Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Girls' Night Out at Hyatt's Li Li

Last night, in the mood for Chinese roast duck and Chinese-style noodles, the girls of Travelife Magazine drove to Manila for a "Girls' Night Out" at Li Li, Hyatt Regency Manila's lovely Chinese restaurant, which also happens to be one of my favorite dining spots. It serves very good, authentic Cantonese food (cooked by a Hong Kong chef married to a Filipina) and also has tasteful decor. I also like the fact that at Li Li, even with a full house, you never feel cramped with too many people and you never have to worry about whether someone else might overhear your conversation.

Well, the Travelife team works in Makati so the drive over to Manila during rush-hour traffic is not inconsiderable, but we all felt that a dinner at LiLi would be worth it. Surprisingly, it didn't take as long as we expected. We left Legazpi Village just before 7 pm and we were pulling into Hyatt's driveway in just under 20 minutes.

There just happened to be a wine dinner hosted by the distributors of the Chilean wine Montes Alpha at the same time, so we were even invited by Hyatt General Manager Anthony Sebastian to have a few drinks. As it was 8 pm, though, we had a glass of Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2009, a crisp and fruity wine with yellow-green color, and then immediately went on to dinner.

I firmly have my favorite dishes at Li Li including the Peking duck done two ways, the spinach soup with seafood, and their steamed fish fllet with double boiled soy sauce. However, last night, I decided to refrain from ordering "the usual" and just ask the chef to serve us his recommendations. We were not disappointed. Appetizers consisted of tiny plates of crispy and spicy deep-fried enoki mushrooms plus cubes of sauteed beef and very crispy pork slices -- all sinfully deadly and just too delicious to pass up. I especially could not resist the enoki mushrooms, and found myself eating plateful upon plateful while talking. Before I realized it, I had gone through three plates!

What came after was a nine-course lauriat that left us completely stuffed. Every course was delicious but I especially liked the chunky hot and sour soup full of bits of seafood like scallops and fish; the steamed cod fish with crispy minced bean paste, which had tender but firm meat that was very delicately spiced; the fried rice with diced chicken and salted fish; and a new dessert at Li Li: a mango pudding with mango coulis and sesame tuile.

The mango dessert gave the usual mango-sago dessert often found at Chinese restaurants a whole new twist. It was served to us on a wagon by a waiter who scooped cream and chunks of mango onto the mango pudding in the glass and then added the crunchy sesame coulis on top. The mango pudding itself was very firm and the sesame provided added texture.

"Do you like our new dessert?" Anthony Sebastian asked, coming over to say hello again after his own wine dinner event in the same restaurant. We all loved it. In fact, Eunice, our editorial assistant, could not get enough of it. "It's even better than eating ice cream," she exclaimed repeatedly. We would have had seconds if we had had more time and enough space.

The Travelife girls ended up staying until close till midnight, talking and laughing over all sorts of subjects including an upcoming trip to Cebu, a coming photo shoot in Hong Kong, and various misadventures. A great evening of bonding! And it certainly helped that Li Li's food was just too good to resist. The finishing touch to a truly wonderful Chinese dinner was a plate of freshly-made chocolates with Earl Grey ganache which the hotel's executive chef himself brought out. He'd probably heard our clamors for more sweets!

Travelife Magazine's Girls' Night Out
at Hyatt Regency Manila's Li Li Chinese Restaurant
August 25, 2010

Crispy deep fried enoki mushrooms
Selection of Chinese appetizers
Hot and sour soup with assorted seafood
Charcoal roasted "Pipa Duck"
Wok-baked prawns with onion, spring onion and scallion
Steamed cod fish with crispy minced bean paste
Fried rice with diced chicken and salted fish
Braised Taiwan vegetables and abalone mushrooms
Spinach noodle soup with shrimp dumplings
Mango pudding, mango coulis, sesame tuile
Chinese pastries


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