A BITE OF GENIUS

FOOD & CULTURE

A BITE OF GENIUS

Reggie Rullan-Borromeo, Manila, Philippines

NOVEMBER 7, 2014

A wave of déjà vu swept over me as I watched Grappa’s executive chef Clint Nuyda prep the fresh pasta and seafood in the Gourdo’s Bonifacio Fort Strip store in a recent Ballarini cookware launch.

He not only resembled my kitchen genius brother, Benedict, with medium locks framing a tanned face, his bespectacled face bore the same intense concentration as he bent over ingredients with a transfixed gaze.

It brought me back to our Baguio kitchen where Benedict and I jostled over counter space, a sink overflowing with both our pans, pots and kitchen gadgets and the window always blowing in a fresh breeze to cool our cheflike tempers.

The aroma of a truffle cream sauce prepped for mushroom filled fresh ravioli pasta broke my reverie. As I bit into the delicate ravioli, beyond al dente perfection, as only freshly made and freshly rolled pasta dough can promise, I was stripped of all my pasta-making bravado. Having never made fresh pasta, all my stellar pasta dishes paled in comparison. I had to look at Nuyda in another light, thinking maybe he really is my kitchen genius brother, who continuous to break culinary boundaries in our home kitchen in Seattle.

The truffle in the cream was a highlight to the mushroom, a tantalizing note to the freshness of all the ingredients. Many a chef has bribed the palate with an overpowering dose of truffles, throwing all caution to the wind. Nuyda’s judicious use of such a delicate and pricey ingredient is a telltale sign of his experience with it.

He next served the capelli d’angello al salmon, with the fresh smoked salmon contrasting with tender angel hair noodles blanketed with creamy mushrooms.

It was rustic and chic all in one bite, a squeeze of lemon drawing out the fresh, briny salmon to the fore. For a finale, the prawns all lined up like letter Cs atop mashed potatoes was visually stunning and as I bit into one, saltiness, creaminess and sweetness all enveloped my palate and the Cs single handedly disappeared from my plate.

The heady feeling one gets after an exceptionally good meal had to be replicated and, as I headed to Grappa’s a couple of weeks later, I was once again stunned by Nuyda’s corn-mousse filled ravioli.

It sounded simple: make corn mousse by grating fresh kernels from a cob, stuff it in fresh pasta and shape into ravioli then top with fresh cream and truffles. For a repeat of corn mousse pasta, I really would have to learn to make it at home since Nuyda makes different ravioli every week at Grappa’s.

If I were to indulge in a fresh pasta treat with a twist of genius, I would be better off trooping back to Grappa’s to have a taste of a new filling that Nuyda will dream up, a filling I am sure no one else has thought of.

After finishing the Hotel and Restaurant Management Extension Program at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), he worked side by side with Wolfgang Puck at the Spago’s, chef Makoto Tanaka at the Mako’s Restaurant and chef Eric Klein at the Maple Drive all in Beverly Hills. Klein brought Nuyda to the SW Steakhouse in Las Vegas, Nevada and he later returned to Beverly Hills to work with Chef Suzanne’s Goin L.A. Tavern in Brentwood and Raphael’s in Studio City. After having worked the culinary greats that side of the world, he has come back to Manila to share decades of experience and learning with local chefs.

For more of Nuyda’s cooking, visit Grappa’s Ristorante at second floor, Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati City.

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Writers

Dinah Sabal-Ventura
dinah_ventura@write-experts.com

Geraldine “Reggie” Rullan-Borromeo
reggie_rullan@write-experts.com

Malu Mora-Rullan
malu_rullan@write-experts.com

A CIRCLE OF SUPERHERO CHEFS

FOOD & CULTURE

A CIRCLE OF SUPERHERO CHEFS

Reggie Rullan-Borromeo, Manila, 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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Writers

Dinah Sabal-Ventura
dinah_ventura@write-experts.com

Geraldine “Reggie” Rullan-Borromeo
reggie_rullan@write-experts.com

Malu Mora-Rullan
malu_rullan@write-experts.com

BISTRO FILIPINO: CLASSIC PINOY WITH INTERNATIONAL FLAIR

FOOD & CULTURE

BISTRO FILIPINO: CLASSIC PINOY WITH INTERNATIONAL FLAIR

Reggie Rullan-Borromeo, Manila, Philippines

Published in the Daily Tribune Life
Monday, 27 August 2012

Painstaking Filipino cuisine done the traditional way harkens family food memories when matriarchs ruled the kitchen with an iron hand and maids bustled round about them. Family cooks would go to market at the crack of dawn to get their hands on choice produce and, upon their return, spend hours in the kitchen before the whole clan would gather for a weekend feast. A feast that would sustain each one of them during the deprivation come workweek.

During the weekday, an elaborate home-cooked lunch or dinner is definitely out of the question unless one gets to borrow the matriarch’s cook for a day or two. The craving for a traditionally prepared comfort Filipino food can gnaw at one and, if one were away from the hometown, it can be downright nostalgic, to say the least.

When I heard of Bistro Filipino, owned by a couple, chefs Rolando and Jackie Laudico, and their creative rendition of traditional comfort Filipino food, I was curious about how truly comforting this modern Filipino cuisine would be, if at all.

The debate among local chefs on how to present Filipino food has been raging unresolved for many years now — some holding fast and true to tradition and others defending their venture into Filipino food fusion.

I wasn’t quite sure where to put Bistro Filipino in the spectrum of this debate. Leaning on the traditionalist side of the argument, I was quite skeptical on what creativity could do to culinary traditions, and so it was with some reserve that I stepped into the restaurant at the ground floor of Net 2 Building on 3rd Avenue, Fort Bonifacio Global City.

It was the very Filipino interiors that initially struck me. The dining place did not look like the polished and stiff dining rooms of many ancestral homes, yet it was comfortingly Filipino from the chairs to the tables, the place mats and light fixtures and even the hanging woven dividers from the main table in the center of the restaurant.

When the first course of a trio of appetizers was set before me, the aroma and ingredients used was familiar alright, except that the lumpia ubod (egg roll filled with coconut heart and chorizo) was in a crisp cone and its vinegar dip was a granita; the sisig (grilled and sauteed pig’s cheeks and ears) was in a crisp, tart-shaped lumpia basket with a chaser of half a quail egg at the bottom of a shot glass; and, the lone prawn sauteed into gambas was atop its own baby pool of sauce.

I would have raised my eyebrows at the unusual though admittedly pretty sight, except that I had never mastered this small act of restrained disdain. The contrast of the hot crisp cone with the soft coconut heart with the iciness of the piquant granita swept away any doubts of the culinary creativity of Chef Rolando. The sisig made with the usual ingredients with the addition of etag (salt pork that is cured and aged underground in an earthen jar in the Cordilleras) had a distinctly cheesy taste from the aged meat. This culinary revelation of a traditional curing method in the North makes for a truly Filipino experience that opens one’s taste buds.

The next hot appetizer course was a mushroom cappuccino soup, one that I have had in many ways from different chefs, except that Chef Rolando makes it Filipino by making adobo a main component. Again adobo in a soup had me raising my eyebrows (in my imagination) as the thick, rich, salty-tangy sauce could hardly be sipped and traditionally must be mixed with lots of steamed white rice to temper its strong flavors. One sip of Bistro Filipino’s bestseller soup had my doubts flying out the window, again, as I savored the fresh pureed mushrooms marrying with the adobo flavors. I finished my soup to the bottom of the bowl, and Chef Rolando smiled as he saw me tipping it forward to get every last bit of the foamy broth.

When I spotted the dainty pandesal which were half a fist, I sighed in regret as I was trying to stay off limits simple carbohydrates. Chef Jackie caught me looking at her pandesal, and when she said it was made with butter churned from carabao’s (water buffalo) milk, I had no chance at resisting. I slathered more butter as the thought of tasting fresh churned artisanal local butter was making me feel like a true gourmand. All I can say is that contrary to my almost no-carb diet, I finished the whole roll and the pats of batter served alongside it. I had no regrets except that it left me wishing I could afford another roll.

The mesclun of salad greens, arugula, Romaine and red leaf lettuce with three kinds of mango was a cold appetizer that surprised me with the use of the dried sweet and chewy mangoes along with the expected green and ripe mangoes. It was refreshing and sweet with the tang of green mangoes providing the zing and the cashew crusted kesong puti providing the creaminess and crunch to balance the flavors.

When the main course of deboned tuna panga (tuna fish head) was presented to me, I was in for a surprise. Grilled “anything” in a high-end restaurant usually lacks the depth and flavor of charcoal-grilled seafood. I was expecting a clean-tasting, modestly tasty ceramic or gas grilled tuna. Instead I was confronted with the bold flavors of true charcoal grilled tuna panga with all the moisture intact that it flaked to the bite and all the citrusy flavor singing through the classic soy calamansi (calamondin) marinade.

The buro sauce (fermented rice) lent its earthy tanginess to the rich tasting tuna panga, with the buro flavors accentuating the calamansi’s citrusy flavors. Making it boneless made it doubly faster to consume and I was convinced by then that Chef Rolando’s creativity was not a con-fusion but a harkening to tradition with his own culinary flair.

The next main course, a flat iron kitayama steak atop a croquette of sweet potato mash and organic kale was a hearty foreign sounding dish except that the kitayama was a local Wagyu bred in the hills of Bukidnon and the kale was locally grown.

The penchant and passion of the Laudico couple for sourcing local ingredients to make stellar dishes was coming across loud and clear at this point. I then realized that Bistro Filipino is not just about Filipino dishes but about Filipino ingredients coming to fore in its menu that is world class in presentation and taste.

For dessert, we sampled three desserts by Chef Jackie, a panna cotta made with carabao and coconut milk, so Filipino indeed it tastes almost like maja blanca (coconut milk and corn pudding) sans the corn. The suman with latik (rice cake with coconut caramel) in a shooter. The coconut lace cookie crisp served with it instead of shredded coconut is ingenious and endearing as I usually shy away from too much coconut in a single dish. Chef Jackie manages to get me to love coconut again in this doily like cookie that crunches away the coco-shyness of my palate.

The dulce de leche cheesecake laced with creamy kesong puti (local white cheese) and sweetened with the Spanish-Filipino caramelized condensed milk is a diet killer, but as the creamy sweetness reminiscent of my mom’s dulce de leche melted on my palate, I was glad the dessert was a sampler as a portion consisted only of about three spoonfuls, the exact count for sweets for someone on a diet.

The pralines of Chef Jackie — all Filipino, flavored with mango, pandan, coconut, lemongrass, jackfruit, etc. — in dark and milk chocolates are melt-in-your-mouth confections that re-introduce one to the elegance in local ingredients that are highlighted in her pastry creations.
This playful ending to the Filipino dining experience of feast proportions, but presented with style and Filipino pizzazz, had me looking forward to the next time I step into Bistro Filipino. I yet have to taste the kare-kare, which I heard is slow cooked for eight hours. Until then, I’m sure I will have a whole lot more to say of classic Filipino cuisine served with international flair.

Bistro Filipino may be contacted through telephone number 856-0634/0541 or mobile number 0917800-CHEF (2433) or e-mail cheflaudico@yahoo.com.

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Writers

Dinah Sabal-Ventura
dinah_ventura@write-experts.com

Geraldine “Reggie” Rullan-Borromeo
reggie_rullan@write-experts.com

Malu Mora-Rullan
malu_rullan@write-experts.com