Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pampanga food by Chef Sau at Diamond Hotel

What a nice way to return to Manila after seven long weeks away.

Today I accepted the invitation of Diamond Hotel's GM Vanessa Suatengco to sample their Pampanga buffet at Diamond Hotel's Corniche restaurant. I'd just arrived yesterday afternoon from my trip, and for cocktails last night I'd joined well-wishers of the European Union (EU) at the Mandarin Oriental Ballroom for the EU National Day; and then I headed over to the lovely residence of the Ambassador of Israel for an intimate sit-down dinner in honor of their top officials in charge of Southeast Asia in Israel, who are currently visiting Manila.


For the dinner last night, Madame Bar-On, wife of the Israel Ambassador, had made a feast of Israeli specialties which I will write more about later on (more over the weekend on the dinner of the Israeli ambassador and one of his amazing guests at this dinner -- an Israeli gentleman who broke the Guinness Book of World Records for remembering 500 numbers after seeing them only once, and then being able to recite these numbers accurately both backwards and forwards. I was so amazed by this private performance last night that I couldn't even clap properly afterwards.).

But back to my Kapampangan lunch today. My schedule yesterday just meant that I still had not had any Filipino food since returning to Manila.


Chef Sau today at Diamond Hotel
In a way, you might say the seven-week wait was worth it, because the Pampanga food of Chef Sau Del Rosario of Villa Cafe in Pampanga was just wonderful. I ate so much and enjoyed every morsel on all of my plates -- I think I got around four plates of food.

When I arrived at Diamond Hotel, lunch was already in full swing and I was happy to see so many media friends and foodie friends I had not seen in weeks. It was like a reunion of people I liked, and altogether a relaxing afternoon.

Then I saw Chef Sau hovering by his creations. I asked him: "What do you recommend? Everything looks so good here." Yes, everything looked full of cholesterol and just so bad for me, but also incredibly delicious.

He led me to one corner where a sisig with foie gras was patiently waiting for my attention. Then he said: "This is deadly but good."


Next to this sisig with foie gras was a chafing dish filled with food that almost made my heart stop: a lechon kawali kare-kare with really salty bagoong. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to reach for a plate right then and there, and get some of that delicious kare-kare as soon as possible. When I returned for a second serving, it was all but gone. The kare-kare and the sisig were among the most popular items on the menu.

I walked around a bit, saying hello to a couple of friends along the way, until I spied a baby lechon stuffed with some kind of paella, with a choice of traditional lechon sauce or vinegar sauce filled with chopped onions. Again, my plate virtually jumped by itself to within easy reach of the hotel chef cutting up the lechon and dishing up a healthy serving of crackling skin, juicy meat and paella in one go. I'm really not a lechon person but this was truly delicious.


For this Corniche lunch and dinner buffet at Diamond Hotel, Chef Sau has recreated local dishes from Pampanga but infused these with a contemporary flair. So around the buffet tables, I saw tantalizing dishes with place card holders that read: Lamb Chops Ratatouille in Kaldereta Sauce, U.S. Beef Rib-Eye in a Bistek Sauce and Pinakbet with Tuyo Flakes.

Chef Sau grew up in Pampanga but he trained in Nice, France at the Restaurant L'Univers of Chef Christian Plumail. Then he moved on to Paris to work at the Le Divellec in Paris, before opening Luna in Shanghai and the Equinox in Singapore. He is best known in Manila for opening M Cafe in Greenbelt, and he's now working on a new restaurant called Toro.

Don't miss his delicious Kapampangan food with a twist at the Diamond Hotel from today until May 19.

with Chef Sau del Rosario
at Diamond Hotel
May 10-19, 2012

PhP 1600 nett per person
or PhP 1888 per person with unlimited tropical juices

Menu Sample
There are two cycles and this is cycle one

Whole maya maya mayonesa
Chicken galantina roulade
Fern, watermelon and prawn salad with coconut vinaigrette
Ceviche with pomelo

Lemongrass escargot with puff pastry
Camaru and vegetable springrolls

Fried catfish fillet with fermented rice & vegetables
Adobo and quesong puti pizza

Whole baby lechon with stuffed curried rice
Pork sisig with foie gras and organic egg
Pancit luglug with condiments

Lamb chops kaldereta
Ox-tongue cream of mushrooms and corn
Steamed lapu-lapu with ginger and sesame soy sauce
US sirloin bistek with shiitake confits
Crispy pata kare-kare with steamed local vegetables
Aligue fried rice

Brazo de mais
Jaleya ube, pineapple and mango

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