THE RISOTTO CAME IN a gravy boat.
I should reconsider that, given the elevated nature of a dègustation, and tell you our rice dish—fourth in a succession of a sophisticated nine-course tasting menu at KaYu’s by-invitation only off-menu nights—came in a saucière.
And that wasn’t even the strangest thing about it: at the bottom, under layers of bacon, preserved lemons and shiitake mushrooms, was puffed rice.
Not unlike ampao, the Filipino delicacy, akin to the American rice krispies, a popular breakfast cereal Stateside. To soften it, a creamy white truffle broth came soon after, poured ceremoniously by my waiter, leaving with a caveat: “Please wait 30 seconds before eating.”
Easily the most inventive reimagining of risotto I have had in a long time, the play of flavors frolicked with the many textures (the crunch of the bacon, the velvety sauce, the soft of the mushroom, the eventual mush of the softened rice). It was a party in the mouth, and Chef Izzy Sy threw a rather unforgettable one.
“Chaine de Rotisseurs quality,” nods The Freeman’s Dr. Nestor Alonso, with The Philippine Star’s Honey Jarque-Loop agreeing, which is saying a lot for the budding chef’s (he’s 28) skill, knowing that these two have had the grandest of meals from Michelin-starred chefs.
Meanwhile, a Michelin-starred one, Chef Chele Gonzalez, whips up a Spanish feast at Enye in Crimson Mactan, this time family-style, for the restaurant’s first anniversary.
After a parade of their signature dishes (you must try their Lechon Cebu tacos and that surprising salad with the sago balls!), we settled quite happily with a surprising dessert surprise.
Individually, the Filipino is familiar with coconut, mangoes, and pineapple, the building blocks of many of our postres. But trust Chef Chele’s masterful hand and incredibly informed palate to combine the three in a strikingly simple dessert that caught me off guard.
Served closest to their raw form, the three fruits came in a refreshing chilled state, and swimming delicately in their own juices. Only one as deft as Chele could have pulled this off, with a noticeable lack of hubris (as the word is again very much in vogue).
That is the story of how, in just a span of a week, I had two of the most elegant meals served so differently, made by men who couldn’t be more dissimilar, and yet were the same in the aspect that mattered most. They were both very, very good.