Tuesday, May 26, 2015

From Spain with Love

 

Published on Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, May 14, 2015

From Spain with Love

Chef Andoni Aduriz brings his Michelin-starred cooking skills to Manila with a one-night-only dinner at Gallery Vask, together with Chef Chele Gonzalez

 

Perhaps the biggest regret I had during my recent trip to Spain was not to being able to dine at Mugaritz in San Sebastian. The two-Michelin star, the sixth best restaurant in the world was closed for business the time I was there.

So imagine my euphoria when I learned that Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz himself was doing a one-night only four-hands dinner at Gallery Vask with Chele Gonzalez, one of my favorite chefs in Manila. Ayayay. If something is meant for you, you need not travel halfway around the world to look for it, because the kitchen from halfway across the globe will come to you! Thanks, of course, to Madrid Fusion Manila.

 

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Chef Chele Gonzalez of Gallery Vask enjoying a cocktail before dinner service

 

 

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Chefs Andoni Aduriz and Julieta Caruso in Gallery Vask kitchen

 

 

So you see, Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz and I, we were really meant to be.

I had been giddy with excitement ever since I listened to him speak at the International Gastronomy Congress at SMX last April 25. I was enamored by his wisdom, humility and great sense of humor. Incidentally, his talk and Chele’s were the ones I truly enjoyed the most. Andoni inspired the audience by his simple but genuine pieces of advice, which apply not only in the kitchen but also in every aspect of our lives: Practice until it becomes a habit. Always question yourself. Have ambitious goals, dream big, aim high – real high – and work hard. Have passion. Be eager to learn and be consistent. Be sincere and honest. Amen!!! And our dear Chele, he warmed every Filipino heart out there with stories about his travels around the Philippines, where he found not only ingredients and techniques, but people, relationships, and farmers who have become his friends. This Spanish-by-blood, Filipino-by-heart chef champions our local ingredients and strives to bring our local cuisine up the next level. Andoni and Chele are both giants in their fields, and what a dream come true to be able to sit down and let my palate be pampered by the tandem!

 

 

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Dining Room

 

 

As soon as we were comfortably settled in our seats, they served us stones.

  

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Edible Stones

 

Yes, on a bed of sand laid smooth gray rocks that were to be eaten with our bare hands, instructed the jolly darling of a manager Jose Ramon who flew in all the way from Spain with the Mugaritz team.

 

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Mugaritz Manager Jose Ramon instructing us to eat with our hands

 

 

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One bite revealed a pleasant surprise - underneath the edible clay was a perfectly cooked potato!
Andoni’s playfulness garnered oohs and ahhs across the room.

 

 

Next came Chele’s take on the isaw, a popular Filipino street food of intestines on stick. He used shrimp paste cooked over charcoal in lieu of offal to recreate this local delicacy. Nothing was what they seemed at this dinner. Each of the eighteen courses was a process of discovery and wonder.

  

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Shrimp Isaw

 

 

The “Belly of the Monk” macaron was an impeccable balance of sweet and salty. Foie gras cream sandwiched between two cookies made with… wait for it… pig’s blood! This could give the famous French macaron brands a run for their money.

 

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"Belly of the Monk" Macaron

 

 

My favorite of Andoni’s dishes, however, had to be the kokotxa. The throat of cod was served in two different textures, a soft and gelatinous slice in between thin and crisp kokotxa crackers. As with all the courses that came before, our server asked us to grab a whole piece and eat with our hands.

 

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Cultural Textures
(Several layers of dressed kokotxas)

 

 

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Sayote Escabeche

 

 

I devoured the next dish, layers of torched pork belly on toast, with abandon – crumbs everywhere the table and oil trickling down my chin, but I had no care. The fat glistened enticingly at me and I showed it no mercy.

 

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Course Bite of Torched Pork Belly and Fresh Herbs

 

  

The plate that blew me away was the tiradito by Chele. How a simple yellowfin tuna kinilaw topped with arosep seaweed could taste so exquisite left me in complete awe. Every bite was fresh and bright and left me wanting more. 

 

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Tiradito

 

 

Equally incredible was the buro, a humble Filipino dish that Chele elevated into a whole new level. The maya-maya was perfectly moist and tender, its skin savory and crunchy, and the fermented rice as flavorful as could be. It was pure joy to see the Spanish man at our table polish off every last bit of it.

 

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Buro

 

 

Then there were oysters covered in sayote and okra seeds, sea urchin and beer clams in foie gras powder, crab with vegetable mucilage, shredded cochinillo in a sour broth made with the magical alibangbang leaf, wagyu beef with herb sauce and lime, and a mound of caviar for the lucky winner of the guessing game!

 

 

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Aklan

 

 

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Beer Urchin

 

 

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Threads of Crab with Vegetable Mucilage, Macadamias and Pink Peppercorns

 

 

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Guessing Game

 

 

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Revealing the number

 

 

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8 is the correct answer!

 

 

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A generous mound of caviar awarded to the winner

 

 

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Thank you, Angelo, for sharing your prize!

 

 

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My milk cream on toast topped with caviar

 

 

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Binulo 

 

 

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 The Cow and the Grass

 

 

The creamy taho was a real delight. I normally buy this soy dessert off the streets and drink it from paper cups. Having it in a test tube that evening, its silky tofu made with goat’s milk and topped with muscovado tapioca and ginger perfume, made my heart soar.

 

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Taho

 

 

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Pingol Bato

 

 

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Stracciatella

 

 

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Sungka 

 

 

What these geniuses do is simply extraordinary. Every little detail is meticulously planned, every sense of every diner engaged throughout the meal. Andoni and Chele understand that eating is not anymore just about the food. It is also about emotions, memories, surprises, interaction, and magic. And this magical four-hands dinner at Gallery Vask is an experience I will remember for years and years.

 

 

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Unforgettable moment sandwiched between Chefs Chele Gonzalez
and Andoni Aduriz

 

 

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Stephanie Zubiri, Jean Salonga-Fernando, Pamela Cortez, Cheryl Tiu and Carlo Calma 

 

 

Mugaritz Website

Vask Facebook Page

 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Caruso Ristorante Italiano, Revisited ♥ ♥ ♥

 

I have three go-to Italian restaurants here in Manila: Va Bene when I want something quick, La Nuova when I want to enjoy a quiet meal by myself, and Caruso when I want friendly service and white tablecloths.

 

 

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When my Ninang Ann Marie and cousin Cherry requested for pasta during their recent
trip to Manila, Caruso was the first place that came to mind. The Italian restaurant has
been there forever. And the secret to its success: Consistency.

 

 

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 I noticed through the years that a lot of Caruso's diners are families. In fact, we also invaded the
restaurant for a family celebration few years ago. Read about Felisse's birthday dinner here

 

 

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But it is also perfect for romantic dates. Request for the nice table by the piano. ;)

 

 

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Our dinner at Caruso felt like we were eating at our favorite uncle's home. 
Dario, one of the owners, went around the tables making sure guests were happy.

 

 

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He also recommended this lovely bottle to go with our dinner

 

 

What I like about Caruso is the simplicity and freshness of its food. The pastas are homemade, the ingredients of good quality, and the flavors honest.

 

 

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Fresh mozzarella in caprese style

 

 

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Beef carpaccio with shaved parmesan

 

 

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Homemade ravioli with spinach and ricotta cheese in brown butter and sage

 

 

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Garganelli with porcini mushroom - so earthy and creamy

 

 

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Spaghetti vongole with just the perfect amount of heat. My favorite of all!

 

 

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Grilled lapu-lapu fillet with capers and olives

 

 

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Lapu-lapu in tomato sauce with capers and olives 

 

 

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Beef tenderloin with rosemary

 

 

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Even the side of potatoes tasted fantastic!

 

 

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After dinner, our server parked the dessert trolley right next to me and asked if I was 
interested in any. Umm… No???

 

 

Unfortunately, the desserts left much to be desired.

 

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The Torta Millefoglie was soggy

 

 

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Strawberry Pie needed oomph

 

 

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Tiramisu was not bad, but not the best

 

 

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This one saved the meal. It was the creamiest, most luscious panna cotta in the city.
I normally don't like light-colored desserts, but this is a winner in my books! 

 

 

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Perfect with a good cup of Italian coffee

 

 

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As always, I enjoyed spending time with family

 

 

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Make sure to say hello to Caruso owners Dario Gardini and Emilio Mina and
expect these charming gentlemen to make you feel right at home

 

 

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What?! There's a Caruso in Boracay??? Also opening soon in
McKinley Venice Mall!

 

 

Pink

 

 

See my previous post on Caruso here.

Caruso Ristorante Italiano: 210 Nicanor Garcia Street (formerly Reposo), Makati City. Tel: +632 859-2451

 

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