Sunday, December 30, 2012

top 5: aubergine again

Last year, I wrote that Aubergine was one of the five best restaurants I've ever been to. I am happy to report that after taking Ma there for dinner on 19 April 2012, my opinion about it hasn't changed.

(Some restaurants from my 2011 list didn't make it this year. I still love Cuc Gach Quan in Saigon, but the others had to be dropped to make way for L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Hong Kong, Bukhara in New Delhi and Guy Savoy at Marina Bay Sands Singapore.)

I always know that I'm about to have a good meal when the bread is good. Bread is like a welcome greeting. It doesn't have to be fancy-- the lowly pan de sal will do-- but it must be served fresh and warm, as a sign of love and care. Cold, stale bread is just a slap in the face.

Aubergine's excellent bread and butter. Like a hug and a kiss.

I'm always amused (duh!) by Aubergine's amuse bouche. Very creative, and just the right size to pop into the mouth and get the juices going.

Amuse bouche: bacon panna cotta.

Ma and I decided to have the Degustation, with steak option, which cost 2950 pesos + 10% service charge (total US$79) per person.

I knew that I should have brought chopsticks for the first course. It's the best way to eat carpaccio-- try it. The thinly-sliced caper berry was a nice foil to the fatty meat. As for the terrine, I really prefer my foie gras plainly seared in all its glory.

Carpaccio of Mulwarra beef striploin with caper berries and Pecorino shavings. Foie gras terrine with Calvados jelly accompanied by organic salad greens tossed in balsamico vinaigrette.

I'm usually not very impressed by foam, but I must admit that the lobster bisque's texture really benefited here. Even with the tortellini, this bowl felt light and airy, but the aromas were intense.

Lobster bisque with lobster tortellini and Champagne froth. 

The spring roll was my least favorite course. It was alright, but I missed the seared Arctic sea scallop on veal cheek hash-potato cake that we had in April 2011.

Crispy duck confit spring roll with mango and papaya in Madeira jus on carrot purée.

For me, happiness is a dollop of refreshing, flavorful sorbet in the middle of a meal. It's a sign that it ain't over yet.

Cranberry-lychee sorbet.

The main event, the steak, was flawless as expected. But the roasted baby garlic and potato gratin, mashed up and eaten together, were the best parts of this dish. Oy, the perfect food for eating in front of the TV.

Grilled U.S. Angus beef rib steak served with Port wine sauce and bearnaise, vegetable bouquet and rosemary-potato gratin.

Steph (silent H) decided to forego the Degustation and ordered an entrée only. At P1350+ (US$36), it was expensive, but it's the price you have to pay if you don't want the full five courses. To be fair, this pasta dish was very, very nice. Every ingredient was amazingly fresh and skillfully prepared. Would I order it the next time I go to Aubergine? Perhaps, if the Degustation weren't so tempting.

Grilled lobster tail and pan fried scallops served on tagliolini pasta and sautéed spinach with chives-lime beurre blanc and green asparagus. 1350+

I asked our server if Ma and I could have two different desserts, instead of both of us getting the cone which was part of the set. She gave us the melting chocolate bar as an alternative. I said it before: Aubergine is worth a separate visit just for the desserts.

Vanilla-raspberry cone with creme Anglaise and marinated berries.

Melting chocolate bar with your choice of ice cream.

I have learned my lesson from Guy Savoy last December and have henceforth asked for all my petit fours to go. I am invariably too full to appreciate them anyway, and by bringing them home, I can enjoy them at my leisure.

Pralines and macarons.

In my book, Aubergine deserves three stars: "exceptional, worth a special journey". Wonderful service, beautiful food, reasonably-priced (the Degustation, that is), an elegant but homey dining atmosphere and, above all, consistency. I love it.

Aubergine Restaurant Patisserie is located at 32nd & 5th Building, 5th Avenue corner 32nd Street, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, Philippines. Their contact details and menus are on their website.

My current top five favorite restaurants (alphabetical order):
1. Aubergine
2. Bukhara
3. Cuc Gach Quon
4. Guy Savoy
5. L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

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