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The meal that started out as a mystery and ended like a good detective novel

By: - Columnist
/ 07:10 AM April 12, 2018

Cru’s Mystery Box, made of kiln-dried mahogany wood, contains raw and fresh ingredients for dinner for two.

Mystery. Surprise. Conspiracy. It sounds like the makings of a good detective novel. It’s also all the elements of a new dining concept recently introduced at Cru Steakhouse at Manila Marriott Hotel.

The mystery is the black box made of kiln-dried mahogany wood. In it are raw and fresh ingredients for dinner for two—except that you won’t know what’s in the box until the chef opens it at your table.

The only thing that’s sure to be there is a slab of prime steak—tenderloin, perhaps, or strip loin.

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The rest could be as exotic as truffle paste or as mundane as tomatoes, which can be made into side dishes, soup and dessert, and you get to choose how you want them cooked.

At our table during a recent media presentation, our black box contained organic spinach, truffle paste, large button mushrooms, arborio rice, a green apple, a potato and a slab of stockyard striploin steak. How we wanted them prepared was the big question.

I think we let the chef off easily, choosing as we did familiar dishes, some of them upon chef Meik Brammer’s suggestion.

We asked that the mushroom be made into soup, chose the spinach over the potatoes and asked for creamed spinach, the truffle paste to be cooked with the rice into a risotto, and the steak seared according to our individual preferences (medium rare, medium or medium well).

On hindsight our table should have conspired to ask for dishes that would challenge the chef, not the easy, conventional ones we asked for.

The mushrooms could have been mushroom duxelles, finely chopped mushrooms sautéed in butter and shallots and finished with fine wine.

Some of the ingredients that can be inside the Mystery Box.

Potatoes over spinach

We should have ditched the spinach and chosen instead the potatoes, to be made into potato dauphinoise, a traditional French dish infused with garlic, milk and cream, sprinkled with cheese on top before being baked.

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Or what about duchess potatoes, puréed boiled potatoes blended with egg yolks, butter and cream, then piped into decorative shapes and baked? That would have been a wonderful opportunity to savor this dish.

The steak was more straightforward, as nothing much need be done to a fine cut of beef. But what if we had asked that it be made into Beef Wellington?

Or perhaps we should have asked the kitchen to prepare béarnaise sauce to accompany the steak.

Instead we settled for the black peppercorn sauce and an assortment of other sauces (mint, Pommery mustard and truffle mustard) that were served with the steak.

Nevertheless the conventional meal that emerged from our black box turned out to be delectable.

The soup was redolent of freshly cooked mushrooms, the greenish gray liquid yielding delightful chunks of mushrooms with every spoonful. Creamy and smooth, the risotto was enriched with the flavor of truffles.

The steak was cooked to the perfect doneness, somewhere between medium rare and medium, which was exactly how I wanted it.

Though we didn’t have béarnaise sauce, the black peppercorn sauce and the truffle mustard sauce were good enough enhancers for the steak.

At least for dessert we didn’t have the conventional apple pie. Instead we chose to have German apple pancake, which chef Meik suggested.

The pancakes were fluffy, with the generous slices of apples adding texture and taste. Topped with vanilla ice cream, it was a delightful ending to a meal that started out as a mystery and ended, like a good detective novel, with a good satisfying resolution.

Cru Steakhouse Mystery Box costs P3,850 and is good for a three-course dinner for two. Call 9889999 or visit manilamarriott.com.

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