Very rarely does the word “light” aptly describe the traditionally butter-laden and creamy fare one usually expects of French cuisine, so I was a bit thrown off, in a good way, with The Peninsula Manila’s visiting chef Patrice Martineau’s menu.
Perhaps it’s Tokyo, where he resides and works, rubbing off on him, where people generally eat healthier, and according to him, are sensitive to too much salt. Perhaps also, it really is the trend for French cuisine to go a little healthier, with less butter, cream and fat.
The challenge, of course, would be to keep it flavorful, but Chef Martineau’s menu for his one-week stint at Old Manila has no problem in that sense. His dishes are familiar yet something you’ve never tried, such as salmon confit paired with caramelized fresh fig, or marinated scallop with spiced watermelon.
“I find inspiration in Tokyo, where I live,” he says, “The people, the energy. I always like to create and invent things.”
He features a few dishes from The Peninsula Tokyo’s premier restaurant and one of the city’s hippest spots, Peter, at Old Manila for the rest of this week. On Saturday he is offering a cooking class consisting of 2-3 dishes. He will teach whatever he feels is the most well-received throughout the week.
We started with tomato degustation as our amuse bouche and included a bite-size panini with tomato and olives, cold tomato veloute, and the deceivingly simple roasted cherry tomatoes with green tomato leaf oil—I think this was my favorite.
The Tokyo connection was evident in the marinated scallop with mango-passion fruit chutney, spiced watermelon and a citrus broth infused with wasabi. The flavors weren’t the usual pairings but nonetheless worked really well and, more importantly, the dish tasted streamlined and clean.
The best surprise for me was the Tasmanian Salmon Confit. Topped and sitting next to the fish were caramelized fresh figs flown in from Australia, a subtle sweet contrast to the savory salmon, and beside it was a smoked salmon salad and potato tempura. The entire dish seemed strange at first, but as soon as I dug in, my palate said it made perfect sense.
The Champagne Poached French Heritage Red Label Chicken was a tribute to Chef Martineau’s place of birth—Troyes in the gastronomic region of Champagne in France. The red label chickens are held in high regard, as they adhere to strict rules when it comes to their feed and are grown only in a certain part of the country.
In this dish it was poached in Champagne cream sauce, again surprisingly light and not at all cloying, and paired with mushroom fricassee and celery root, stem and leaves. Even if you say you dislike celery, you will find yourself eating it. It just brings all the mild flavors together into something so seemingly simple and filled with comfort. If you were French, you’d imagine your grand-mere whipping this up for you.
Dessert was Apple-Citrus Vacherin with Granny Smith gelee, cider reduction and Calvados Chantilly cream. This was essentially a pavlova, but with flavors you don’t expect in one. The freshness of the Granny Smith apples and the yuzu powder provided a contrast to the sweet merengue shell. I didn’t want this course to end.
The meal was a refreshing take on French cuisine, both literally and figuratively. Chef Patrice Martineau’s menu will be available until June 30. Four-course lunches and dinners are available, except Thursday, wherein a five-course dinner and wine pairing will take place.
Call The Peninsula Manila at 8872888 or 8103456 for reservations.