Tony and JC looked forward to and got ready for a Chinese lauriat. Meaning, light lunch and no snacks. But when we got to the venue, their hope was quashed.
It was an elegant European-inspired boutique hotel, with no touch of Chinese whatsoever. The huge dining table, however, had New Year symbols like pineapples, oranges, and bamboo, so maybe, just maybe, there was still a chance of getting a lauriat.
The three of us were invited by Tony's nephew, H, a food connoisseur and a restaurateur. He hosted the dinner for his family and some kin (us), a total of 17. What a thoughtful, generous soul! Unlike my blood family which is loud and rough, H's family is genteel and quiet.
Seven waiters hovered over us and got our choices for the main course, "Lobster or Beef?" That done, they gave each of us our dinner list and the first course was served. By this time we knew it was going to be French all the way.
|Appetizers: Caviar tempura, Tuna tataki with yuzo miso and jalapeno salsa, Sable au parmesan with squash flan|
|Poached oysters in 3 ways: mignonette granite; with pommery mustard cream and gelee; with white wine-saffron sauce|
All you could hear was the clinking of dinnerware and intermittent soft conversations, and my "oooh and aaah" over the impeccable food presentations and exquisite melt-in-your mouth dream flavors, and the shameless flashing of my camera.
|Lobster Quenelle with light crustacean bisque, fried tarragon leaves|
|Cold salad of crab with avocado, green apple and curry oil|
|Coddled egg with truffled brown butter, asparagus, prosciutto & chips|
|Green apple and key lime sorbet|
|Pan seared duck foie gras with haricots verts and orange-walnut emulsion|
|Roasted rib-eye of beef with potato puree, glazed root vegetables and black truffle rugout|
|Fresh strawberry salad with mint and home-made balsamic vinegar ice cream|
|Tarte Tatin, Gorgonzola Dolce and pecan brittle|
|Tea: French Earl Grey!|
To say everything was G.R.E.A.T. would be inaccurate. With his cellphone, JC was able to show Tony and me all the cyber rave reviews on the food being served and on the two private chefs who were hired for the occasion.
Even with my Ilocano palate (and plebeian taste), I did relish every morsel of every masterpiece. Tony and JC suddenly forgot all about their craving for Chinese lauriat.
My point-and-shoot camera couldn't do justice to the grace that came with every change of dinnerware and silverware, but the photos above will always remind me of that unusually quiet and lovely night when the Chinese world celebrated with noisy revelry, while we enjoyed a relaxed dinner of probably the finest French cuisine I have ever had anywhere.
No doubt H paid a handsome bundle for the 11-course luxurious dinner, but my thinking is, you can't put a price tag on what you feel is the best way to enjoy the company of your family on an occasion as important as welcoming the new year.
Chefs par excellence: Chris Bautista, executive chef at Gourdo's and Farah Tolentino-Ylagan, chef of staff of Le Canard d'Or (considered by foodies as Manila's master of foie gras) are friends who share a deep passion for cooking. They were both trained in classical French techniques during their long stay in Paris.
"Which was your favorite?" the duo asked.
"Everything!" I said. It was the truth, but really, the foie gras took my breath away.
So how do you celebrate Chinese New Year? Go French!
Bonne année et bonne santé! (translation: Happy New Year!)
Mille fois merci, Lord.