Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Once in a Life Time Traditional Japanese Dinner

One of the pleasant surprises in life is to have an experience you never thought would ever happen. For me, one of these such experiences is having a traditional Japanese dinner. I've read about them and seen them in movies and t.v., but I never imagined I would be sitting in a tatami room, eating a Kaiseki dinner course with Geishas.

The restaurant is called Namimura and is apparently very exclusive. We sat in one of the tatami rooms and was served by Geishas. There was about one Geisha for every two guests. The experience was so surreal. They not only served us, but they performed for us, entertained us, and kept us company. They were so graceful and polite; truly artists in their craft.The dinner was just as amazing. I wasn't able to take pictures of all the dishes, but the ones I did can somewhat paint a picture of how beautiful the other dishes were.

The meal was very traditional and consists of numerous courses. Each dish was delicious, it each had very clean subtle flavors. The night started with cold steamed abalone with miso, then followed by an egg custard.

One of the dishes was this sashimi bowl with fresh wasabi. It's so beautifully presented and the seafood was so fresh. The purple flower on top is called shiso, which had anti-bacterial properties, so we added to our soy sauce for dipping.

One of the main dishes was the fish, oyster, and abalone. I was amazed because I don't really eat oysters, but this was so fresh and so sweet. The fish skin was so crispy, but its meat was so tender. The beef was very tender and flavorful as well.

There were many more dishes that came, mostly seafood. Near the end of the meal, there was a bowl of cold seaweed with vinegar, which felt very refreshing. Nearing the end of the meal, I chose to have rice ball with bonito, from the choices of cold noodles or hot noodles. The last served was miso soup and fresh fruits of sweet melon and persimmon.

It was an amazing experience with outstanding food. The memory of this night will definitely stay with me forever.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

La Regalade, Makati

Growing up in Vancouver has made me fallen in love with food and boy do I miss the food there. When I read an ariticle that Chef Alain Raye from Vancouver opened a restaurant on Pasay Road in Makati called La Regalade (which is also the same name as his restaurant in Vancouver), I was so excited to try it out.

The restaurant is not fine dining, but a French bistro. The ambiance of the restaurant is quite comfortable and relaxing. It has a lot of wood and the tables are made of white marble, and the open kitchen is nice to see.

The food however, does not equal the ambiance of the place. The soup I ordered was the classic French onion soup. It's one of my favorite soups, but this was nothing great. The only thing I liked was the gruyere cheese on top. The soup itself was a little tasteless, the stock was lacking in flavor, but what really bothered me was the absence of salt and pepper. There wasn't much seasoning at all except for the saltiness of the cheese and the fresh pepper on top from the server.
The soup of the day was tomato soup, which wasn't bad, but nothing special.
One of the specials was the half duck. This is the biggest half duck I've seen in my life!!!!!! Apparently it came from Canada, but I've never seen ducks this big there either. It was served with red wine sauce and fruits (mostly pears). I love ducks....I can eat half a duck no problem, but this was difficult. It was over cooked which made it gamey and the sauce with the fruits was way too sweet. The sauce lacked the richness from a demi glace and again, the dish wasn't seasoned.
The dish was good for sharing...so this was my first plate.
For dessert, I was so excited to have the warm Valrona chocolate tart. I think it's difficult to fumble this dessert, but I was proved wrong tonight. First of all, the tart was not warm, it was room temperature on the outside, but the middle was a little cold. It was sitting outside in the air-conditioned restaurant the whole night. The crust was so hard that it took a lot of effort to cut through it. (They actually give you knives for the dessert!) It was so dry and slightly bitter from being overmixed and overbaked. The filling was really runny (even just being at room temperature) and way too sweet for my taste. This could be one of the worst chocolate tarts I've ever had.
After the meal, I left the restaurant disapointed. I was really rooting for this place, but I don't understand what the kitchen crew is letting out of the kitchen. This is actually my second try and at least the front of house staff seems to be better. They seem to be more comfortable and knowledgeable of the food. I think there is still a long way to go and I hope they can fix their cooking 101 mistakes.