Lunch at Paseo Uno

How do you like your beef? I like mine rare! 🙂

I’ve been meaning to write about Paseo Uno over at the Mandarin Oriental in Makati for the longest time but never actually found the time for it till now.

(Actually, I’m nursing a cold at home at the moment, alas…)

It’s one of my family’s favorite restaurants and it’s a fascination that began when my mother and her friends went over there for lunch.  Some time after, it was where we took my brother for his birthday last year.

Lunchtime is the best time to head over to Paseo Uno because the dark wood and gilt interiors work best with sunshine streaming through the huge windows and the ambience takes on a friendlier glow.  The service is impeccable, definitely in keeping with the Mandarin’s best traditions of gracious hospitality.

Bread? Yes, please!

As soon as your party has settled into your table of choice, your drinks have been ordered, and you’ve advised the friendly waitstaff that you’re going for the buffet, a warm, crusty, flour-dusted loaf of bread comes to your table.  It’s a cross between a baguette (crisp out, fluffy within) and a mild sourdough that goes beautifully with the little dish of demi-sel (lightly salted) butter.

Setting up the appetizer bar

Man, of course, cannot live on bread alone; so it’s off to the first part of the buffet.  To one side of the restaurant is a bar laden with warm and cold salads, fresh seafood, and a selection of sushi, sashimi, and makimono.

The Mandarin makes this fab warm venison salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, cranberries, and dried cherries.  As a sharp Oriental counterpoint to this, they also have a cold salad made with raw salmon spiked with a hint of rice vinegar, cilantro, and a generous sprinkle of flowery / peppery shichimi togarashi.

Those of you who are as mad about raw fish as I am will have a field day, and I seriously recommend the oysters as they are plump, almost pulsatingly fresh, and have a savory-sweet, somewhat briny tang.

The section for mains and entrees is divided into three: Oriental favorites on the right, Western offerings in the center, and the grill station to the left.  The plate at the top of this post shows some of my favorites from this section: har gau and pork siu mai, roast duck with a bitter-chocolate and orange sauce, a bite of baked salmon and buttered veg, and a gorgeously rare slice of roast beef with grainy mustard and a dab of horseradish on the side.

Tempura – specifically fluffy-crisp prawn and soft-shell crab – is cooked to order by the chef at the Oriental section and there was even a DIY ramen / mami section where die-hard noodle junkies could get their fill.  But, once you’ve had your fill of all the meat, fish, fowl, and veg, there’s only one place you’d like to head over to…

On to the Dessert Buffet!

The dessert buffet, of course!  Paseo Uno’s does not disappoint the hardened sweet tooth with its long line of cake squares, petite pastries, entremets (desserts in a glass), parfaits, ice creams, and bon bons.  And for those of us who need sugar served up with a grand flourish, they have stations for DIY halo-halo (similar to ais kacang only on a more baroque scale), chocolate fondue, and crepes.

Desserts!

I opted to grab a skewer of fresh honeydew melon and dunked it in the fondue.  This was joined by a Black Forest entremet and a square of mango cream tart.  And le piece de resistence: a warm, freshly made crepe stuffed with mixed berries and cherries with a scoop of strawberry ice cream and a drizzle of – what else?! – more dark chocolate.

Paseo Uno is pricier than most buffets, but it is certainly worth every centavo.  The food is so good, the service topnotch, and the interiors are elegant.  I suggest considering it for family celebrations.  😀

Paseo Uno: Ground Floor – Mandarin Oriental, Makati Avenue, Makati.  For reservations, call 750-88-88.  The place is open for lunch and dinner.

Food for Functions: Decadent Cups from Bake & Churn

A Decadent Cup, a Scoop-a-cake… It’s what the little cup of madness above is called at the shop that makes it, Bake & Churn.

 

These babies were served at a recent company affair that started with boxed lunches of boneless barbecued chicken and Java rice from Reyes Barbecue, followed by a fab Parmesan-crusted baked salmon and Vietnamese summer rolls in cilantro-flavored wraps from Jana’s Catering. But while the mains and their attendant courses were jim-dandy on their own, the dessert totally stole the show.

 

Bake & Churn’s primary stock in trade is ice cream cakes that, intriguingly enough, look and taste like their oven-baked counterparts. (In my honest opinion, the Black Forest ice cream cake is certainly chocolatey and cherry-stuffed!) But, given that slicing whole cakes for a whirling, churning, hungry crowd of people will only result in melted ice cream and disgruntled diners. In which case, the aforementioned little cups of delight certainly suffice.

 

Capuccino brownie and chocolate ganache cups made their way to our tables at the close of the meal and the construction of each dessert was quite cunning. The capuccino brownie cup shown above actually had four layers: a cinnamony Graham crumb-and-brown sugar topping, a rich dark chocolate ganache, moist chocolate cake, and a generous layer of coffee ice cream at the very bottom. The chocolate ganache had chocolate chips and plain cream as a top layer and dark choc ice cream at the bottom.

 

There are two ways to eat this. One is to consume each layer individually. The other – what most of us thought was the proper way of doing it 😉 – involves sinking one’s spoon deep into the cup, cutting into all the strata, and scooping up a little bit of everything. Ahh, bliss ~ !

 

The capuccino brownie was fabulously rich without getting too cloying for comfort and the bittersweetness of the coffee ice cream did well to cut the chocolatey sugariness of the cake and the ganache. Decadence without frills – yes, it can be done. 😀

Comfort Food Confessions: KFC

I have a confession to make: while I’m completely and utterly mad about trying new things and indulging myself in the finer treats the culinary world can offer, I can be most plebian about my comfort foods.

Case in point: KFC.

You read that right: greasy as heck, certainly bad for you, but nevertheless oh-so-good-tasting Kentucky Fried Chicken is one of the most non-negotiable comfort foods in my life. On those days when I’m dangerously close to burning out and my fatigue is beginning to get the better of me, I admit that I’ll step into the nearest KFC branch on my way home and order (shudders!) a two-piece chicken meal with coleslaw and an orange soda.

And the chicken has to be the Colonel’s Original Recipe and dark meat only; ergo, only drumsticks and thighs can help ease my pain. (Breasts and wings – “healthier” though these may be – leave me bored, dissatisfied, and cranky at the end of the meal.) In a pinch, though, I’ll have a mix and match – one Original and one Hot and Crispy – if a part of choice isn’t available with the original 11 secret herbs and spices.

And there should be gravy – spot on serious lashings of the stuff. If it weren’t an injustice to the other diners, I’d hijack a thermos of gravy from the refilling stand and keep it within close reach for the duration of the meal. But, of course, I still have better manners than that.

However, on days when I crave seriously comforting sustenance but have to dash from point A to point B, a two-piece meal – even a one-piece meal as the fowl is still on the bone – will take too long to eat. On those days, I can put a slight Oriental twist to my meal with a Chinese Imperial Supreme Bowl.

To describe this dish is to say this: it’s a deep-fried chicken thigh fillet on rice. Over it goes a spicy-sweet, rather garlicky sauce reminiscent of old-school Kung Pao [Gong Bao] chicken. There’s fried eggplant, too, which is another of my comfort foods. Finicky types will shy away from fried eggplant, but if you’re not eating that, slap it on my bowl, please. 😉

Okay, so it’s not haute cuisine; heck, it isn’t even classic Chinese food. But it’s good, filling, and reasonably priced. Not quite a two-piece meal, but it hits the spot when I need it the most.

(But all this talk of KFC chicken has, alas, awakened some serious cravings! Oh, dear…)

Dezaato Pan (Part II of II): Two Chocolate Rolls

With the Nagasaki tea latte out of the way, my focus was automatically fixed on the pair of chocolate rolls I bought to go from Dezaato Pan.

The first one up was this Choco-Almond Bread, a pretty rectangular roll drizzled with semi-sweet chocolate and sprinkled with flaked almonds. As almond breads go, however, that was about as almondy as it got as the thick filling within the roll was all chocolate. Still, that isn’t a bad thing as the chocolate was of very good quality and made a lovely bittersweet contrast with the slight hint of salt in the buttery bread.


The second roll was the wittily named Choco-Otaku (literally: choc-fanatic). Imagine this: pane al cioccolato stuffed with a rich ganache and topped with semi-sweet chocolate and confectioner’s sugar. Fab and dreamy!

I agree with Doc Gelo: Dezaato Pan is rather underrated, but it really deserves a visit from die-hard urban foodies and hard-core sweet-teeth. 😀

Dezaato Pan (Part I of II): Nagasaki Milk Tea

I’ve been meaning to try Dezaato Pan, the nouveau-Japonais (New Japanese) style pastry-shop / cafe over at Tomas Morato’s Thompson Square for ages, but never had an actual opportunity to go till last Monday.

Truth be told, Heavenly Chocolates is my sweetshop of choice and Kozui gets my nod for the nicest teashop in the Morato area, but a girl has to broaden her culinary horizons, right? So it was that I had lunch over at Ebi Tempura Grill and, seeing how I was in the area already, trotted over to Dezaato Pan which was right next door.

Since it was already pushing 1 PM and I had to hightail it back to the dungeon, I mean work, I wasn’t able to snap any pictures of the interiors, or buy a scoop from any of the alluring tubs of gelati on display, or sample any of the tempting cream-cakes on display. (Which, alas, was a pity because the chocolate crepe and matcha crepe cakes both looked supremely tempting… T_____T) Still, there’s always a next time, so I consoled myself with a 12oz. iced Nagasaki tea latte and a couple sweet rolls from the bread display.

This particular milk tea beverage involves a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream stirred into a chai latte. I am not sure why this drink was given the name of the Japanese city that gained fame and notoriety as that nation’s window to the world, the scene of many a Christian execution in the 17th Century, and one of the two H-bomb casualties of the Second World War. Then again, bringing a definite European taste (Irish cream and sweet spices) and a Western touch (milk) to Japan’s drink of choice may have something to do with it. But, again, I digress…

This drink goes down smoothly with the distinct flavor of Irish Cream balanced by the slightly tannic flavor of the tea. Plus, it isn’t boozy at all, so it makes for a refreshing afternoon sipper after a good lunch.
As for the pastries? Ah, more on that tomorrow, dears… 😉