A circle of superhero chefs

by Geraldine Rullan-Borromeo
(Manila City, Philippines)

Published in the Daily Tribune Life
Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A gustatory fantasy many foodies would most likely have is the rare experience of having great chefs from different countries coming together to prepare one special feast. Each chef would present his specialty dish from his country, and one would feel like royalty as each course is served. On second thought, the logistics of having too many chefs in a single kitchen for a single occasion raises the viability of this unique dining experience.

True to its endeavor to deliver unique dining experiences, Makati Shangri-La, Manila pulls this feat off and presents the head chefs of the hotel to showcase their superhero culinary prowess at Circles Event Café buffet during lunch and dinner from Aug. 6 to Sept. 9, 2012. Every day features a particular head chef’s creations at the daily feast at Circles Event Café; all served alongside the authentic specialty dishes of each superhero chef.

After sampling each creation of the head chefs, guests may choose to participate in the race of the superheroes to win the diners’ vote of superherodom. Each guest is entitled to a raffle stub every time they dine at Circles Event Café for a chance to hold a private event good for 30 persons at any of Makati Shangri-La’s function rooms, subject to availability.

Superhero Chef Hamed “The Hawk” Ghayedi has Monday at his helm with the flavors of the Middle East in his creations. His specialty, the kashk-e-bademjan is a quenelle of smoked eggplant puree he crafted with basil-infused olive oil, dried dill and mint leaves, tahini paste (ground sesame seeds) and sumac powder (from the flowers of the Rhus family of plants).

It makes for a startling vegan appetizer as the eggplant is remarkably velveteen in texture that one would wonder where all the seeds went. The sweetness of the humble eggplant is coaxed out by the “Hawk” with none of the usual faintly bitter aftertaste. With sautéed garlic and shallots topping the quenelle; chili threads garnishing (I can’t imagine where he sourced these) and adding the spice; and, the yogurt sauce on the side that adds just the right tartness to the quaint dish, the skill of the “Hawk” is exemplified by this single dish.

Chef Hamed is one of the hotel’s executive sous chefs, and is in charge of Circles Event Café. His 20 years of culinary experience in Iran, Oman and the United Arab Emirates promises an authentic Persian Night every Monday during the Superhero showdown.

Come Tuesday, Chef Franco “Casanova” Brodini brings out the best of his heritage with Notte Italiana. His handmade cheese ravioli in a simple butter sauce is out to win the hearts of many a diner as the al dente tender noodles almost melt in the mouth and the creamy butter swirls in the palate with the fresh porcini filling. The execution of a simple dish with a very few ingredients calls for a true master as there is no masking any mistake in the process. The perfect balance of butter and sage makes for decadent ravioli that one cannot and must not forego, especially not one from the “Casanova.”

Chef Franco is the executive chef of Makati Shangri-La, and has been creating a gastronomic array of dishes for the hotel for the past couple of years, with a culinary experience of over two decades. He was head chef in establishments in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

On Wednesdays, Filipino ingenuity comes to the fore and the Visayan might of superhero Chef Gene “D’ Higante” del Prado culminates in a fiesta of Filipino cuisine. His grilled blue marlin, known as inasal in the Iloilo, is flavored just the way it is in Bacolod and Iloilo City. The lip-smacking achuete oil basting the fish, the garlicky savoriness balanced by the sinamak, the Iloilo spiced palm vinegar are memorable. That authentic Illonggo taste comes alive in the hands of “D Higante.” The tender pako (fern) shoots provide the crunchy and refreshing flavors tossed with a fish sauce and calamansi (calamondin) vinaigrette.

Chef Gene is one of the executive sous chefs in the hotel and promises to lay out a Filipino Fiesta worth a vote for superherodom.

Thursdays are “Spice Up, India!” and Chef Sovan “Bollywood” Singh serves it up as spicy as one can take it. His chile kulche or a chickpea dish is made with a mild chili tomato sauce served with triangles of roti and pappadums, and a side of mint raita. It is another testament to how unfamiliar ingredients can turn familiar to the taste buds of the untutored, in the hands of a learned chef. The “Bollywood” introduces the spices of India in a variety of dishes to tutor even the spice shy in Indian cuisine. He balances curries, garam masalas (spice mixtures), and all kinds of chilis with meats, vegetables and condiments to present India in all its culinary glory.

Chef Sovan Sing is a sous chef at the Circles Event Café and his Indian heritage brings a lifetime and culture of experience to the Superhero fest.

Fridays are seafood days as Chef Yusuke “Seefuda” Hino cooks up the freshest catch on for the “Seafood Market.” His sampling of the Volcano, a sushi style salmon with a creamy tartar sauce, is a twist on the old favorite made indulgent with orange and black fish roe bursting with every bite along with a volcanic eruption of fine red chili.

Chef Hino comes from a family of chefs, and brings with him years of family culinary history and work experience specializing in seafood.

Saturdays see Chef Maran “The Prime” Mariapin taking on grilling duties for “Off the Grill.” High-grade steaks and barbecue selections, with favorites such as prime rib eye, lamb chops and T-bone steaks are at the mercy of his coals. The Prime’s Nonyan oxtail assam pedas with a ring of pickled pineapple with Roti Jala is a tender main that is chock-full of comfort and surprise as the piquant pineapples liven up the palate. The comfort food in the dish springs from the assam pedas, a gravy made of tamarind, blue ginger, shallots, fenugreek, turmeric, coconut paste, black pepper, kaffir lime leaves, chili and a bit of sugar.

The roti jala, a lacey net-like yellowish crepe, accompanies the oxtail, making for a truly Nonyan presentation, the crepe a usual side to curries and other savory dishes in Malaysian-Chinese cuisine.

Chef Maran is an executive sous chef in the hotel, who has also earned years of culinary experience in various parts of the world, specializing in various cuisines.

For Sunday, the family day, Sunday Big Brunch is made even more festive with the creations of Chef Anthony “The Bruncher” Collar. His orange cake with clotted cream served with a praline and a dark chocolate strip is a dieter’s heaven as his cake is flourless. The ground almonds marry well with the orange liqueur in the cake with the pure chocolates adding another dimension of bittersweet luxury to his dessert plate.

The “Bruncher’s” breakfast favorites are also at the buffet on Sundays. Chef Collar is the hotel’s area executive pastry chef.

For inquiries and reservations, please call the Restaurant Reservations and Information Center at 813 8888 extension 71899 or e-mail rric.slm@shangri-la.com.
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