August 23, 2011

One rainy evening at the Tower Club (UPDATED)

The brilliant Chef Chris Locher of C' Italian Dining, now on limited engagement at the Tower Club in Makati. (Photo courtesy C' Italian Dining.)

FANS of Chris Locher, Chef Patron of C’ Italian Dining in Angeles, Pampanga, are hereby advised that the irrepressible culinary genius is here in Manila whipping up his magic in the kitchen of Tower Club in Makati. (And shame on you if you still haven’t had a taste of the chef’s famous panizzas and pastas from his restaurant!)

Of course, the catch is, one must be a member of the posh exclusive club to be able to partake of Chef Chris’ sumptuous dishes, or at least, fortunate enough like me, to know a member willing to lend me her dining privilege for a night. (Thank you, oh Great Generous One!)

At the Pinot Room at the Continental Restaurant, the lamon gang and I feasted on a special menu Chef Chris prepared for us one rainy Friday evening.

While waiting for the rest of our dining companions to arrive, Chef Chris served us our favorite panizzas – his trademark rectangular thin crust pizzas – using fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and basil. As is the usual, these were served with arugula leaves and alfalfa on the side, which one deftly places in each strip of panizza before rolling them up to eat.

Crispy- thin Panizza Margarita for starters.

Although not normally on C’s menu, Chef Chris acceded to our request for some gambas using medium-sized succulent prawns. Unlike the gambas served in other restaurants, Chef Chris’s version was just lightly touched by olive oil and garlic, allowing the freshness and sweetness of the prawns to shine through. He also served us a deli platter with a variety of sliced meats, with sweet and crunchy olives dotting the plate.

For the dinner proper, our simple but hearty meal began with Tuna Ceviche with avocado, red onions, and fresh cucumber on roasted pepper salsa. It was like a bright ray of sunshine amid the gloomy rainy weather. Very light and summery.

We also had a very rustic classic tomato soup served in a demitasse, which kept to the theme of simplicity and lightness. The sweet-sour creamy blend gently warmed our tummies, in preparation for the other dishes to come.

Tuna Ceviche - like a bright ray of sunshine amid the heavy rain.

For our main entrees – I had a mini-crisis of sorts as I carefully pondered our choices – Grilled sirloin steak with herb butter sauce on pumpkin and carrot mash, with golden fried potatoes; Pink-roasted lamb loin with red wine reduction served with golden bramata cake and buttered green asparagus; or Pan-roasted Sea Bass fillet with Pernod butter sauce on a bed of mushroom risotto and greens.

They all sounded so delicious but I finally settled on the fish, primarily because I haven’t had mushroom risotto in a while – in fact, the last time I had it was at C’, and this was many many moons ago! As expected, the fish meat was just luscious and velvety soft as it gently melted in my mouth. And the mushroom risotto was creamy and cooked al dente - it was a nice contrasting earthy tone with a few crispy notes to complement the fish.

For the rustic touch- a creamy classic Tomato soup.

Not missing a beat, I took a slice of sirloin steak from one friend, and a slice of lamb from another, and I was blown through the roof with the tenderness of both. Not having tasted the other dishes in their entirety though, I am constrained to write about them further. But trust Chef Chris to serve the tenderest meats in town – he has not failed me yet. (One of his more sublime creations at C’ is his Slow roasted lamb ribs in aromatic spice rub, served with braised lentils, garlic glazed rapini and olive oil fried potatoes.)

For dessert, we had a very straightforward frothy zabaglione (or sabayon) which was scooped warm over – surprise! ice cold homemade vanilla ice cream. If it sounds very sweet, it wasn’t at all. Chef Chris gave it a nice kick by using some mint leaves and lemon rind. And the white wine incorporated within gave it an extra zing. What a smashing end to a great meal.

My main course - a tender and almost flaky Chilean Sea Bass fillet with Pernod butter sauce over a bed of creamy mushroom risotto and greens.

For the special menu, we were charged P1,850 per head for 10 persons – which I thought was very reasonably priced considering the fancy venue. For movers and shakers who like to hold their meetings or press conferences at the club, a special menu like this would definitely be excellent value.

A lunch buffet is also available at the Continental at P900++, following a daily theme: Monday is Italian, Tuesday-modern Filipino, Wednesday-Carvings (meats), Thursday-Curry Tiffin (Indian), and Friday-Seafood. The themed lunch buffet will last until the end of the year.

Meanwhile, a separate lunch menu featuring Chef Chris' special dishes are also available to diners.

MEMO to members: Chef Chris Locher’s stint as guest chef is only until end-August, so hustle up and treat yourselves (and your families and friends) to the awesome kitchen creations of this brilliant chef. RUSH.

For dessert, a zabaglione scooped warm over home-made vanilla ice cream with mint and lemon.

*For reservations – members only – please call tel. no. 885-7085. Tower Club is at the 33rd and 34th floors of the Philamlife Tower, 8767 Paseo de Roxas, Makati City.

(UPDATE): According to Chef Chris, he has just been appointed as chef consultant to the Tower Club. So expect to see him cooking his excellent dishes for its members for quite some time. Also, other projects are upcoming w/ Chef Chris leading the way in the kitchen of some establishments in Manila and Q.C. I am not yet at liberty to say what these are but yes, Chef Chris/C' fans - totoong-totoo na 'to! So keep reading this blog for future announcements of his projects.

(This blog entry later appeared as a published piece in the BusinessMirror food page, Life section, Aug. 26, 2011.)

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