Joy~Nostalg Hotel & Suites executive chef Gus Mohamed creates a menu with the hotel’s sustainability ethos in mind.
For many Filipinos, food is a love language. And what better way to express affection for one’s significant other than sharing a lovingly prepared meal on Valentine’s Day?
At The Nostalgia Lounge & Bar of Joy~Nostalg Hotel & Suites Manila, couples can dine on an exquisite five-course menu meticulously crafted by the hotel’s executive chef, Gulshan “Gus” Mohamed. With sustainability as the hotel’s ethos, the menu translates into a passion for the environment as well, as Chef Gus uses locally sourced meats, seafood, and fruits, then infuses them with Philippine cacao in varying intensities.
Invited to preview the special menu for the coming Day of Hearts, we were first served a whimsical amuse bouche of Chickpea and Caviar with Hokkaido scallops on a Chocolate-dusted Crisp balanced on an upside-down soup bowl. It was paired with a Grandes Vinos 49 Millions Sparkling Rosé from Spain, with just a hint of sweetness, further enhancing the playfulness of the dish.
There was a slightly more pronounced chocolatey taste with the starter, which was a Tomato Medley using Sous Vide Crayfish, White Tomato Mousse, semi-dried Cherry Mozzarella, along with a Strawberry Salad with Chocolate-infused Quail Eggs, Tomato dust and Caviar in Chocolate Vinaigrette. A crisp and vibrant Sauvignon Blanc from the Australia-based Berton Vineyards under its Metal Label was paired with the dish.
Next came the soup, which was dramatically presented when the paper layer was torched to reveal a savory Dark chocolate-filled Clam Ravioli swimming in Artichoke Heart Crème with cacao oil droplets.
For the entree, we had a Cocoa Husk Smoked Duck Breast enhanced by a raspberry or Framboise Glaze, sitting on a Champorado Adlai Rosti; the earthiness of the duck and Adlai, a local heritage grain, was complemented with the sweet touch of the Sous Vide Pears, Savory Ganache and Sweet Chili Sauce, Micro Herbs and Lavoche. A Cabernet Sauvignon from the Berton Vineyards Metal Label was paired with the dish.
What was lacking in the tenderness (unfortunately) of the main course—the Chocolate Wagyu Beef Belly—was more than made up for by the use of dark chocolate, thus elevating the meaty flavor. (Chef Gus uses Kitayama beef from Bukidnon, which is produced from a cross between Wagyu Cattle and Australian Brahmans.)
What impressed me the most about the beef dish though was the inclusion of Plant-based Chili Con Carne, which does sound like a contradiction in terms, but actually works well like a starch component similar to a meat-and-potatoes combo. There is also a Cacao nib-Chili leaf pesto blended in, with Glazed Baby Carrots and Zucchini in tablea with a Smoked Beef Emulsion to round out the dish.
Again, the kitchen pulls out the dramatics as the hotel’s young and creative pastry chef, Ardo Mercado, pours the flames on his dessert—Dates and Chocolate Fondant Chocolate Snow, with a Raspberry Matcha Ganache. He then pours on a cold Ube Espresso around the cake, adding another playful touch to the dish. The coffee concoction, although too sweet for me, may also be taken separately like a cold coffee.
“In many of our dishes, we’ve incorporated organic and sustainable products a lot,” explains the Kerala-born Chef Gus, who has been working and living in the Philippines since 2004, and is married to a Filipina. “I believe in using more and more local products—a couple of reasons for that. One, it reduces carbon emissions; you don’t purchase products that are brought in by air. Second, we promote local produce, which is essentially ignored or people don’t see it at the same level as an imported product. For example, the strawberries that we use, we make it a point to source it from Baguio. I actually find them to be sweeter,” he adds.
Chef Gus also uses Auro 64-percent chocolate, also made in the Philippines, to lift and enhance each dish on the menu. “It is bean to bar, so there there is no middleman, no [commercial] manufacturer [in between], so it’s also organic and sustainably sourced chocolate. I also like the flavor,” he adds.
On the use of chocolate as the main flavor profile for the Valentine’s Day menu, Chef Gus asserts, “Essentially chocolate is synonymous with love, chocolates and strawberries. I was thinking I could use chocolate on a different perspective, not just as a dessert, but added to all the courses but in different intensity, savory, umami, slightly sweet and a bit spicy, showcasing what can be done with chocolate. So that was the basic idea and I just figured out through trial and error, where I can incorporate the chocolate.”
The Valentine’s Day Menu is priced at P6,188 net (or P3,094 person), while sampling the 49 Millions Sparkling Rosé. The other pairing wines are available as a supplement.
Valentine’s Day, of course, isn’t just for lovers. At The Roof on the 43rd floor of Joy-Nostalg, we can also treat ourselves or dine out with friends while taking in the panoramic view of the Ortigas skyline. The hotel offers a semi-buffet grill with a choice of ribeye, tenderloin, tiger prawns, black grouper, pork belly, and lamb. Diners can complement their meal with mouthwatering appetizers such as Maine lobster, sustainable Selva shrimps, Irish Gallagher oysters, Thai calamari salad, and curacha crab. For dessert, we can toast to love with a champagne mousse stone made from bitter chocolate soil, strawberry crémeux, and gold-layered raspberry clafoutis (a tart). The memorable meal can be had for only P 3,188 nett per person.
Give love, show love, and most of all, love yourself.
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