MANILA, Philippines - Say “food festival,” and I’m usually there in a heartbeat.
The latest one being raved about is the “Paskuhan sa Paseo” at the Mandarin Oriental Manila’s Paseo Uno interactive buffet outlet, ongoing until December 18.
Chef Ed Quimson, a veteran of many of the metro’s best restaurants, whipped up a line of traditional Christmas treats and Filipino comfort food, with the help of his associate, Chef Booj Supe of M Fine Foods, especially for this feast.
It proved to be another belly buster, as only Mandarin’s food festivals are wont to be. The best thing about this particular feast is, we get to eat our favorite Noche Buena dishes weeks before Christmas!
Of the many foods laid out, the clear winner for me—among the cold appetizers—was the suha (pomelo) salad. It was prickly sour and sweet at the same time, the flavors playing off each other but still making for a cohesive whole. Certainly, it’s a favorite of the other diners as well, because it ran out quickly when I tried to get seconds!
The bangus embutido was a delightful surprise. Moist and flaky, with very balanced flavors. And thankfully, no overly fishy (malansa) taste. Truth to tell, I am not really an embutido person. But made with fish, the embutido (our local version of meatloaf) flies in the face of convention, thus providing a welcome alternative to diners who wish to eat light.
I thought the most awesome dish in the entire lineup, just because it was so perfectly Christmasy, was Chef Ed’s Chicken Relleno. A usual staple at the Noche Buena table, this chicken relleno was certainly one of the best I’ve tasted in a long time. The fowl’s skin was just lightly singed a golden brown, while the stuffing was so succulent, brimming with an all-meaty goodness. There was none of the usual extenders of hotdogs, hard-boiled eggs, and pickles as with most commercial chicken rellenos. It was pure holiday joy at every bite.
I also liked the braised beef belly adobo—and again, I’m one person who can live without adobo (so I’m weird, sue me!)—and only eat it if it’s deep-fried in oil. But braising it, not only broke down the beef belly, but it also reduced the vinegar and soy sauce blend into a light sauce, not cloying and heavy like some adobos are made that I try to steer clear of.
Of course, it was impossible to eat everything. My tummy was already bursting at the seams, and so I had to reluctantly move to the dessert table. The only dishes I managed to partake of were the light and fluffy cheese bibingka—loved this!—and the leche fan (milk flan) with dayap (native lime). The latter was still a bit too sweet for me, despite the dayap, but what I liked about it was its luscious creamy texture.
Chef Ed, of course, has been involved in many well-respected and long-favored establishments such as La Tasca, Via Mare, Nielsen Tower Club and Restaurant, Broker’s Lounge at the Philippine Stock Exchange, Giraffe, Subic Bay Yacht Club, Rastro, Chef Ed’s, Club Noah, Splendido, Petra and Pilar, and Delimondo, to name a few.
He started working professionally at 17 years old, and considers his passion for cooking a legacy from his grandmother, Doña Consuelo Tuason Quimson, with whom he shared well-spent moments in the family kitchen when he was a wee five years old.
The dishes he creates are traditional Filipino home-cooked delights with some Spanish influences. “Filipino food is so diverse and flavorful and we are incredibly excited to bring Chef Ed’s specialties to Paseo Uno this Christmas season, just in time for festive gatherings and family reunions with balikbayans,” says Chico Angeles, MOH’s director of food and beverage.
“We look forward to again working with Chef Ed,” notes Executive Chef Rene Ottlik “and present to our diners his divine recipes that are as rich in taste as they are in tradition.”
Diners will expectedly find themselves lining up at the carving station for the scrumptious lechong Cebu and crispy pork belly. Other specialty favorites in the menu include Tortang Alimasag with Fresh Lumpia Sauce, Paella Tinola, Tinapa Paté served with melba toast, Kilawin Na Tangigue with Gata in wanton cups, and Crispy Kare-Kare.
Also on the menu are more than a half dozen of mouth-watering Filipino desserts, including Palitaw filled with Langka, Halo-halo with Gata and Moscovado, and Pastillas de Leche Cheesecake.
The festive buffet spread is priced at P1,650+, while Friday and Saturday dinner is priced at P2,200+ inclusive of Paseo Uno’s Luxury Buffet.
(For more information on “Paskuhan sa Paseo Uno”, email email@example.com. For reservations, call Paseo Uno at 750-8888. My piece was originally published in InterAksyon, Dec. 14, 2011.)