Thursday, January 19, 2012

La Girolle for the 2nd time

Tonight I had six invitation to events all over town. Everything looked interesting and fun and ordinarily I would've gone to at least four events; but since the new year began, I've been working doubly hard but living a quieter life than usual. So I narrowed down the invites to two parties and then asked my team to go and represent Travelife in the other events.

But when 7 pm came and I was expected at Party # 1, what do you know? I was still at the office and inertia overcame me, so I decided to skip it and head home for a few minutes before Party # 2. Then I guess you know the rest of this story, and how it's so hard to leave home once you're back. I ended up not going to Party #2 either. How nice it was to end up staying home, although I'm sure everyone who went to those 6 events all over town had lots of fun.

There's also a big all-night Bollywood-theme party tomorrow which I'm pretty psyched to go to, so I thought I'd conserve my energy for the party tomorrow night and for my never-ending Travelife instead.


But today I had a really fun lunch that took me out of the office for longer than usual. A friend had invited to lunch today and he asked me where I wanted to go; then he basically left the decision to me. I quickly made reservations at Masseto and I was really psyched to eat at there again for the fourth time in recent memory.

And as I was waiting for him to pick me up at the office, I was already thinking that I would order Chef Tippi Tambunting's handmade tagliolini with foie gras. That was on the menu when I was there for dinner two nights ago, you see, and I'd so wanted to order it, but Tippi had persuaded me to try the sweetbreads with foie gras instead. It was good but I was still keen to try the tagliolini.


But when my friend arrived and I got into the car, he said: "I'm having a health check tomorrow so I'd rather not eat foie gras. How about somewhere at Fort?"

So I had my secretary cancel Masseto and instead we took our chances without reservations at La Girolle. "It's new and sometimes it's very good and sometimes it's just okay," I explained, but since he had never been, we decided to go there instead. I'd just been mildly satisfied on my last visit but I decided to give the place another chance.

Save for one table, La Girolle was nicely empty when we got there, although it was past 1 PM so most lunchtime diners must have already left. The menu is quite streamlined at lunch, but the chef, Ian, has an explanation for this: he prepares everything based on what's available in the market so his offerings are very limited. He does all the marketing himself, and usually he goes to Farmer's Market unless he's somewhere in the South.


Spaghetti with clams

I'd been psyched for pasta since the morning so for my first course I got the spaghetti with clams. It came nicely arranged with fresh herbs and lots of clams, so it made a very good first impression. Then I tasted it. The sauce was good but nothing I would wax rhapsodic about. It lacked oomph. I remembered how someone next to me had asked for a bowl -- yes a whole bowl -- of salt the last time I'd eaten at La Girolle, and so I asked for some salt to spice up my pasta as well.

My friend ordered the fish, and it was just ok

For my main course, I ordered the short ribs done sous-vide style. And if you've been reading this blog, you'll know that I love everything done sous-vide, and especially short ribs. So far, the best sous-vide style short ribs I've had in Manila is in Opus; I've never been disappointed with their short ribs and I really like this dish so much that whenever I eat at Opus, I never look at any other main course.


This was incredibly tender

The mashed potatoes were good

So of course I was eager to try La Girolle's version. The meat was excellent and very tender, and it was done to perfection. Chef Ian is quite proud of his techniques and ways of doing things, and I must say that he did this very well. My only critique was that the meat was perfect but not seasoned enough to be tasty. Maybe it's a matter of taste, but so far I've found that I've needed the salt a lot when I eat at La Girolle -- and I usually never ever ask for salt at restaurants.


I could've eaten a couple more pieces of the banana cake

The best things about lunch today were the delicious bread at the start, the very tender short ribs and the banana dessert done three ways. Overall, the dessert was a little too small to make me truly happy but I really liked the banana cake which was very different from banana cake anywhere else. It was actually hard -- almost like a very thin piece of toast that you could pick up and eat like a cracker -- and very tasty. I loved that one.

"It's very hard work to keep coming up with a new menu," Chef Ian told me, because unlike other restaurants which have a standard menu and a few weekly specials, La Girolle's lunch menu changes every week and his dinner menu changes just a little less regularly. That's really hard work because it means you need to think of so many new dishes every few days; and so the risk of not getting things right a lot are of course very high. "We work ten hours a day here," he added.

For a small restaurant, he's got 14 staff. "This isn't the kind of food you can make with just three people," Chef Ian explained. The verdict? I think he works really hard and La Girolle has good enough food and a nice atmosphere. These were almost the same impressions I had on my last visit. But if I had to give him some unsolicited advice, I would say: Change the specials if you wish, but make sure you have some perfectly done staples on your menu because consistency is almost as important as novelty.

La Girolle
2F Blue Sapphire Bldg
30th Street corner 2nd Avenue
Fort Bonifacio

* * *

To commemorate the resilience of the Japanese people
one year after the Great Earthquake,
and to celebrate the beauty of Japanese culture.




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