A diamond in the heart of Makati | Inquirer Business
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A diamond in the heart of Makati

/ 12:12 AM October 16, 2016

Chef Han, a former banker, is known for his neo-Singaporean or post-modern Singaporean cuisine.

Chef Han, a former banker, is known for his neo-Singaporean or post-modern Singaporean cuisine.

I was surprised to learn that some people had not even heard of Makati Diamond Hotel.

Almost everyone is familiar with Manila Diamond Hotel, the grand five-star hotel on Roxas Boulevard in Manila (book the board room on the 27th floor, the view of Manila Bay is fantastic). But few knew that the Diamond had also opened a luxury hotel in the heart of the Makati Central Business District, right across from Greenbelt 1, where the Philippine Airlines ticketing office used to be.


The hotel has a spacious lobby that ordinarily has the usual hotel menu with an assortment of favorite international dishes. But Diamond Hotel president and general manager Cecile Ang, who is passionate about food and likewise a wine connoisseur, opened the kitchen of Alfred to celebrate the work of Singaporean chef Han Li Guang of Restaurant Labyrinth in Singapore, which won as Best Asian Fine Dining in the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) Epicurean Star Awards of 2015.


Chef Han, a former banker, is known for his neo-Singaporean or post-modern Singaporean cuisine. This is what the chef describes as “a progressive expression of traditional Singaporean classics, reinterpreted to push culinary boundaries.” At Labyrinth, he explained they would alter the textures, presentation and refinement of the dishes while preserving the authenticity of flavors and the heritage behind traditional sauce making.

This philosophy was evident from the onset. The Rojak Puff and Chwee Kueh that served as the amuse bouche immediately transported guests to Singapore. Rojak or Rujak is a traditional fruit and vegetable salad dish commonly found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Chwee Kueh is a water rice cake popular at hawkers.

The fact that Chef Han dared to use bagoong or shrimp paste for an amuse bouche while successfully enticing instead of turning off guests was an immediate testament to his credibility as a chef pushing the boundaries of traditional Singaporean cuisine.

The starter (labeled “Snacks” on the menu) was followed by Chinese ceviche. A tribute to Filipinos, since kinilaw was made the trendiest dish of 2015, Chef Han used Trevally Fish (talakitok) which lay on a bed of porridge espuma (lugaw made fine and foamy) but given depth using a rich ramen broth. It’s truly a fine dining dish using Filipino ingredients.

Post-modern techniques became evident come the mackarel, which was presented with a thin red sheet atop it, like a hat. I thought it was lechon skin, but it turns out, it was tomato skin. It wasn’t just appealing to the eye, either. The acidity from the tomato made what would otherwise be a really boring dish into one that came alive in the mouth.

Mackarel was followed by soft shell chili crab, one of those dishes that is always a a sure winner. How can you ever go wrong with chili crab? The chef made it more interesting with a side of chili ice cream and seaweed.


The fish dishes were lavishly followed by suckling pig with a blend of char siu and rice; and beef with burnt scallions.

Dessert was a xiao long bao with wrapper made with pandan, as evidenced by its color. Inside are red beans and coconut spheres. It’s a pop of Asian sweetness in your mouth. This dessert is one of the signatures of Restaurant Labyrinth.

The evening finally ended with Ice Kachang or a sorbet of local fruits in season (mangosteen, pineapple, dalandan) and a pandan meringue.

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It was refreshing to go back to having a guest chef own the menu for his visit (so happy to be moving on from the trend of four hands dinners). Hopefully, too, this is only the first of a series of the Makati Diamond hosting renowned guest chefs from around the world. Maybe Alvin Leung or Willin Low next?

TAGS: food

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