SM does know to put its money where its mouth is
SM Hotels has really upped the game in terms of F&B (food and beverage).
The restaurants at the various SM Hotels have become very competitive, most notably Taal Vista Hotel’s Taza Fresh Table.
Taza, under the helm of New York-trained chef Jayme Natividad, has consistently been recognized the past few years as one of the leading restaurants in Tagaytay. Just recently, it was again named one of the Best Restaurants of Tatler Dining.
Chef Jayme is keeping the menu dynamic, presenting new creations at least every two months. His training with various Mario Batali kitchens in New York is evident with his octopus pappardelle and he has clearly come into his own with his twist of using local ingredients such as bone marrow.
Chef Jayme has also worked very hard on the relaunch of Veranda, the all-day buffet dining for in-house guests of Taal Vista Hotel, whose interiors are now brighter, more charming and welcoming; as well as the room service menu of the hotel. If you are looking for really good bulalo in Tagaytay, there is no need to hunt down that mom and pop shop from the year 1976 on the side streets of Taal. I was very pleasantly surprised to find excellent traditional bulalo as part of the hotel’s room service menu.
For one, the bulalo is very “intelligent” because it has two “utaks” (marrow). The beef literally falls off the bone and the soup is rich, thanks to six to eight hours of slow cooking. Best of all, there is no “sebo” or the fatty matter that forms when the soup cools. When we asked him what the secret was, chef Jayme refused to share but conceded that he had given the kitchen strict instructions to make sure this was achieved. “We are not a karinderya, we are a hotel!” he told his team.
To encourage a new generation of chefs, Leah Magallanes of SM Hotels has launched an inter-hotel competition among chefs titled “Market Basket.”
Last January, the teams from Taal Vista Hotel and Pico de Loro competed against each other. Using coffee as the secret ingredient, each team had to create a starter, a main course and a dessert.
The grand prize went to the Taal Vista Hotel team, comprised of Adrian Romen Mendoza, Marc Kevin Villanueva and Norbert Salvilla.
They created a beef tartare with balsamic vinegar and coffee sauce and a chocolate mousse with a coffee base.
I was at the judge’s table alongside chef Myrna Segismundo and Rose Reyes, editor-in-chief of South Trip News Magazine, and it was inspiring to watch these young chefs—the Pico de Loro team also did well—who were so eager to push themselves in terms of creativity and overall culinary excellence to win.
A few lessons I remember sharing at the event: When creating a dish, a secret ingredient shouldn’t just be added as an afterthought or stuck in an already familiar dish just to be accommodated. Every ingredient should have a purpose, possibly to balance or heighten flavors of the main ingredient in the dish.
Later for dinner, chef Jayme showed me his own dish using the secret ingredient: a coffee-crusted mahi mahi. Not only did the layer of coffee give the fish its own little black dress, it gave the dish texture, and balanced out the sweetness and broke the monotony of the fish.
Interestingly enough, in a trip to Taipei last week, chef Richie Lin of Mume, an excellent modern Taiwanese restaurant, used coffee powder to balance out the sweetness of his sous vide steak which was the piece de resistance for that dinner’s menu.
Cooking today is really no longer just following recipes. It’s also about going to the market or farm, having the drive and determination as well as the skills to make your own creations.
It’s really an exciting time to be in the F&B industry.
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