Thursday, December 1, 2011

"The best Italian in town..."



Tonight I made the trek across town along EDSA to have dinner with Italian Ambassador and Madame Luca Fornari and EDSA Shangri-la General Manager Henry Lee and a couple of other friends at the Paparazzi restaurant of the EDSA Shangri-la.

The invitation the EDSA Shangri-la had sent over itself was very intriguing: it was a Venetian mask in a beautiful purple case. That was enough to make me curious about a degustation dinner to introduce Paparazzi’s talented young new chef.


"THE BEST IN TOWN"

Then, on Monday, I was at the Japanese ambassador’s residence for a party and I met an Italian gentleman who knew his food, and who waxed rhapsodic about the cooking at Paparazzi. He told me: “I think this is the best Italian restaurant in Manila right now.” So I was understandably high with expectations for a good dinner.

And what a good dinner and enjoyable evening it was. I sat to the right of Ambassador Fornari, and for much of the evening we talked quite seriously about the tourism situation in the Philippines and how it can be improved. Ambassador and Madame Fornari are not only extremely knowledgeable about tourism – Madame Fornari used to head tourism in Rome, among many other things – but they’re also very hardy travelers.

In fact, they’d just arrived from Cebu earlier today. So Ambassador Fornari gave me so many good ideas for Travelife Magazine to participate in tourism. He filled my head with so many ideas tonight that between that, our new Travelife event this February (which is right now being hatched!) and the delicious chocolate grappa – a first for all of us -- I now find that I'm unable to sleep. Which is why I'm blogging at 130 AM.


FIVE WONDERFUL COURSES

And in between all our discussions about travel and tourism, we enjoyed a wonderful five-course dinner especially prepared as a debut performance by Roberto Cimmino, the EDSA Shangri-la's new chef de cuisine at Paparazzi. Chef Cimmino is extremely young -- he's only 25 -- but he was already working at a Michelin-starred establishment in Rome at the age of 17.

He's also very creative and ambitious, so the good combination of early serious training with creativity and ambition shows in his cooking. I could not stop marveling at the delicateness of the flavors he put together; and perhaps more importantly, Ambassador and Madame Fornari, who are both very serious about food, were both delighted with dinner.


FRESH FROM THE SEA

We had an excellent impression from the outset, as our first course of a lobster carpaccio was incredibly fresh and sweet, while still retaining the essential flavors of the sea. Our pasta dish of paccheri with scallops and porcini was equally good -- and the scallops were simply heavenly. As always, I was so busy talking while eating that I was the last to finish this course.

Madame Fornari said to me teasingly: "You should stop talking and focus on the food. Concentrate on the flavors because this is so delicious."

ESSENTIAL PAIRINGS


The wines were very well paired, and this began a discussion between myself and Ambassador Fornari on the need to properly pair food with wine. Without the proper wine, the food is only half enjoyable, we agreed. And Ambassador Fornari asked me: "Did you know that Italy is now the world's largest wine producer?" I didn't know this then, but I do now.

We were all very impressed with this young chef who has only been in Manila for a month and a half. In this short time, he has overhauled the menu at Paparazzi and tonight was his debut. Chef Cimmino hails from Rome and Napoli, by the way, just like the Fornaris.

To cap a most pleasant evening of wonderful food and the most interesting wines, and congenial company, in a table set so prettily, we were treated to a mini-concert of songs from Italian operas, as well as a few songs from the Phantom of the Opera, sung very charmingly by a husband-and-wife duo.

At that very point in the evening, we'd all just had enough good food and I'd certainly had several glasses of wine. It was the perfect mindset to listen to romantic songs, and it made me slightly sentimental but also very happy to be so lucky to have wonderful experiences like these almost every moment -- no kidding, no exaggeration -- in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.
At the end of the evening, I even received
a lovely Murano bracelet from Venice


PAPARAZZI DEGUSTATION MENU
December 1, 2011

ARAGOSTA
Lobster carpaccio with vanilla-infused oil, classical lobster tomato emulsion, roots and leaves, gelato of balsamic and dried raspberries, tomato mango and cilantro salad

accompanied by
Bella Mia Bianco
Cataratto & Chardonnay 2009
Piccini

* * *

POACHER
Paccheri with scallops, porcini and arugula ragout
served with seaweed consommé



accompanied by
Solepapa Frascati
Malvasia Bianco & Trebbiano Tuscano 2009
Piccini

* * *

WAGYU
Braised wagyu short ribs with morels and black truffles


accompanied by
Chianti DOCG
Sangiovese 2009
Piccini

* * *

MERLUZZO
Cod fillet, roasted and poached in seafood consomme,
served with a seafood stew



accompanied by
Orvieto Classico
Grechetto & Procanico 2009
Piccini

* * *

CIOCCOLATO
Gran Cru cigar filled with mascarpone orange chocolate mousse,
gelato of Gianduja, truffled truffle and a small bombolone


accompanied by
Cava Lucendo
Aruspi De

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