Thursday, May 5, 2011
Thai Food Festival at Mandarin Oriental Manila
One of the few perks I get from doing what I do is that I get invited to eat for free once in a while. The good people of Mandarin Oriental- particularly Director of Communications Charisse Chuidian and PR Manager Erika Aquino- were gracious enough to invite me to the launch of the hotel’s Thai Food Festival in Paseo Uno. I like Thai food, but do not particularly love it. Although, when I saw in the e-mail that the chefs from Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai (Northern Thailand)- ranked 45th in Travel & Leisure’s Top 100 World’s Best Hotels- were coming to town to show us Pinoys a thing or two, I admit I was suddenly curious. And, aside from that, it would be nice to see my Mandarin friends whom I haven’t seen for quite some time now.
I arrived for lunch and most of the guests were already there. I was warmly welcomed by Erika and quickly called shotgun on the seat beside her. She then walked me to the small alcove where the Thai buffet was located, which will be part of the usual lunch and dinner buffet until May 15, 2011. There were 18 dishes laid out, from appetizers to entrees to dessert. I particularly enjoyed the following starters: Tod Man Pla (deep fried curry fish patties)- think fish balls with a sweet chili sauce- asian flavors we are all familiar with; Plar Neur (spicy lemongrass salad with beef)- tender and lean beef with a nice kick; and the Tom Sab Gra Dook Si Kloong Moo (spicy clear soup with prok rib)- light yet packed with flavor.
After a promising opening round, I was excited to try the main dishes (so excited that I almost walked past Mandarin’s Executive Chef Rene Ottlik, despite his imposing Brock Lesnar-esque physique). Again, the beef dish draws me in- the Pa Neang Neur (creamy red curry with beef) is this lovely mélange of thai spices, sweet basil and lemongrass, so fragrant and rich, but not cloying. The Phad Prik Geang Moo Grob (stir fried pork skin with red curry paste and basil) got me eating more steamed rice than I would have wanted.
When I scanned the buffet, I knew that I had to definitely save room for dessert. Visually, the dessert spread on its own was a masterpiece. Fruits carved by the hands of specially-trained Thai women sat prettily on their silver thrones, while thimble-sized sweets in warm tropical colors beg you to pick them up and try them. What caught my attention was the Tab Tim Grob (chilled water chestnut rubies in sweet coconut milk)- not only was I struck by the mildy sweet, almost floral flavors, but by the unique texture of the “rubies”. During the Q & A with Chef Chanin Jakkased, one of the food writers inquired how it was made, wherein the chatty chef suddenly played coy and replied: “Secret”.
But, apparently, curious home cooks can learn the secrets to his dishes since he will be hosting a Thai Cooking Class at the Tivoli on May 7, Saturday, 9 AM. For passionate Thai food lovers, this is your chance.
The Thai Food Festival at Paseo Uno will be running from May 2 to May 15, 2011 at the Mandarin Oriental Manila. Diners availing of the Thai buffet get a chance to win one of 28 vouchers at stake daily, including vouchers for treatments at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Manila, complimentary meals and dining discounts in Paseo Uno, The Tivoli, and Tin Hau.
The Thai cooking class with Chef Chanin will feature the following dishes: Phla Pla Tuna (Spicy lemongrass salad with tuna loin), Pa Neang Aok Ped Yang (creamy red curry with duck breast), and the enigmatic Tab Tim Grob. The cooking class is priced at P3,500 nett, inclusive of a continental breakfast, three-course lunch consisting of the cooking class menu, and a custom souvenir apron.
Thank you so much to Charisse Chuidian and Erika Aquino for inviting me to this event. It is always nice seeing you both. Chef Rene, you have to admit, you look totally different in an apron. But still, I promise to be more alert next time. Do not crush me.
Mandarin Oriental Manila
Makati Ave., Makati City
Tel. no. (632) 750 8888