IT really looked and felt like Christmas when Museum Café, also known as M Café, and its sister restaurant Kabila launched its Christmas menu recently. After all, M Café, located at Greenbelt, was all dressed in holiday style, with glittering lights and holiday accents all over the place, including the long table for media; a group of carolers came and rendered beautiful Christmas songs for guests to enjoy; and the food was a-plenty and so good. Chef Kalel Chan must have served 14 festive holiday dishes that covered everything from appetizer to dessert.
M Café and Kabila actually offer two Menu Sets designed for six people and two Menu Sets that can serve 10 people, but all these menus start with Jamon & Queso Plate, which has pineapple glazed ham with queso de bola, mini pan de sal crostini, calamansi honey and sugar coated cashew nuts served on a wooden chopping board.
There’s also Ensaladang Kabila, which is a delicious combination of ripe mango and green mango, turnips, guapple, pomelo, tomato salsa, salted egg and pili nuts tossed in calamansi dressing and served with M bagoong on the side.
The Fresh Lumpia turned out to be a feast for the eyes, because the stir-fried palm hearts, carrots, pork and shrimp filing was wrapped in a lattice-type egg wrapper and not the usual plain flour lumpia wrapper or egg wrapper. The lattice-type lumpia wrapper was see-through, so you can, well, yes, see the filling inside. It’s served with ground peanuts with sugar, garlic water and muscovado sauce.
Also not to be missed is the crunchy Fried Kangkong Crisps, which is crispy kangkong leaves with squash flower served with smoked milkfish dip.
For the soup, there’s Halaan Soup. The clams are so fresh that you can actually taste its full flavor in the soup alone. Plus, it’s cooked in lemongrass, so imagine the flavor of lemongrass melding with the taste of fresh clams. This one is a winner by itself.
Another seafood classic, Lapu-Lapu Mayonessa, has been given a different twist by Chef Kalel. He used gindara instead. So he calls his version Gindara Mayonessa, which is baked gindara fillet topped with mayonnaise, chopped boiled eggs, capsicums, relish and onion.
For the main event, M Café and Kabila’s Christmas offerings are very impressive — Grilled Chicken Inasal (grilled chicken marinated in lemongrass-annatto oil, served with chicken oil on a smoking hot lava stone, with papaya atchara on the side), Lengua Estofado (on tongue stew cooked in tomato sauce, olives, mushrooms and cream), Chorizo Callos (ox tripe and pork hock stew with Spanish chorizo, chickpeas and tomatoes), Kabila Porchetta (pork belly roll stuffed with lemongrass, tamarind leaves and garlic, slow roasted until crisp), and Seafood Kare-Kare (assorted seafood, banana heart and other veggies in peanut sauce, served with bagoong dip).
Other options on the Christmas Set Menus include Smoked Bangus Crispy Fried Lumpiang Togue (fried spring rolls stuffed with beansprouts, smoked milkfish, carrots and French beans), Smoked Bangus Salad (cherry tomatoes, cashew nuts, Laguna white cheese, salted egg, milkfish crumbs on Romaine lettuce with smoked milkfish), Chicken Galantina (roasted chicken stuffed with pork, raisins, cranberries, cheddar and capsicums), BBQ Pork sa Tabi-Tabi (grilled pork skewers with homemade barbecue sauce and papaya atchara), Pinaputok na Labahita (deep-fried labahita fish with tomato salsa, salted eggs, green papaya atchara and calamansi dressing). All these are served with Pandan Rice, hot steamed rice scented with pandan leaves.
And dessert? There are four desserts to enjoy this holiday season: Salted Egg and Queso Bibingka (local rice cake with salted eggs and queso de bola), Ube Tres Leches (purple yam chiffon cake soaked in three kinds of milk and topped with desiccated coconut), Buko Pandan (pandan jelly, buko shreds, tapioca on coconut cream plus macapuno ice cream and melon shreds), and Brazo de Calamansi (burnt meringue cake with calamansi curd filling instead of the usual custard filling of classic Brazo de Mercedes).
(Museum Café and Kabila Filipino Bistro are located at the Ayala Museum Complex, Makati Ave. corner De La Rosa St., Makati City; with telephone numbers 757-3000 and 757-6000.)