Japon Iberico: The fifth Amanpulo Culinary Weekend

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Dinner in motion
Amanpulo’s fifth Culinary Weekend

Amanpulo’s fifth Culinary Weekend also marked the debut of its current executive chef, Kengo Tomita



Amanpulo’s fifth Culinary Weekend, held on February 24, 2024, marked the most recent iteration of an emergent tradition. The brainchild of longtime patron Maja Olivares-Co and other likeminded Aman Club members like Monina and Piki Lopez, the Culinary Weekend began as a means of rekindling the embers of the resort in the wake of eased pandemic restrictions. Its premise was simple: guests, by invitation only, would fly-in for a weekend adventure at the legendary resort, culminating in a multi-course dinner with a menu never to be replicated.

The iterations varied in theme. The first two were collaborations between then-executive chef Michele Bellotto, an Italian who believed he was Filipino, and the legendary Margarita Forés, Filipino by blood but Italian in spirit. The third and fourth Culinary Weekends had then-executive chef Stefan Goehcke at the helm, a Leipziger who wed Maldivian and Filipino cuisines in transoceanic artistry. The recent fifth weekend was the debut of Amanpulo’s current executive chef, Kengo Tomita. A native of Ibaraki prefecture with years of experience in the Basque Country’s San Sebastián, Tomita blended two cuisines not entirely foreign to the Philippines. “Japon Iberico,” as the Fifth Culinary Weekend was dubbed, brought Japanese and Spanish gastronomic traditions together on a Philippine island.

The Amanpulo sunset

Guests who hailed from the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, and Germany, gathered by the shore at dusk for cocktails and canapés. Introductory nibbles began with something more traditionally Japanese: Nori Tapioca Crackers with Scallop and Yuzu Tartar topped with Salmon Roe. Vegans had the option of a Vegetable and Herb Temari Sushi. These were followed up with a preview of what the night had in store: Yakitori-Style Secreto Iberico Skewers that perfectly balanced the rich flavors of Iberian pork with the subtle sweetness of a Japanese classic. Flutes of flowing champagne circled guests. The more experimental headed to the cocktail station, where they had the option of customizing goblets of Amanpulo’s Farm Gin with their own selection of garnishes (I opted for a combination of sweet basil, kaffir lime, and star anise).

picnic grove
Three chandeliers suspended from vine-enveloped timber frames

As the sun set, guests migrated to the picnic grove. Under Olivares-Co’s creative direction, Amanpulo’s masterful team of engineers and craftsmen had erected three chandeliers suspended from vine-enveloped timber frames, and table settings composed of finds from the forest. Interim general manager Jann Hess and Olivares-Co welcomed guests with some brief opening remarks, in which they acknowledged the hard work of the Culinary Weekend team headed by chef Tomita and Amanpulo Director of Sales and Marketing Rio Tan.

Amanpulo Farm DIY Gin and Tonic
Amanpulo Farm DIY Gin and Tonic

With that, the dinner began. The first “tapas kaiseki” course wed Spanish ingredients to Japanese gastronomic forms. A highlight was the Montadito de Jamon y Manchego Sobrasada maki. The second course featured steamed lobster and uni drizzled with a miso sauce. After cleansing their palates with a Yuzu and Sakura sorbet, guests feasted on a mouthwatering slab of A5 Omi Ribeye Wagyu paired with a gindara houba-yaki. Dessert consisted of an assortment of traditional Japanese tea snacks, which included handmade mochi, anmitsu, and azuki beans. In lieu of tea, Tomita prepared a decadent Uji Macha lava cake.

Tapas Kaiseki
Tapas Kaiseki
Steamed Lobster with Sea Urchin and Miso Sauce
Steamed Lobster with Sea Urchin and Miso Sauce
Japanese OMI A5 Wagyu Ribeye and Gindara with Special BBQ Sauce
Japanese OMI A5 Wagyu Ribeye and Gindara with Special BBQ Sauce

Guests were treated to more champagne throughout the meal, as well as a careful curation of sake pairings from Tsukinoi Shuzoten, a one-hundred-sixty-year-old family-owned brewery located in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture famed for its use of local rice and water. The selection included the sake house’s most exclusive offerings: the Hikoichi Junmai Daiginjo, Tsukinoi Junmai Daiginjo, and Koiume plum sakes.

As the evening wound to a close, some guests lingered for further libation under a full moon and the echoes of karaoke. Others returned to their dwelling places. Amanpulo casitas and villas are famed for their use of local materials and ornamentation. Discretely located in pockets of tranquility, a villa stay promises unparalleled peace and privacy. Those keen on experiencing the best accommodation Amanpulo has to offer might opt for the much sought-after sole one-bedroom villa. The only villa with al fresco living and dining pavilions overlooking the shore, it offers one of the widest frontages among all of Amanpulo’s accommodations and thus a panoramic view of the ocean from every point within the premises.

Amanpulo's One Bedroom Palawan Villa
Amanpulo’s one-bedroom Palawan Villa
The villa offers al fresco living and dining pavilions overlooking the shore
The villa offers al fresco living and dining pavilions overlooking the shore

With over thirty-five properties in twenty countries, Aman’s ability to craft a distinct identity for each while retaining uncompromising standards is nothing short of astounding. The secret seems to lie with the Amansantis, the company’s term for its employees. In Amanpulo’s particular case, many hail from the neighboring island of Manamoc, with which the resort has had a multi-generational relationship predicated on mutual empowerment. This evokes another of Aman’s core values: “celebrate communities.” In the fast-paced and ever-changing world of the hotel business, we hope that the island’s custodians, present and future, continue to do justice to its traditions – both old and new.

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