Originally posted on October 8, 2012
JUST came from an extended lunch at InterContinental Manila’s Prince Albert Rotisserie, where a Spanish food promotion titled Cucina Española is ongoing until October 15. It was a sitdown lunch, fine dining style, where Raff and I were in the company of friends and colleagues like Norma Chikiamco of Philippine Daily Inquirer and lambada queen and newspaper columnist Becky Garcia, enjoying our course by course lunch at a long table fronting Prince Albert Rotisserie’s open kitchen.
Raff and I are more accustomed to casual buffet lunches, but this was one fine dining lunch that’s not to be missed because it featured guest Spanish chef Victor Armero Torres from InterContinental Madrid’s fine dining restaurant El Jardin. The muy guapito 32-year-old chef from Spain’s Alcala de Henares, a city 35 kilometers northeast of Madrid, gave everyone a preview of the five-course Spanish lunch (or dinner) that’s available at Prince Albert Rotisserie for the duration of the Spanish promotion. He prepared a full course consisting of an appetizer, a cold soup, a seafood first course, a chicken main course, and a dessert, capped by coffee or tea.
The menu: Seleccion de Ibericos con Queso de Cabra, Ensalda Extremena y Tosta de Caballa y Ajo (Selected Iberico Ham and Sausages with Goat Cheese, Pickled Vegetables and Garlic Ciabatta Toast) for the appetizer; Gazpacho Andaluz a la Manera Tradicional (Traditional Andalusian Gazpacho) for the soup; Souquet Catalan de Rape, Langostinos, Almejas y Verduritas al Cava (Braised Catalan Monkfish, Prawns, Clams and Cava Vegetables) for the seafood first course; Capon de Corral Extremeno en Pepitoria (Chicken Extremadura in Pepitoria Sauce) for the chicken main course; and Torrijas de la Semana Santa Castellana con Helado de Almendras de Alicante (Fried Sweet Bread Torrijas with Almonds and Alicante Ice Cream) for the sweet finale.
He put together these dishes that are traditionally Spanish but to which he had given contemporary twists. The Gazpacho, for example, is a traditional Spanish cold soup that’s usually served together in a bowl. For Prince Albert’s Spanish food promotion, though, he levelled up the service by having the waiters serve the diced bell peppers and onion and crunchy croutons in a bowl, dry, and then the cold soup is poured in from a tea pot for a nice and impressive presentation. Gazpacho is a cold soup which Pinoys are not so used to, but it’s worth a try, really, because it’s refreshing and goes well with the rest of the courses on the menu.
And then there’s the dessert, the Fried Sweet Bread Torrijas, which is a traditional Spanish dessert, but the idea of serving it a la mode, with a scoop of Alicante ice cream on top, is a contemporary twist injected by Chef Victor.
The appetizer of Iberico ham and sausages gave guests a taste of the rich array of cured meats that Spanish cuisine is known for, and the chicken main course is quite interesting because it makes use of capon chicken (castrated chicken, castrated to make them grow bigger) which is pleasantly regular in size so that it turned out to be really tender when cooked.
My personal favorite was the seafood course, which had all the seafood that I love. I’ve always been more of a fish and seafood person than a carnivorous one. Feed me fish or seafood, and I’m happy.
Each course was accompanied by a white or red wine. The Fan d’Oro Chardonnay went very well with the appetizer because it’s light and refreshing and perfectly chilled when served.
At the end of the meal, the charming Spanish chef left the confines of his kitchen and sat down to chat with the group. For someone who only started to learn to speak English a month ago, he expressed himself pretty well. He has also picked up quite a handful of Tagalog words from his Filipino friends, including “Magandang umaga,” “Magandang gabi,” “Kaibigan” and “Kumusta ka, pare?” His first time in Asia, Chef Victor confesses to have “fallen in love with the Philippines.” He’s staying a bit longer than his Spanish food promotion stint to visit Boracay.
If you notice, Chef Victor did not serve the quintessential Spanish dish, paella, in his full-course menu because, as he puts it, “it’s not appropriate for the menu.” But you can get to try his Paella Valenciana if you join him in a Spanish cooking class he will be conducting alongside InterContinental Manila’s Executive Chef Alistair Richard Bletcher on October 19, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The price, P2,000++ per person, is already inclusive of ingredients, aprons and toques plus set lunch. Slots are limited to only 20 participants, so only prepaid reservations will be accepted. Also, on October 11, a set dinner complemented with Spanish wines from Wine Depot will be served starting at 7:00 p.m. for P2,500++ per person. Slots are limited to 50, so it is likewise best to reserve in advance. The number to call is 793-7000.