Authentically French, but not necessarily traditional
It took businessman Duke Ng and his wife, Irene, several trips to Vietnam to finally convince legendary French chef-sommelier Gils Brault to open an honest-to-goodness French restaurant in the Philippines—the Le Jardin Manila.
Brault’s internationally acclaimed restaurant in Ho Chi Minh, Les Trois Gourmands, has been consistently in Lonely Planet’s top list of restaurants in Vietnam. Before his famed restaurant, Brault had 30 years of experience working with other famous French chefs, including Alain Ducasse, as well as cooking for former French President Jacques Chirac and running his own restaurants on the French Riviera.
But Brault fell in love in Vietnam and made it his second home. He put up Les Trois Gourmands in the early 2000; it has become the most sought-after French restaurant for locals and travelers alike.
Brault later revealed to Ng that about 10 Filipino restaurateurs had tried to sway him into opening a restaurant in Manila. It was the group of Ng that Brault finally said yes to because, Ng says, “all the other guys who wanted to open the restaurant with him don’t love to eat.”
“They just want to make money, according to Brault,” Ng continues. “He told me, ‘You really love to eat. And, I see how you eat. I like that.’”
Cozy French haven
Le Jardin Manila opened last May with Brault and two talented young Pinoy chefs, Jonas Ng (Duke’s brother) and Hasset Go at the helm. Gils himself trained the young chefs for six months. They were taught how to make cheese and bread, and everything else, from scratch.
Le Jardin Manila, located at the Penthouse of the W Building at The Fort, transports diners to a place of French elegance and countryside charm. The light is glorious on a bright, sunny day, especially since it has a cool garden theme.
Its high ceilings and muted walls give a sense of airiness and space. Large glass windows frame a view of the Ortigas skyline. The 100-plus seating area has two private rooms that can be combined into one.
There’s no dress code, says Ng, to make the French dining experience accessible to more diners.
The restaurant offers three-, four- and five-course degustation meals to guide diners on how to enjoy the best of French cuisine. They can also opt for a la carte and enjoy Coquilles St. Jacques Poêlées, Purée de Pommes de Terre aux Truffes (seared scallops, truffled mashed potatoes) and Escargot de Bourgogne (Burgundy snails in garlic and parsley butter) for appetizers; Grilled Tuna Steak with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce, Braised Beef Cheek topped with Pan Seared Foie Gras and Braised Lamb Shank for mains; and Crème Brulee and Profiterole au Chocolat for dessert.
Diners can also enjoy in between courses such as the recommended amuse bouche—truffled scrambled eggs, fresh lemon shake as palate cleanser, and an artisan cheese plate composed of different flavored cheeses made in the restaurant.
The menus at Gils’ Les Trois Gourmands and Le Jardin Manila are almost the same, with dishes made from the freshest ingredients sourced locally, like the oysters.
“Le Jardin Manila can be as authentically French as you can get,” says Ng. “But we don’t want to be tied down to saying we are truly authentic. Gils is very experimental. It can be authentic style, but not necessarily traditional.”
In true French fashion, Le Jardin Manila also boasts its own wine library which houses choice vinos from small production vineyards and chateaux in France. Each bottle is carefully selected by Gils.
Le Jardin Manila is located at Penthouse, W Fifth Building, 5th Ave. cor. 32nd St., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Open Monday to Saturdays, 11 a.m. -10:30 p.m.
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