Inspired by Cirque du Soleil’s “Varekai” show—the awesome touring circus by performers acclaimed worldwide—has inspired the Manila Hotel to whip up a Cirque du Soleil degustation menu in the Champagne Room, served until July 30.
“Varekai” combines circus art, dance, street magic and shows the extent of incredible tricks the human body is capable of.
Creative European cuisine
Executive sous chef Christine Zarandin produced a six-course menu even before she could watch a performance.
After a month of research, she came up with a “modern European cuisine” set that combines French, Greek, Italian cuisines. She also used molecular gastronomy, a scientific cooking approach which makes use of froth and foam as flavoring.
Presentation is key. The Champagne Room’s romantic French interiors make a fitting backdrop. The food should be fun and colorful in keeping with the circus theme, but still elegant.
The appetizer Foie Gras Aeralist is a foie gras ball on a skewer covered with meringue foam. The foie gras, to be eaten in one bite, depicts an acrobat performing on air. Steel stands were custom-made for this item.
“This is the most difficult piece to make. We first used wooden sticks, but they wouldn’t hold so I had the special stand made,” she said. “The foie gras has to be carefully threaded on the end of the stick, or it would swing. Then it’s covered with meringue foam and torched. The process should be done quickly, otherwise, it would fall off.”
Siding is cider-stewed apple slices with balsamic reduction. The sweet-sour taste is a balance to the rich foie gras.
The soup—Chicken and Egg “Risley Act” in Icarian Sea—is clear soup with a medallion of ground chicken, morel mushroom and sausage, topped with raw quail egg yolk.
Hot chicken broth is poured upon serving which blanches the yolk; when it breaks, the soup thickens a bit. You’d discover layers of flavors as you eat—simmered meat, fragrant thyme, citrusy lemongrass.
Salad is Smoked Shrimp on High Wire with Crisp Bacon Balance and Saffron Wind, also presented in a special stand in the half-moon shape. Inspiration is a funambulist or rope walker.
The shrimp is smoked, chilled and served cold. A very crispy baked bacon strip is placed inside the curled shrimp, which is then skewered. Fresh salad of chopped lettuce, bright edible flowers and thin carrot strips with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, topped with flat crunchy bread, sits on the side.
A tomato sorbet is served to cleanse the palate. The Frozen Tomato Gazpacho Bobèche is plated to honor Bobèche, a French theater clown.
Thinly grated carrot strips serve as the “hair,” chocolate syrup is used to draw the “eyes,” a small scoop of pale-red tomato sorbet is the “nose,” while mint leaves form the mustache and mouth. Soft pink petals mark the “cheeks.”
Steak and lobster
The main course is covered with a charming papier-mâché “tent” done in deep violet and gold, which resembles the Grand Chapiteau or Big Top where Cirque performs.
It reveals Steak and Lobster Marquis with Wild Mushroom, Baby Vegetables, and Parmesan Potato Gratin—generous slice of grilled beef tenderloin and chunky lobster tail with buttered veggies.
For dessert, chef Zarandin put circus elements on one plate—tent, popcorn, ice cream and cotton candy. Her dessert is Soft Chocolate Ganache over Cornflake Feulletine with “Aba Daba” of Caramel Popcorn, Cotton Candy and Raspberry Ice Cream.
White and dark-chocolate slivers make up the tent’s walls, the base is a crust of crushed cornflakes mixed with melted chocolate.
The Cirque du Soleil team of over a hundred is billeted at Manila Hotel.
Sam Dominguez, Manila Hotel PR executive, said: “Some of them have had the degustation menu. We are open late for dinner for those who have watched the show (8-10:30 p.m.); reservation is preferred, but walk-ins are welcome.”
“Varekai” runs until July 24, in Grand Chapiteau, Luneta Park, Manila. The degustation menu is available until July 30 in Manila Hotel’s Champagne Room for P2,000 per person. It is open daily 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., and 6-10:30 p.m. for dinner. Call 5279469.