It was inevitable, a food trip article this year. I didn’t expect it this early, but that’s OK; I’m only too happy to share.
For our wedding anniversary (11 years last Jan. 10!), we took the suggestion of a fellow school parent: Vask Modern Tapas and Gastronomic Cuisine (5th floor, CLIPP Center, on the corner of 11th Avenue and 39th Street, Bonifacio Global City).
For a change, we brought Nicole along! Thankfully, Vask has kid-friendly selections that Nic loved. She devoured the mini tuna burger with crunchy potato chips at lightning speed, stuffing her mouth like she hadn’t eaten for a week. She also enjoyed the potato croquettes and her main course: sous-vide chicken with bacon mashed potatoes. She didn’t have much of her dessert, a chocolate lava cake with orange vanilla ice cream, given the previous courses.
We adults chose the 15-course tasting menu. Each course had a special name that described its visual representation (Ravine had blue crab aligue, coconut, avocado cream, cilantro and pumpkin pebbles … once buko juice was poured in, it resembled a ravine!), ingredients (Buro used fermented rice), flavors (Steak used beef au jus to make the tuna cheek taste just like a steak), or location peg (the amuse-bouche course Binondo had isaw and mini siopao, the real Binondo being known for street food).
Proof of success
Each course beautifully led into the next. From appetizer to the main courses, all the way to dessert, it was a great show of color, flavor and texture. Even the final sweets course, Sungca, was great to look at, and eat.
My personal favorites were Ravine, Binulo (cochinillo sinigang flavored with alibangbang leaves and elderberries), Buro (there was mustasa and catfish with the fermented rice), the palate cleaner Balubad (kamias sorbet, not too sweet and refreshing enough to prepare us for the next course), Earth (tender wagyu beef with root crops, hence its name), Taho (which used goat’s milk rather than tofu … a really nice twist), and 3/11 (three kinds of milk—carabao, goat and cow—showing off 11 different textures, like creamy, crunchy and smooth). The aperitif of calamansi, ginger and calamansi liqueur was a great way to start, and they gave Nicole a nonalcoholic version.
We knew our evening was successful when Nicole asked us to take her back to Vask. I think we are raising a foodie!
Rob suggested another food trip evening, soon after. This time, he picked a more familiar name: Nobu.
Over the years I’ve dined at four Nobu branches—Las Vegas, New York’s Tribeca, New York’s Midtown and Malibu. My experiences ranged from good to great, so I was curious to give the Manila resto a try. (Official opening will be at the start of Chinese New Year, but the restaurant is fully operational. Nobu Hotel is in City of Dreams, Parañaque.)
The place is beautiful, not unlike the other Nobus (the Malibu branch is my favorite because it’s right on the beach … I suggest eating outside, barring inclement weather). We were seated at a cozy table that fit the three of us (yes, Nic came along again).
Opening the menu, our eyes headed for the signature Nobu dishes. I told Rob which ones I had tried at the other branches so, just to have a basis for comparison, we gave a couple of those a go: the Hamachi sashimi with jalapeños and ponzu sauce, otoro sushi, Hamachi and jalapeño cut rolls, and black cod with miso.
From the dishes that I had not tried, we went for cabbage with truffle butter and oysters with three kinds of sauce (my favorites were the ponzu and the Nobu). Nic had beef tenderloin teriyaki and miso soup. She liked the soup so much, she ordered three bowls. And drained all of them.
Now the Manila branch is officially my favorite Nobu, as its offerings compare to, and sometimes exceed those of the others. The ambience is relaxed (save for the occasional shouts of “Irasshaimase!”), and the staff very attentive and knowledgeable. I hope this quality of the food and service is maintained.
One need not travel to California, New York or Las Vegas to experience chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s Nobu. Knowing that makes me very happy.
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