Monday, January 28, 2013

Greg Doyle cooks an Australian dinner for us at the Peninsula Manila

Caviar with potato chips

If only all dinners could be as enjoyable as tonight.

I can't really complain, as I have more than my fair share of fun evenings in a never-endingly eventful Travelife.

But tonight, it was a truly nice combination of great food cooked by Greg Doyle, one of Australia's top chefs, and enjoyed together with some of my favorite people, at the Peninsula Manila.

A winning combination, and certainly my sort of night. I really like intimate dinners way more than big events.

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To kick off a week of the best of Australian cooking at the Old Manila, the fine dining restaurant of the Peninsula Manila, general manager Sonja Vodusek had invited five of us to join her and her husband Anthony for a six-course dinner personally prepared by Greg. (Greg Doyle is cooking at Old Manila until February 2)

The lucky five were Australian Ambassador and Madame Bill Tweddell, Standard Chartered CEO Mahendra Gursahani, Teresa Chan and myself.

Our group at dinner with Chef Greg Doyle

We all knew each other fairly well, so it was truly a relaxed evening of eating and talking about anything and everything -- much of it about travel and travel-related experiences.


We ended up talking about safaris in Africa, among other things.

Mahendra had long been telling me about the amazing things to see in Tanzania, and Teresa's and her daughter's accounts of their safari in Botswana had prompted me to place Botswana on my safari list this year.

We chose the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve
in Greater Kruger National Park
for our safari in South Africa last November.

And, yes, how lucky that I now have a cabinet full of safari clothes to wear, as I've been buying safari clothes since I returned from South Africa last November.

I know most people shop for their safari clothes before their safari, and not after.

But then, you know us at Travelife, the leading travel and lifestyle magazine. We're never quite like everyone else....


Dinner tonight was truly delicious.

Very fresh scallops for a second course

Frankly, I was expecting a meal full of more aggressive flavors, for some reason, in line with my general view of Australian culture as strong and straightforward.

Instead, Greg's cooking reminded me of Japanese kaiseki cuisine. It was subtle and refined, and he relied a lot on the quality of the ingredients to make the flavors shine through. Very refreshing.

There were no heavy sauces, and certainly no dish was drowned in any sort of marinade or seasoning.

So in this sense, this was very much like Japanese kaiseki cuisine, indeed, which I'm very used to and which I appreciate a lot.


That's Greg, having a chat with us after dinner
There was no shock value anywhere either.

Many top chefs these days like to give diners the surprise factor by serving ingredients in a completely new or untraditional way, so as to leave diners open-mouthed at the end of it all.

There was none of that here.

Instead, it was simple, good food with just a little bit of innovation -- he actually served caviar with all its traditional condiments, but with potato chips, for example -- and the kind of mastery of technique that I would expect from one of Australia's top chefs.

Even the petit fours of violet crumble dipped in chocolate
were scrumptious.


Everyone enjoyed each course.

We had two seafood courses.
This was my favorite.
It was coated in something similar to French toast.

My own favorites in our six courses were the incredibly tasty fish coated in a material not dissimilar to French toast, and the very large plate of crumbled chocolate dessert.

The crumbled chocolate dessert was actually a deconstructed tiramisu, and it was so good that I finished every bit on my plate.

Someone said: "We'll have to get to the gym tomorrow, after this dessert."

Gym? I haven't seen the inside of a gym in years. But my thoughts on this matter were clear. I certainly had no plans to visit a gym anytime soon.

But I was returning to the Old Manila for another Greg Doyle dinner in a day or two. And I'm scheduled to have three decadent days of massages in Thailand next week, and another massage at a luxury spa in the middle of nowhere in Sri Lanka. Plus I'm climbing Sigiriya Rock.

Obviously, only one of these will burn calories in any significant way. So I replied, not without a sigh: "Some things are just worth getting fat for."


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