The synergy of four hands

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By Joseph L. Garcia, Reporter

SYNERGY means quite simply, the “creation of a whole, greater than the sum of its parts.” We witnessed synergy on Nov. 13 in The Peninsula’s Old Manila when two budding masters, Allan Briones and Jordy Navarra, joined forces for a memorable preview of a dinner called “A Fourtaste of Things to Come” set for Nov. 28.

Allan Briones is the first Filipino to be appointed as Chef de Cuisine of Old Manila, and has under his belt training and experience from the three-Michelin-starred Marco Pierre White in London and Abu Dhabi. Meanwhile, Jordy Navarra has trained in the UK’s The Fat Duck and Bo Innovation, and his restaurant, Toyo Eatery, was given the 2018 Miele One to Watch award.

The collaboration comes on the heels of a similar collaboration in July in Toyo Eatery; now with the places reversed, with Mr. Navarra invading Mr. Briones’ kitchen (in a friendly way, of course).

For the preview lunch on Nov. 13, Mr. Navarra served a Kinilaw of Oyster with Gamet Seaweed and Kabayawa. The result had a clean and fresh taste of the sea, and each bite felt as if being hit by sea air it and preserved the oyster’s briny taste. Next came a Wagyu Beef Cheek Croquette, with preserved cabbage, pickled radish, and apple; this time by Mr. Briones. The crispness of the rest of the accoutrements provided structure to the yielding beef cheek.

The soup was a take on a Maguindanao dish called Bunta, essentially a soup with crab and ginger. Mr. Navarra’s version had layers of ginger flan, crab meat, coconut milk, then more crab meat with coconut vinegar reduction, and over that, a layer of crab fat and a sprinkling of fresh dill. This was synergy at work, I believe, and each ingredient contributed to a soup far richer than expected.

A Smoked Iberian Pork Tenderloin with King Oyster Mushroom, Long Beans, Sweet Potatoes, and Pili Nut Picada by Mr. Briones came out next, and this one tasted luxurious but clean, and seeing the pork give way to my fork left me with my mouth agape: perhaps it was the meat’s sous vide bath in margarine that caused its tenderness.

Desserts were a sorbet of Gin & Tonic with Hendricks Jelly and micro-cucumber chutney, and a banana tatin with chocolate from the Peninsula, Calamansi Curd, and Langka Ice Cream, made by The Pen’s Executive Pastry Chef Xavier Castello.

The training of each chef came into play for meal, of course, but Mr. Navarra sums up the dinner’s theme quite nicely: “Trying to find a balance between the styles.” Mr. Briones said that he used more modern techniques, but from Mr. Navarra’s influences, leaned more towards the local for this dinner.

“We’re just trying to feature what we can do… it’s more of an introduction of… the team and the direction of Old Manila,” said Mr. Briones of the collaborations between the restaurant and other entities, such as Toyo Eatery for this quarter, and Holy Carabao farms earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Mariano Garchtorena, the hotel’s Director of Public Relations, said about the collaborations: “It’s the very first time that the Peninsula and Old Manila has had a Filipino chef in its 42 years of history. This is a natural evolution of the profile of the restaurant as well: Filipino chef, Filipino collaborations, more Filipino produce.”

The dinner on Nov. 28 is priced at P4,500 nett. For reservations, call 887-2888 ext. 6694.