The Peninsula Manila’s general manager Sonja Vodusek thought the event important enough to go back to work while she was still on holiday. It turns out the holiday was her honeymoon (congratulations!). But being Australian, she felt that she had to be at the hotel’s “Tasting Australia 2013.”
The lunch didn’t feature the cooking of the guest chef from Australia, Greg Doyle, who won “Restaurateur of the Year” because of his successful “The Sailors Club” in Sydney. He will be arriving on the last week of January when the 10-day festival starts on Jan. 25.
The write-up about Greg Doyle is crowded with awards, Michelin stars he has earned, and several restaurants he cooked at or owned that were cited as best or “national.” Now I suppose we have to wait for him to arrive to taste his cooking and find out what Australia has been raving about.
He will have with him as well Steven Skelly, his executive chef at The Sailors Club, his pastry chef Nic Waring and fellow Aussie Adam Mathis of The Peninsula Tokyo.
We were not exactly deprived that day of the announcement. Executive chef Samuel Linder and his staff used Australian ingredients for the meal served, including many indigenous ingredients. The Tasmanian Ocean trout was poached and presented with goat cheese and lemon myrtle snow. We had Rosella sorbet, a variety of hibiscus or gumamela mixed with Yarra Valley sparkling wine to cleanse our palate before the main dish.
That was braised lamb in a pie and smoked Wagyu beef served with bush tomato fondue, honey-glazed beets and mushy peas. Dessert was a variation of the pavlova with a wattle seed cream.
But chef Doyle was there on the computer screen to answer questions. I asked him if fine dining is, indeed, dead since he emphasized that his restaurant wants more casual dining. He said that the times call for that, though the cooking will have the same high standards.
International ‘kitchen tour’
Another hotel announced its own promotion this January. The Inter-Continental Manila will have a “Kitchen Tour” until the end of the month at the Prince Albert Restaurant featuring recipes from the book “InterContinental Kitchen” (2007).
I knew I had an Inter-Continental Manila book but, as it turned out, I had two. The other one was “A Chef’s Journey,” published in 1996 to celebrate the hotel chain’s 50th anniversary, and featuring mostly the Asian properties.
Executive chef Alisdair Bletcher chose the dishes to be featured and resignedly said he kept the recipes intact save for some ingredient changes. For instance, the pan-fried foie gras sat on top of a cepe couscous instead of a risotto, the original recipe from Phoenicia in Lebanon. Tilapia substituted for the sea bream in the light, very good dish from Cyprus.
We took a trip to those Inter-Continental properties through our palate. The Cyprus dish was decidedly Mediterranean, with a light tomato sauce, and the caul wrapping the tilapia not only kept it together but added a bit of good fat to the flavor.
The pumpkin and ginger soup with seared scallops from Berlin was perhaps the best of that kind of soup that has become popular in many restaurants. For dessert, it was a hop to London with strawberry mille feuille with vanilla goat cheese mousse and strawberry jelly.
While we ate, we were kept abreast about some of the properties and how the scenery has changed since the book was printed five years ago. It certainly is true with InterContinental Manila.
And what about Manila’s recipe? It was pancit palabok. Don’t ask me why.
The “Kitchen Tour” also includes trips to Romania, Bora-Bora, Perth and Toronto and will be available until Jan. 31.
And I don’t know about you, but I still like fine dining with its uniformed formal waiters, the white tablecloth, the good crystals and china. It should be good this Valentine’s Day, especially with the chocolate treats like the lipstick that we tried on our lips and erased with a lick.
E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.