CELEBRITY CHEF Jereme Leung (by celebrity, we mean he was once recognized as one of the world’s best chefs by the American Academy of Hospitality Science) heads a lot of restaurants around the world, at select cities in China, aboard cruise ships, the tiny nation of the Maldives, and Manila. He visits each one of his locations twice a year, and this season, at the height of Manila’s summer, he presented to China Blue in Conrad Manila a menu called “Majestic Summer.”
The menu began with appetizers of braised beef and eggplant roll, barbecue chicken skewers in tamarind sauce, and wok-fried pork spare ribs in Batangas coffee sauce and pili nuts. China is in the restaurant’s name, and yet Mr. Leung, fascinated with the ingredients that the Philippines can offer, scouted out his favorites, and apparently, if they work, he plans to take a few things and serve these at his other locations.
The beef roll, meanwhile, was surprisingly light in flavor and texture, while the spare ribs jolted one awake from its crunch and the coffee sauce.
The soup was served next, poached scallops and dried fish lips in cherry tomato-kamias consomme. China Blue could possibly be a genius in soup. Despite the Filipino ingredients, it feels almost as if one has been transported to summer in old Shanghai while sipping the soup.
The main course were deep-fried fillets of lapu-lapu in sweet and sour mango and calamansi sauce, paired with poached moringa seafood wontons and crispy black rice-coated king prawns, all lying on a splash of pumpkin sauce. The sweet and sour fish tasted like a morning in summer: sweet and crisp, while the king prawns tasted indulgent.
Dessert meanwhile was a moringa and cucumber sorbet with chia seeds, and that was a great palate cleanser and a balm from the summer sun.
Said Mr. Leung on how the dishes still remain Chinese despite the not-so-light Filipino touch: “It’s important for every market — even China Blue now — part of the discipline to make it good is to understand what works for the customers.”
The set menu is available for P4,000 net per person. — J.L. Garcia