Friday, August 13, 2010

the best truffled mac 'n cheese

You can order it at Lu, the great little restaurant at the Joya Rockwell. Here it is:

Truffled Mac 'n Cheese is one of those dishes du jour that seems to be on every restaurant menu nowadays. I like truffles. I like macaroni. I like cheese. This is the best I've had so far-- better than Lusso and Mr. Jones. The top was gratinated but not dry. The pasta was al dente and substantial. But it's the cheese of course that makes the dish. The menu said that they use five (!) cheeses, so how can you go wrong with that?

The other stuff we ordered were also very good. The Argentinean Hand-Chopped Beef Empanadas were to die for, no kidding. Too bad we had to share and I only got one. I can't tell you any more about these amazingly wonderful morsels because it's torture just thinking about them. Just go to Lu and order them. Right now.

The Istanbul Lamb Kebabs were a surprise. I was expecting meat on sticks. Instead, we got juicy lamb drizzled with yogurt sauce, resting on a tiny pita round and doused with a spiced tomato relish-- just waiting to be picked up with your fingers and shoved greedily into your mouth. Oh, and the green salad in the middle of the plate was nice, too.

For our salad, we had the Sweet Mandarins, Goat's Milk Feta From Davao And Roasted Cashews Over Mixed Greens. It didn't sound very special, but this one was chock-full of light and refreshing flavors which prepared us for the main courses.

The Mexican Steak Frites jumped at us from the menu. It's described as a "arrachera hanger steak, caramelized onions with melted cheese". This definition did not do justice to what arrived at our table.

Two steaks, onion rings, fries, caramelized onions, aioli and mixed greens. The meat was faultless. The wooden serving board was a nice touch. Fun to eat. By the way, each time greens were used as a side, a different salad dressing was used. What a great idea!

Of course, we couldn't resist Lu's Ultimate Pork Chop (15 oz.) With Tangy Orange-Achuete Sauce. You could pick it up and hit someone over the head with it. We normally avoid the pork chop at restaurants because we consider it an easy cook-at-home type of dish, but let me just say: This monster is how pork chop should be cooked. It was deeply satisfying on many levels. It was huge, flavorful, moist, still on the bone, with a thin film of caramelized fat on the edge. And the sauce was yummy but unnecessary. Anthony Bourdain, the Ultimate Porker, would enjoy this.

I thought that the orange stuff was creamed sweet potato. Later I was told that it was squash. Oops! (Er, it kinda tasted like kamote, honestly.)

Verdict: I don't know what I was expecting, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Lu (not Lu-lu) is not cheap-- we spent about US$20 per person-- but the servings were gargantuan and are excellent for sharing. I was told that the owners wanted their restaurant to cater to a certain market and set the prices accordingly, but decided to make the serving sizes "so huge that you can't complain about the price". And I am pleased to say that their strategy worked.

To me, Lu's food is comfort food from a childhood that I never had. Each bite gave me warm and fuzzy feelings. Kudos to the chef!

Unfortunately, the desserts left much to be desired. We had the much-touted (why oh why?) Dark Chocolate And Hazelnut Terrine. It was horrible. It was tasteless and boring. It came out frozen with the disturbing texture of a popsicle.

The Lemon Glazed Yogurt Cheesecake was another disappointment. It seemed so uninspired, so different from the stellar food that we had just wolfed down.

I hope they do something to improve their dessert offerings. It's kind of depressing-- after a good meal, to come crashing down that way. 'Di ba bad trip? Sorry, but the word that comes to mind is "insipid".

Call +63.2.4033991 to make reservations at Lu. The place was packed, with a waitlist, when we were there. Go early, park at the Power Plant Mall and then just walk to the Joya Building right across the street from Starbucks and Cibo. The acoustics are pretty bad, so prepare yourself for a noisy meal. But with food that good, you won't be having any deep conversations during your meal anyway.

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