Friday, December 30, 2011

A good Italian dinner

Last night I had dinner at Paparazzi, the Italian restaurant of the EDSA Shangri-la. The Ortigas area is usually out of my general five kilometer-comfort zone radius but traffic was light with the holiday lull and the promise of a good Italian dinner beckoned.

Chef Robby, Papaprazzi's chef only for the last few weeks, is very nice and incredibly young. But when you learn that he's been working in famous restaurants all around the world since he was 17, then you realize that age has nothing to do with cooking talent -- although, of course, I'm sure he will only get better with age.

I'd been to Paparazzi only once before, last month when Chef Robby made his debut dinner for a small group of people including the hotel general manager Henry Lee and the Ambassador of Italy. It had been a very good degustation dinner (which I've already written about in this blog) and everyone had come away very impressed with his skills for someone so young.

Last night we decided to do a degustation dinner again, although this time just a four-course meal. We arrived a little past 7 PM and the restaurant was not very full, although as the evening went on, it filled up nicely to the point where it was occupied but not uncomfortably so. They had a pianist playing last night as well, and for some inexplicable reason, he was playing all my favorite songs. Maybe he could read minds, but that certainly added to the enjoyment of the evening.


When we booked the degustation meal, we thought there would be a set course of specialties as with most other restaurants. But because Chef Robby has just arrived, he still had not created a proper degustation menu and instead he let us pick anything -- as in literally anything -- we wanted from his menu and then he just adjusted the portions to create a degustation meal.

What fun that was to be able to point to everything that looked good on the menu and taste them!

And so it happened that Chef Robby came out at the start of each course -- appetizer, pasta, main course and dessert -- and asked us what we wanted from the menu. Then he managed all our choices so that we each got a nice assorted plate for each course.

For the appetizer course, we had the fritta mista, which is basically an Italian version of tempura, slices of raw and marinated scallops, and buffalo mozzarella with special tomatoes. The last two were my choices as I'd had the scallops on my first visit (and loved it) and I really like buffalo mozzarella when I can get the real thing. I still remembered how the wife of the Italian Ambassador and myself had swooned over the scallops when we'd had a first bite of it.

Everything was delicious and the Italian tempura came with a spicy kick, which was very interesting.


For the pasta course, someone wanted carbonara. Who has carbonara as part of a degustation, right? Well, that was what I was thinking until I actually tried a forkful of it. It was wonderful and I think I ended up leaning over and eating at least a third of it.

For my own pasta, I chose the most exotic sounding one on the menu, which was a giant ravioli with a fresh tomato sauce, with buffalo mozzarella inside. It was also absolutely delicious. When I cut my fork across it, the mozzarella simply oozed out and made a lovely sauce.


By the main course I was just too full but nevertheless I couldn't resist ordering the wagyu done two ways so that I had a fillet steak on the right and a stewed rib on the left. It was very good and a specialty of the house; but, frankly, I'm still partial to the pasta.

I shouldn't have had dessert either, but as my friends know, that's one thing I can't resist ordering. "Betsu bara," as the Japanese say, which means you have a different stomach for dessert and can eat it no matter how full you are. But I did have the wisdom to order something on the light side: a simple chocolate gelato instead of the deliciously complicated other options on the menu.

Well, the gelato was just amazing. It was so full of chocolate goodness that words wouldn't do it justice, if I tried to describe it here. But I managed to ask Chef Robby: "How did you make this?"

I can't even accurately remember his reply as I was in ice cream heaven, but the gelato is done by him and it's apparently made with a very high-quality chocolate that's at least 73% cacao. It was so good that I would've had had second servings if only I hadn't been thinking of fitting into a vintage long gown for a fancy ball on New Year's Eve.

What a nice and relaxing dinner towards the end of a wonderfully challenging year. And just another evening in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.




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