Enchanting is the food prepared by Spanish executive chef Francisco Coque of Diamond Hotel in Manila.
The late Saturday night spread was a mix of traditional Spanish fare with a sprinkling of little plates from his native Canary Islands.
After watching a concert, it was a relief for us to find a venue that serves a small group (from six to a maximum of 20).
The Diamond culinary studio’s picturesque views of Manila Bay and Roxas Boulevard provided the perfect backdrop to Coque’s diverse and exciting repertoire.
The appetizers were composed of Grissini with Jamon Iberico, milky and slightly nutty Majorero or goat cheese from the Canary Islands, paired with membrillo (quince jelly) and grapes, air baguette stuffed with tropical pineapple compote with cream of black pudding and pine nuts.
All of them were good and paired pleasantly with chilled cava and sangria.
Light yet flavorful
Moving on to more dishes, I devoured the Pan con Tomate or toasted bread with grated tomato, salt and extra virgin olive oil. There was fresh Salpicon de Pescado y Marisco, a plate that represents the Canary Islands consisting of prawns, lapu-lapu and octopus dressed with a homemade vinaigrette of sherry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
Mouthwatering was the Mackerel Loin Confit with tomato vinaigrette, ginger and fresh coriander. The fish was firm but melted in the mouth, light yet flavorful.
The Morcilla (Blood Sausage) de Burgos was put together fusion-style with tomato jam, melted Majorero and green mojo sauce.
Sautéed broad beans with artichokes, Iberian ham and quail egg—a famous dish from northern Spain—hinted of the warmth of comfort food.
The flavor of Caldo de Pescado (fish broth with potatoes, cumin and fresh coriander) was all in the potatoes—hearty, with a “cooked by abuela feel.” A Gran Canaria classic, it combines ingredients from the mountain (potatoes) and the sea (cherne fish is commonly used for the caldo).
Smoky and tender was the Pulpo (Octopus) a la Plancha, drizzled with red mojo sauce, tomato compote and finished with arugula.
Tickling our taste buds was the Papas Arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes) with red and green mojo. The mojo sauces were a blend of garlicky, spicy, aromatic and complex.
To die for was the Paella Negra, which was multidimensional and had depth, rounded and had a taste of the sea. The perfect aioli made the paella even more luscious—each bite left us wanting for more.
We capped the meal with Tortitas de Platano con Miel (banana tempura with honey).
Coque’s food is topnotch restaurant quality, charming with a touch of home-cooked meals.
His biggest gift is an ability to highlight each ingredient as an integral part of the whole dish.
I highly recommend the culinary studio if you’re planning a small fete or a special Sunday lunch with the family.
Just two days after our visit, I was back at the culinary studio, this time to savor Coque’s rendition of Cochinillo Stuffed with Truffle Rice that the chef will showcase, along with Paella Negra and other classics at the food festival dubbed Exquisita Comida Española on April 3-9 at Diamond’s main dining outlet, Corniche.
Diamond Hotel, Roxas Blvd. corner Dr. J. Quintos St., Manila; tel. 5283000; visit diamondhotel.com
Chef Coque’s Paella Negra for 2
120 g paella rice
90 g negra sauce
20 ml olive oil
700 ml seafood stock
0.5 g bay leaves
Sea salt to taste
In a paellera, sauté rice with negra sauce in olive oil. Add seafood stock and bay leaf.
Boil and simmer for 8 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the liquid is reduced to half. Add salt to taste.
To evenly cook rice, bake in a preheated 200°C oven for 5-7 minutes. Serve with aioli.
To make negra sauce:
350 g squid, sliced
200 g crabs
200 g bisugo
130 g prawn heads
50 g white onions
170 g each red and green capsicum
65 g carrots
65 g ripe tomato
50 g white radish
15 g fennel
50 ml white wine
200 g tomato sauce
65 g squid ink
550 ml water
Roast prawn heads, crabs and bisugo in the oven for 20 minutes at 225°C.
Transfer to a pot, add water. Simmer for 1.5 hours.
Strain stock and set aside.
Chop vegetables and sauté. Add squid. Add wine and reduce. Add tomato sauce, squid ink. Add strained stock.
Simmer for an hour.