasted brioche and crowned
with house-cured lobster caviar. The two-bite amberjack dish was subtle in flavor with
textures playing from soft, supple and slippery to crisp, coarse and bready.
Our next course was fresh flown in seared Brittany scallops that rested on sweet melted leeks
and in a pool of creamy sabayon made with yuzu, egg yolks and uni. The scallop roe was fried
to resemble the texture of sweetbreads, and the mantle done to a crisp to add a little adventure
to the velvety dish.
The pan-roasted wild atlantic seabass was a classic served with Echire beurre blanc.
The fish was skillfully prepared with the skin oh so crisp, and the flesh moist and flaky.
The star of the show for me, however, was the side of veggies. Yes, vegetables,
as in sweet baby corn, cauliflower, broccoli, and the very robust piperade!
“The salmon!!!” I squealed after I took my first forkful of the organic Irish beauty. I am a true hater
of cooked salmon (I only like it raw), but how Chef Mark hit the bull’s eye with this one –
that very millisecond when raw becomes cooked – made me reconsider my love-hate
relationship with this oily fish. The broth made with hommard lobster stock infused with
konbu and freshly shaved honkareibushi was very, very, very delicate.
Ramsay Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
I wondered if there was ground unicorn meat mixed in with my 48-hour slow-braised Dutch
veal cheek, because it was magically soft, so soft it was, I quote my girlfriend, “perfect for
people with no teeth!” Hahaha but true! The port veal jus was rich and sticky, the cauliflower
puree was love.
The Snake River Farms Black Label wagyu striploin was medium rare all throughout,
the only way I like my steak done. It was served with a side of bordelaise sauce,
but I felt no need to season it.
The Kurobuta rack of pork rib chop, also by Snake River Farms, was a revelation.
Lean yet tender and tremendously flavorful, served but with a maple mustard pork jus.
I found so much joy and beauty in its simplicity.
Chef Mark’s house-made XO sauce of dried scallops, Japanese dried hibe, dried Oregon morel
mushrooms, and our very own Pinoy sili labuyo were cooked in roasted Japanese sesame oil.
This was accessory to the wild caught atlantic turbot that he seared on the plancha.
To accompany all the protein, we had...
Sweet and chubby glazed baby carrots
Next came an eggshell with caramel foam shyly peaking out from its open crown.
Underneath the fluffiness was a milk and butter caramel sauce, some maple syrup,
and at the bottom, chocolate pot de creme. It was called “The Laiskonis Egg,” our
pre-dessert and Chef Mark’s homage to Le Bernardin’s pastry chef Michael Laiskonis.
Our sweet ending was a mocha parfait with layers and layers of frozen valrhona
ice cream foam, espresso jelly, valrhona chocolate mousse, dehydrated strawberry
tart shell topped with orange blossom honey whipped crème fraiche. Whew!!!
So many flavors and textures complementing each other with the ultimate goal
of pleasuring our palates, our bodies, our souls.
And my gosh, pleasure all night it did!
Andrea, Jin, Leslie, Sharlene :)
Allium: Ground Floor of Grand Midori Condominium, Bolanos Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City.
Tel: 09996943068, 09163563663, or 5191088.