Firing up appetites at Kayu

MODERN, fusion cuisine using only the freshest and finest ingredients cooked with the chef’s imagination and passion best describes the creations at KAYU Kitchen, an elegant restaurant/bar at the upscale 32 Sanson by Rockwell along Salinas Drive in Lahug. Here, Chef Izzy, quiet and reserved, will fire up your appetite with his innovations.

The word “kayu,” which is short for “kalayo” (fire) in Cebuano, appealed to Chef Izzy when the family was conceptualizing the restaurant since the word sounded very Asian. It also embodies his passion for cooking.

Francis Luis “Izzy” Alvarez Sy loves music and wanted to be a musician. But his mother, Marisse, who is herself a patissier, prevailed upon him to pursue a culinary career instead. Izzy, after all, comes from a family deeply rooted in the restaurant/hotel business.

His maternal grandparents, the late Luis Alvarez and Mercedes Borromeo, pioneered in Cebu’s tourism industry when they established Montebello Villa Hotel in the ‘70s.

Armed with a two-year Culinary Arts Chef’s Program from the Int’l Culinary Arts Academy of Cebu (ICAAC) and having worked for the school after graduation, Chef Izzy further honed his culinary skills in the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Greystone, Napa Valley in California where he obtained a two-year associate degree in culinary arts. And to gain that much-needed experience, Izzy worked for Japanese Chef Masaharu Morimoto who gained his celebrity status in Iron Chef America.

So it is not surprising that Chef Izzy’s culinary style is greatly influenced by Chef Morimoto renowned for his Japanese fusion and unique style of presenting food.

As we sat down to enjoy some of Chef Izzy’s specials, I began to appreciate the fusion concept of combining elements of different culinary traditions.

For openers, we were impressed by the Scallion Pancake folded and stuffed with USDA Rib Eye, house pickled slaw, chili bean aioli and honey-glazed peanuts.

The pancake is actually a flatbread made with flour and water, rolled thinly.

It was firm and had a nice crunch on the edges. Salmon Carpaccio topped with bonito flakes, chili spice and sriracha followed this.

Sriracha is a hot Chinese chili sauce that spices up any dish.

Oysters were served in a very imaginative and exciting style — oysters “margarita” shooters with cucumber mignonette and chili salt at the rim of the glass.

Mignonette sauce usually served with raw oyster is a condiment consisting of cracked pepper, minced shallot in vinegar.

A serving has 3 shooters. I could actually have more oysters but we moved on to the entrées.

A signature dish of Chef Izzy, the fork-tender Braised Short Rib is a very slow-cooked dish. Chef Izzy explains that the braising takes at least eight hours to draw out the flavors and tenderize the meat.

Braising means very low simmer in a covered pot to develop the flavor after meat is seared at high temperature.

There is no short cut to braising. The braised short rib is served on a bed of silky cornbread puree, beech mushrooms and demi glaze. Beech mushroom is very popular in Japan, which grows on fallen beech trees.

Our second entrée was Pan-seared Parrot Fish on a ragout of wild mushrooms, brown butter emulsion and squid ink.

Parrot fish, locally known, as “mol-mol” is a firm white fish that has a clean taste. This is always available in the wet market and I have it filleted.

While enjoying the exquisite dishes, his supportive mom, Marisse, presented Kayu’s Lunch Set with a scrumptious four-course menu of appetizer, soup, choice of entrée and dessert, all for only P450. Quite a treat!

My choice of dessert was another sample of Chef Izzy’s unique style of presentation — Deconstructed Dulce de Leche Cheesecake beautifully spread on a plate with dehydrated apple, banana, lemon meringue and banana crumbs.

TAGS: cuisine, firing, modern, UP
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