Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Older and Hungrier: The Eve of My Birthday

Every year in the past I told myself that I will not celebrate my birthday, but somehow, for one reason or another, it pushes through. This year though, after the craziness that was my wedding, I decided it would mindlessly excessive to throw a big birthday party. Also, at the wake of the tragedy that tropical storm “Ondoy” bestowed upon the islands, it would also be in bad taste.

But, being the food addict that I am, I had to sneak in a few good meals somehow. At the eve of my birthday, my parents invited me, my sisters and the rest of our growing family to lunch at Senju. Out of all of the restaurants at Edsa Shangri-la, the Japanese restaurant is the only one we have not tried.

Despite not having a reservation, we were immediately seated at a teppanyaki table for 10. Being big fans of Japanese food, everyone had their favorites. Matt went bonkers over their sushi and rolls, so I decided to order something else. But what? Since I could not decide, I ended up ordering the “Sakura” set- a set menu which consisted of miso soup, sashimi, tempura, appetizer, beef roll, your choice of grilled fish, tuna and California roll, and dessert. Phew!

The miso soup arrived first, of course, piping-hot and very tasty. It contained generous cubes of tofu and seaweed.

I saved half a bowl to sip with the small platter of sashimi, which quickly followed. It was a pretty predictable combination of kani (crabstick), tuna and salmon, all of which I like. I always judge how good a Japanese restaurant is based on the freshness of its raw seafood (don’t we all?), and happily, theirs was quite fresh. The salmon almost melted like butter in my mouth, and the tuna was firm and perfectly cool.

Next to arrive was the prawn and vegetable tempura, along with the appetizer. The appetizer, which I suppose varies depending on the chef’s mood, was some sort of stewed fish, probably tuna or blue marlin. The tempura was done very well, with the batter light and airy, fried to a pretty golden yellow. The prawns were quite big, as expected from a hotel restaurant that is not scrimping on ingredients.

As the teppanyaki chef begins preparing some dishes before us, the platter containing my main course is set down before me. From the selection of grilled fish, I chose the Chilean sea bass to accompany the beef roll. For my side dish, I had two pieces each of tuna and California maki, as well as some cold soba topped with shredded nori. The sea bass was cooked to buttery perfection, nicely accented by the accompanying sweet sauce. The beef roll was pretty cold, so I just had a bite and ignored it for the rest of the meal.

While having my dessert of chocolate ice cream, the staff surprised me with a small cake and a birthday song. I believe it is worth noting that nobody told them directly that I was celebrating my birthday the next day. The server just picked up on our conversation and decided to give me a cake- one of the few instances that eves-dropping is ok.

After chilling out the rest of the afternoon, Matt and I headed to Sala for his birthday treat for me. It has been a while since we returned to the popular fine-dining resto, mainly because Matt was not impressed with the food the few times I dragged him there. I have read in other blogs that it has been taken over by chef Carlos Miguel and thought I should give it a try. Luckily, it was my birthday, and Matt did not have a say in it.

The small dining room is gorgeous, as usual. I like its modern French interiors and how the acoustics are perfect. Even the lighting is just right- not too bright that all your pores are visible, but bright enough for food pervs like myself to take good pictures.

To start, we were served a delicious and fragrant mushroom and truffle capuccino with a cheese stick.

I remember ordering the Prawn and Dill Souffle the last time I dined there a long time ago, and I just had to have it again. Now I remember why I loved it so much. The soufflé is light and fluffy, with little bits of prawn imbedded into its cushiony inside. The flavor of dill is unmistakable but not overbearing. The toasted cheese sauce around the soufflé is the perfect compliment-creamy but not too cheesy. Overall, a winner in most people’s books, since it is one of only a couple of dishes that is never removed from the constantly-changing menu.

For my main dish, I chose the Sous-vide Squab with Foie Gras and Potato Puree. The first time I had squab was in Pinot at The Venetian in Las Vegas and I remember enjoying it. It had the same texture of quail, but bigger. I like the gaminess of the meat and how exotic it tastes compared to poultry. The dish in Sala was also delicious, but I have to admit I was surprised to see two tiny bird’s legs on my plate. It looked more like a Maya bird (the Philippines’ national bird, around three inches from beak to tail) than a squab, or at least compared to the one I had at the Venetian. Although disappointed by the size, the flavors were still quite enjoyable. The combination of the “squab” (I still think it could be a Maya bird) and foie gras was pure decadence, and the potato puree was milky and rich. You cannot blame me for wishing the bird was bigger.

With our meal, I brought a bottle of German Riesling that I ordered from Zachy’s on-line. It had a very nice, approachable character- off-dry, citrusy, which later on became a bit more complex. It went very well with soufflé and, later on, even with the dessert.

We chose to have our dessert outside- a yummy rhubarb crème brulee- which our server quietly brought out with a candle. Matt, expecting a song from the servers, looked back at the counter with a puzzled look. Before he storms up to the manager demanding a birthday song, I told him, “I don’t think they’re allowed to sing because it might bother the other customers”. Totally understandable, being the super-cool and chic resto that Sala truly is. They’re not TGI Friday’s, that’s for sure.

After dinner, a few old friends of mine with their significant others (and now good friends of mine, too) came over to the pad to have a few drinks with us. It was a nice change from the usual boozefest where everything goes by in a blur and some parts are even forgotten. The evening ended at a decent hour, just a couple of hours past midnight, our age quite obvious at this point. It was just about right for me, since I did not want to be tired and hungover for my actually birthday. I knew there was more to come, and I had to be ready for it.

Edsa Shangri-la Hotel,
Ortigas Center , Mandaluyong City
Tel no. (632) 6338888

Sala Restaurant
Poduim level Locsin Building
Ayala cor. Makati Ave., Makati City
Tel. no. (632) 7501555


Noel said...

Belated happy birthday, Chinkee! I just came home from dinner at Sala - an advanced birthday dinner of the Stockbroker. What wines we had.

So, where did you eat on your actual birthday?


Chinkee said...

Thanks Noel! Hay, I'm sure the Stockbroker brought out the big guns for his birthday. Must have been quite a dinner:-)

My actual birthday fell on a Sunday and so i thought it would be nice to have a quite dinner at home with my family. It was a nice change of pace for me... Will post that next.

Chinkee said...
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Chinkee said...
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i-Observer said...

A very Happy Birthday to you! it's been said that the more birthdays you have, the longer you will live! May you have many more fun-filled birthdays!

Chinkee said...

Ahahahaha! Good one, i-Observer. Thanks for the birthday greeting:-)

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Fresh Local and Best said...

What a wonderful celebration! I love the photos of the tempura, and noodles! Looks yummy!

NMOS said...

Wow, that sushi looks amazing! Happy belated birthday. Nice blog, by the way.

Chinkee said...

Hi NMOS! Yes, that sushi was pretty amazing:-) Thanks for dropping by my blog!

Miguel said...

What a day of eating. Its 5 am here in Spain and I'm craving for a Twice Baked Souffle...

Chinkee said...

Hi Mig! Wow naman, you're in Spain and you're craving for Sala's twice baked souffle? As they say, iba talaga ang kamandag ng souffle na yan... Hehehe.