Without leaving PH, executives get a taste of France
Even executives need a touch of Paris sometimes—preferably in terms of romance, possibly in terms of fashion alternatively by way of food.
On an ordinary day, we are blessed to have the following choices for a fine French meal in Manila: Brasserie Cicou in Greenhills; Impressions with Chef Cyrille Soenen at Resorts World; Champetre of Chef Marc Aubry and the Alain Ducasse Institute’s Restaurant 101 at Enderun Colleges at The Fort; and Chef Jessie’s (French-continental) at Rockwell and Top of the Citi Makati.
But this month is special as France celebrates Bastille Day to commemorate the beginning of the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille on the 14th of July.
Being part a French hotel chain, the Sofitel Manila joins other Sofitels worldwide in celebrating France.
This month, Sofitel F&B head Damien Marchenay brought in the chef at one of his favorite Parisian bistros, Le Belisaire.
Le Belisaire is also said to be one of the favorite restaurants of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. This is good trivia although I don’t know if the president’s taste in food is as fine as his taste in ladies. (Sarkozy is married to supermodel Carla Bruni.)
But if the spread at Sofitel is any example, Sarkozy’s taste in dining is fine, alright!
The chef at Le Belisaire is no ordinary Parisian chef. Matthieu Garrel has been given the title of Maitre Cuisiniere de France (French Master Chef), a prestigious title awarded only to a select few chosen by esteemed French chefs themselves. (Proud to share that Chef Cyrille Soenen, who created Brasserie Cicou and is now executive chef at Impressions, just received his medal and joined this exclusive league of chefs this year, awarded by its President Christian Tetedoie, who also visited the Philippines a few months ago.)
Garrel’s kitchen prowess is evident in his cooking, which displays a mastery of French techniques, even as he adds a pinch of eccentricity here and there.
He mixes pan-seared foie gras, for instance, with clams and vegetables, a combination described as “bizarre” by the sommelier of Werdenberg wines. “But it works!” she noted. Indeed, the dish, a recipe for which you can find in his eponymous book, is deceptive, giving the impression that you are eating something healthy, camouflaging the fact that foie gras is one of the most cholesterol-rich foods.
Other creations by the chef have a twist as well.
His interpretation of oysters is another example: it is served warm, topped with chorizo and made elegant with champagne sauce. Another odd combination that works!
But Garrel does not do modern gastronomy.
He is committed to classic French techniques, although he jazzes up here and there, reminding us of why Paris is one of the capitals of gastronomy to begin with.
A lobster dish displays the lobster head to remind you of the epicurean treat you are about to partake of. But the head is just an ornament.
You will not need to go through the motions of unearthing the meat from the shell; the chef has taken care of that for you.
Yet that “taste of the sea” so desirable in lobster is not lost, and even heightened by the accompanying—albeit sparse —amount of bisque on which the lobster lays, covered with a thin blanket of pasta.
Duck is steamed and buttered then sandwiched between layers of potato—a French dish made chic by an accent of pan-seared foie gras.
This one is very rich … and very stylish.
Foie gras galore
For the rest of July, Garrel has designed a foie gras menu that will be available at Le Bar, on the ground floor of Sofitel. This includes a menu that has bone marrow and foie gras, to be paired with Veuve Cliquot; the earlier mentioned foie gras and vegetables dish, paired with Chateauneuf du Pape; as well as the duo de canard recipe.
Meanwhile, at Spiral buffet, a slew of other Garrel dishes will also be available at the French section, executed by the very capable Chef Bettina Arguelles. These include the lobster as well as a pig stew (pot au feu Breton tout chechon), plus a few other recipes that Garrel also serves at Paris’ Le Belisaire.
Vive le France
What better way to celebrate with the French than to dine as if you were in Paris and enjoy the recipes of one of its best chefs?
So here’s a way to avoid Manila traffic. Schedule a dinner meeting at Le Bar or Spiral and raise a glass to the French! Vive le France! Thank you for the foie!
Matthieu Garrel’s recipes will be available all of July at the French section of Spiral. A foie gras menu is available at Le Bar. Major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Reservations recommended. Call 5515555.
Le Belisaire, Paris. (In case you might be traveling!) 2 rue Marmontel. +0148286224.
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