Friday, June 3, 2011

Chef Sam Leong at the Makati Shangri-la

This photo has nothing to do with this blog entry. But I thought it was so cute that I borrowed it from Jo Assad, honorary consul from Lebanon,
who posted it on his Facebook page;
and he agreed on the condition that I "return it" afterwards.


It was kind of the perfect way to end a very happy but stressful week and a day that actually started out with a few tears. I'm talking about a seven-course dinner at Makati Shangri-la's Shang Palace tonight, where famous Singaporean chef Sam Leong worked his magic in the kitchen and then walked out to work the overbooked restaurant like a rock star. He visited a few tables after his cooking work was done (we were among the few lucky tables), and everywhere people were clamoring to have their photo taken with him, or to have him sign their menu cards.


Chef Leong has often been described as the "Gordon Ramsay of Singapore" so I was very happy to troop to the Shang Palace tonight for a chill-out dinner of good food and good wine. I'd been on Juju juice the whole week and of course the whole day today; and after so many long, long days of work and long evenings of events culminating in our very own ultra-successful Travelife party last night, I really felt I needed a good dinner.

When we got to Shang Palace, the restaurant was already full and I could hear murmurs of praise and satisfaction from those who had started earlier, tucking into their chawan mushi first course and shrimp-and-wasabi-sauce appetizers. Meanwhile, as soon as I sat down, I reached for a glass of white wine and took my first relaxed sip in weeks.

Just then, I got a text from my friend X inviting to a Japanese dinner sometime soon. Apparently he'd seen some new restaurant that looked pretty interesting from the outside. I texted back: "I'm going to Lisbon next week. It'll have to be when I get back." Then came another text. "Ok. And maybe you'll be less occupied by then?" He asked. Or maybe he suggested.

I immediately sent him a sad face and the following message: "I'm beginning to think something like that's never going to happen. It looks like I'm going to be busy for the rest of my life." It's true. Earlier this evening, my staff and I were looking at our travel and events calendar and I couldn't even find a short stretch of free days until next year. I'm still trying to fit in trips to Taiwan, Indonesia and Nepal in my already overbooked life, and I just can't seem to get the days I need in between trips and events already penciled into my appointment book for this year. I don't even have a free weekend to go The Farm at San Benito, and I so want to do this.


Dinner itself was absolutely delicious, although I was surprised to see so many Japanese ingredients and cooking styles incorporated into the menu. We had chawan mushi to start, followed by very tender shrimp coated with wasabi sauce. I really liked both dishes. For our three main courses, we had a really beautiful fillet of cod to start (it was so good that we all agreed at my table that we could easily have had several platefuls of it!); and then wagyu in strips followed by shredded crab meat on a bed of spicy Chili crab sauce. The Chili crab made me smile and brought back memories of eating at Long Beach in Singapore's Dempsey neighborhood with friends.

Sam Leong's specialties tonight

Chawan mushi with sauteed mushrooms and dried scallops
in an abalone sauce

Spinach broth with king crab meat and enoki mushrooms

Steamed cod fillet with homemade ginger sauce

Singapore-style chili crab meat


There were many friends and acquaintances spread out all over Shang Palace tonight, including people who were at the Travelife Magazine party last night. "There were so many people last night," was a refrain I kept hearing over and over today. But perhaps most interestingly, I bumped into my friend Z again -- the third time this week. Perhaps he was thinking about the food and how good it was, because he actually didn't bring up his request to get introduced to girls this time around. We actually had a normal conversation for once.


And that's probably what Chef Leong's cooking can do -- make you forget what's usually on your mind. And if you'd like to try it yourself, he's doing the exact same menu at Shang Palace tonight (it's now Saturday at 1 AM) for dinner. He's really hard to book and I hear the waiting list for him to cook somewhere is at least one year, and he usually never ever cooks for more than one night. Fortunately, Makati Shangri-la's executive chef is a very good friend of his -- in fact they worked as a team in the kitchen tonight -- and that's why he's come to Manila (first time to do so). That's also why he's agreed to cook for two nights in a row.

On Sunday he's taking a break from the kitchen and going off to do some sightseeing; then on Monday he returns to Singapore. So if you'd like to try something new this weekend, I'd suggest heading over to Shang Palace for dinner tonight.

As for me -- well, I'm having a bistro lunch with my friend B and a Filipino dinner with A & S. And in between, I'm going to find some time to attend the opening party of a very interesting contemporary exhibition.

Just another week in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful, Travelife.

Travelife's Special Summer Issue
with Angel Aquino in Boracay
Angel Aquino in Bora
for Travelife Magazine's April-May 2011 issue


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