The baked salmon’s crust was crispy, sweetened with caramel and glazed with bourbon whisky for a slight tang.
Rep. Lucy Torres Gomez was so pleased with the bourbon-baked salmon at Cru, Manila Marriott’s steakhouse, that she was given a private class on how to make it.
“It’s one of those dishes that people talk about,” says Marriott’s executive chef Meik Brammer. “And it’s the crème dela crème who decide what’s a good steakhouse.”
Cru is one of the power places in the restaurant scene. A shelf is filled with metal plaques of regular patrons such as taipan Andrew Tan, scion Kevin Tan, philanthropist Nedy Tantoco and Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson. President Aquino has had repeat visits. Former first lady Imelda Marcos, Kris Aquino, Dingdong Dantes, Manny and Jinkee Pacquiao are red meat lovers.
As in most steakhouses, the chef brags about the steaks. “The US steak has the best flavor. Their cows run happily in big farms and they eat fresh grass feeds. The Filipinos love the Australian rib eye because it has nice fat in the middle. Then there’s the Australian Tajima Wagyu, which is softer, juicier and has more fat,” says Brammer.
As soon as the plate is served, one sniffs the piquant top note of its char and the subtle undertones of aging. A spectrum of textures unfolds on the palate: crunchy at edges, soft at the bone and a little sogginess from the juices.
For grilled versions, the steaks have a robust, mildly salty and peppery crust that enhances the deep flavors of the beef. Cru is said to have a “secret weapon,” but the restaurant is mum about the Cru 14, a butter-based formula of several ingredients used as a post marinade.
A steakhouse is not without the classic Surf and Turf. Cru’s version is Australian grain-fed Angus tenderloin with Asian tiger prawns and portobello mushrooms, plus whipped potato on red wine jus.
Another specialty, the 350-gram US prime rib eye, comes with a black pepper sauce and luxurious side dishes of black truffle risotto and steamed broccoli with truffle paste. Or, you can ask for the usual suspects—golden hand-cut chips or spicy wedges.
Aside from rib eye, guests can have their choice cuts such as the wide porterhouse that’s grilled to the bone, or the tenderloin and strip loin that are sweet and pink beneath the crust.
It’s not just the steak that’s drawing crowds. Cru’s chefs can express their creativity through contemporary plates.
“For some, the steaks, side dishes, potato and vegetable seem too much. Better to have one plate—an easy dish,” says Brammer.
Grilled chicken breast is one of the star dishes. “As there are many chicken restaurants, it was difficult for my chef and I to create a dish. The chicken has a peppery crust that goes with the creamy mashed potato,” says Brammer.
For starters, Brammer suggests a cold seafood platter of king crab, slipper and jumbo tiger prawns, slowly poached to retain their softness. The seafoods are mildly flavored with lemon juice and wine and spiked with cocktail sauce and jalapeño salsa. Beneath their shells are tender meat.
Feeling indulgent? The seared foie gras is made with pan-seared seasoning and served with toasted brioche, grape relish and mango salve to balance the richness of the foie gras.
A healthier alternative—the spinach salad drizzled with light balsamic vinaigrette—is enclosed in a crispy baked parmesan basket. The plate is adorned with orange, cherry tomato, walnuts and gorgonzola cheese for a slight aged flavor.
“Every day we search for the right product. My seafood supplier is not always the same. I make sure my suppliers are on a daily waiting list. I check the standard or products to pick the best spinach, tomato and arugula,” maintains Brammer.
It’s also good to know that the restaurant uses organic vegetables and free-range poultry.
For dessert, it boasts of the fluffiest soufflé and crepe suzettes.
Brammer adds that he “deconstructed” the tiramisu. Instead of a mush of cream with lady fingers and dustings of chocolate, he toyed with layers of espresso-soaked sponge cake, sprinkled with rum and filled with sweetened mascarpone. Curls of chocolate lend an artistic touch.
“I pulled everything apart and put everything together again,” he says.
One of Cru’s innovations is chocolate ganache, formed into a dome that covers gianduja or sweet chocolate and hazelnut paste. Raspberry and chocolate fudge intensify the ecstasy.
“We do everything to make everyone happy. At night, we take the menu away and say, ‘Let me cook something especially for you!’” says Brammer.
Call Manila Marriott at 988-9999.
PHOTOS BY NELSON MATAWARAN