Unlike many Filipino bloggers, I haven’t gotten into the habit of hanging out at Resorts World.
Seriously, the shops in its mall are way over my budget and I find the attractions somewhat contrived, over-the-top, and wholly off-putting for the basic reason that it looks and feels like a playground for the [presumably filthy] rich and [well, barring the presence of society whores and social climbers] famous. It’s a posh place; but, alas, I also find it a soulless, even depressing place. I can’t really explain why; I just do. (Besides, I was never lucky at gambling – so, why bother hanging out someplace where the casino’s a major draw?)
One thing I do like about RW is its extensive array of restaurants. There’s John and Yoko for Japanese moderne, Beurre Blanc for French Mediterranean (the pissaladiere on puff pastry is seriously phenomenal), Old Penang for Peninsular Asian (Malaysia / Singapore / Indonesia) cuisine, and Tao Yuan which is rumored to give Wee Nam Kee a run for its money in the Hainanese Chicken Rice department.
And then, there’s Passion.
Despite a name that may seemingly be more suitable for a restaurant specializing in Wester cuisine, Passion is a Chinese restaurant – but it’s not one that apes the homespun, hole-in-the-wall, echt-Binondo/Taiwan street-style schlock common to many new Chinese eateries. This one is more bespoke and elegant, hence the elegant table-settings that greet diners soon as they’re ushered to a table.
All things considered, Passion is no greasy-spoon. This is fine dining the way Chinese Imperialists would have had it: immaculate linens, lacquerware chopsticks, fragrant and steamy-hot o-shibori (those wet towels given to diners to freshen up with before the meal), and cups of headily aromatic jasmine tea that are constantly refilled by vigilant waitstaff. Once you’ve settled in, the waiter or waitress assigned to your table will bring dishes of boiled peanuts and other sauces to enhance your meal.
Unlike most conventional peanuts served as precursors to a meal, these aren’t salted, fried, and mixed with flakes of crisp-fried garlic. Instead, these legumes are boiled in sweetened soy sauce with (I presume) a bit of cinnamon and some star anise. They’re quite moreish: richly-flavored, subtly sweet, the nuttiness of the taste rounded out well by the spices.
Dishes at Passion can be ordered in sizes that would suit everyone from a pair of diners having a romantic meal to families out for a treat to a full dozen bacchanalians demanding a full lauriat of epic proportions. If, like my family, you’re dining out with a group of four to six people, the medium-sized platters are bound to satisfy.
I recommend starting the meal with a platter of mixed meats – a combination of cold cuts and sliced roasts. Passion’s plate contains a sesame-infused jellyfish salad, char siu, soy chicken, cold slices of cured beef, old-school pata hamon (“It tastes like the kind you used to get us from Kowloon House years ago!” I enthused to my dad.), suckling pig, and tea-smoked duck.
The smoky-sweet pata hamon is delectable: good leg meat (ham, obviously), properly seasoned, with an al dente and somewhat gelatinous rind. The suckling pig was also excellent: not too fatty with crackling that shattered audibly whenever a bite was taken; the meat was tooth-tender and had a rich, balanced flavor that was both sweet and savory.
But the real standout here was the tea-smoked duck – I swear that I actually have moments when I crave for it! Unlike other smoked duck dishes where the taste is mostly in the skin, you could tell that Passion actually smoked the bird in such a way that the smoke penetrated deep into it, permeating skin, sinew, and tender flesh. I am seriously wondering if it’s possible to order that duck – and the duck alone! – to take away. It would be perfect in sandwiches, on top of rice, over pasta…
The steamed pink grouper fillets were just as excellent. Not fishy-tasting at all, the creamy-mild flavor of the meat was complemented by the lightly salty soy that pooled beneath it and the sharp-tasting garlic and pickled greens that served as a flavorful garnish.
A hotpot of braised New Zealand beef ribs was next up. The incredibly tender, flavorful, and hearty beef was simmered in a delectable sweet yet umami sauce and lightly spiced with black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and anise. This was the dish that seriously demanded to be eaten with plain white rice.
Noodles are always a serious crowd-pleaser and the braised E-fu noodles with assorted seafood was no exception. This sauce-drenched dish featured soft, flavorful noodles topped with bits of fish, shrimp, squid, cuttlefish, mushrooms, bok choy, and deep-fried quail eggs. It was a hearty, satisfying dish that would make a great meal on its own – but was so much better as part of an even bigger feast.
Again, let me just say that Resorts World tends to rub me the wrong way. However, I wouldn’t mind making a return trip – just to be able to eat at Passion again.
Passion - 2nd Floor – Maxims Tower, Resorts World – Manila, Newport Blvd., Newport City, Pasay