HAD a great lunch at Diamond Hotel Philippines’ Corniche Restaurant today (May 15, 2013), where a Filipino food festival featuring the delectable Filipino cuisine with a modern twist of celebrity chef Bruce Lim of Chef’s Lab. Cocina Filipina: A Philippine Food Festival, which is ongoing at Corniche until May 25, 2013, highlights the country’s local dishes infused with international flavors as only Filipino chefs of Chef Bruce’s caliber can do. The flavors are very familiar and comforting, and yet there’s something contemporary – in terms of ingredients and/or dish presentation – incorporated into them. Which makes each dish both classic and contemporary, traditional and new, at the same time. Difficult to define, really, but totally delightful to the palate.
For the first course, my husband Raff and I went for appetizers such as Lumpiang Sariwa with Soy Garlic Jelly (classic lumpiang ubod wrapped in herbed crepe and served with soy garlic sauce in jelly form), Tuna Tartare with Pako Salad and Aratilis (tuna tartare with shallots, red radish, pako or fiddlehead fern and aratilis berries), Cold Pancit (sotanghon noodles with soy-sesame dressing served cold), and Chilled Roasted Beet Soup with Seared Scallops and Mangoes (cold red beet soup served in shot glasses on the buffet spread). The aratilis berries, whose scientific name is Muntingia calabura and also goes by the more common names Jamaican Cherry or Panama Berry, sort of brought back childhood memories of when my sisters and I used to enjoy the red, ripe, sweet berries from a tree. I don’t remember whether it was in our childhood home in Sta. Ana, Manila, or when we were spending summer vacations in our maternal grandparents’ home in Tayug, Pangasinan, but I certainly have fond memories of aratilis berries, and I still know the taste by heart.
After the appetizers, we took a break to watch Chef Bruce Lim conduct a short cooking demo, where he whipped up a huge platter of Lobster Palabok. Yes, Lobster Palabok! He elevated our classic comfort food, Pancit Palabok, to gourmet status by using lobster meat instead of the usual small shrimps – and his lobster meat chunks were huge!
After Chef Bruce’s demo, we proceeded with lunch and had our main course. I had a platter of all fish, seafood and vegetables, and no rice: Baked Salmon, Oyster Rockefeller Pinoy Style (where Chef Bruce used kangkong instead of the usual spinach, topped it with grated queso de bola and baked it to golden perfection), Tortang Talong with Roasted Tomatoes, and Pinaputok na Isda with Lemongrass Tomato Concasse.
Also available were Sinigang na Batuan with Grilled Pork Belly, Kalderetang Itik with Chili Sauce, Roasted Pork Belly and Pinangat na Liempo with Aligue Cream Sauce.
Depending on the menu cycle, the food festival will also be offering Sisig Pasta, Kare-Kare, Char-grilled Tuna Belly, and Stuffed Ampalaya with Salted Eggs and Prawns, among others.
Finally comes my favorite part of the meal – dessert! Aside from the usual variety of desserts that Diamond Hotel’s Corniche already has, Chef Bruce spruces up the dessert buffet even more with such irresistible sweet treats as Queso de Bola Cheesecake, Calamansi Meringue Pie, Buko Crème Brulée, Mango Sago Timbals, Barako Coffee Profiteroles, Rum Raisin Turon, Palitaw Rolls, and Chocolate Tablea and Barako Coffee Mousse. My favorite is the Queso de Bola Cheesecake.
The Cocina Filipina buffet is priced at Php1,680 nett per person. Diners can also enjoy the buffet with free flowing tropical juices at Php1,888 nett per person. As a bonus, guests availing of the buffet will get a chance to win roundtrip tickets to Cebu with accommodations, plus other exciting prizes, which includes an overnight stay at Diamond Hotel.
For inquiries or reservations, call 528-3000 local 1121.
(Diamond Hotel Philippines is located at Roxas Blvd. cor. Dr. J. Quintos St., Manila.)