A lovely and memorable French dinner...
Mesclun, which in French, literally means "to mix", is the core concept of Mesclun Bistro helmed by Chef Katrina Kuhn-Alcantara. The menu is a motley of different cuisines inspired by her travels, although for that night, it was an array of mostly French plates.
The place itself had a relaxed bistro vibe with dim lighting. Tables and chairs were also set up al fresco, though I'd rather be sitting beside the wall of wine racks. While waiting for dinner to start, I had a cup of good coffee---not too strong, a little sweet, no bitter aftertaste---just the way I prefer it. On the side was a little cookie that reminded me of a native delicacy, albeit I can't seem to put my finger on what it was exactly.
A starter sets the tone for the entire meal to come, and the goodness of the homemade bread placed before us, as well as the herbed butter I've been staring at for several minutes already, was the perfect harbinger of a dinner that would be etched in my mind for days and weeks thereafter.
Crisp, slightly tanned exterior gave way to light and pillowy soft dough that was accentuated by a slather of this yellowish spread peppered with herbs. The logical part of my brain told me to stop after two pinches lest I get full before I even really begin, but how? Finally, my ravenous gastronomic organs won, and rewarded myself three bites more.
I kept praying I'd have space to finish the whole meal, and my worries were all in vain for as soon as the next dish was set before us, my stomach growled in an appreciative fashion.
I've never been one to shy away from edible snails. As a kid, I remember how I'd feast on them in Filipino buffets, ones that were stewed in coconut milk. This time though, it was done the French way. Brimming with flavor from the garlic-parsley butter each is drenched in, the huge, shelled snails were actually devoid of any gamey taste, and the only flavor that resonates in your mouth is that of the sauce and not the actual snail. So for the skeptics, I'd say go ahead and try this one. And don't forget to mop all the remaining butter with that mini baguette on the side.
The next dish proved to be addicting. And for reasons that will remain unknown except to the company I kept that night, I'd say this dish being controversial is an understatement. It was mainly about the dish's name, but that's the only detail I'm willing to divulge.
Anyway, this here is a Hawaiian-style tuna ceviche besotted with soy sesame dressing and Sriracha mayo. Think tuna sashimi with a kick. The spiciness really whets the appetite, and if you want to curb it a bit, then just top it on some slices of Melba toast.
Mesclun prides itself on making its own bread, and so it goes with its pizza dough. Atop this homemade sourdough crust baked on brick is a medley of mozzarella, fontina, gorgonzola, and goat cheese. The mere mention of cheese makes my mouth water and hanker for the nuances of flavor in each bite -- from sweet to sharp and back again.
I didn't get to try this one, and that might have been for the best. I certainly abhor capers, and definitely not a fan of anchovies -- two ingredients that play a main role in this dish.
Flammekeuche---also known as tarte flambée in France or flammkuchen in Germany---is basically a thin, rolled bread dough, usually rectangular in shape that's topped with crème fraîche (instead of tomato-based sauce as with your conventional pizza), onions and bacon hailing from the Alsatian region of France. At times, different toppings are also added, similar to flat breads in other restaurants.
The Sausage Flammekeuche, aside from the standard onions and crème fraîche, also had English and Italian garlic sausages, and shredded basil.
The Speck, on the other hand, had German prosciutto, arugula and lemon oil in the bacon's usual stead.
Of the two, I plump for the latter, perhaps because I'm not fond of Italian slash English slash German sausages all that much, or maybe because I just appreciate arugula in my pizzas -- or flatbreads for that matter. Both, however, exhibit a nice, crisp dough that leaves a light feeling in the stomach.
As the name goes, Mesclun offers a mix so not all dishes are of purely French influence. The Sisig Spaghetti is quite the creative dish with its pork sisig amid a creamy spicy sauce, and a splattering of chicharon bits for that textural flair.
Another show of inventiveness is this deconstructed corned beef dish that is suggestive of the Filipino dish called Nilaga. I made the mistake of supping solely the broth it was cooked in, which had this briny taste. But once I submerged the chunks of U.S. Angus corned beef, together with the cabbage, potatoes and carrots, a balance in flavor was met, and eagerly I finished my bowl. I skipped the yellow rice and even the pommery-mustard-horseradish sauce. Yes, I don't have a proclivity for horseradish at all.
Put ham and cheese in between slices of white or wheat bread, and you've got yourself a Croque Monsieur. Top it with chicken egg, and you have the Croque Madame. So how do you get a Croque Ma Duck, or more specifically, a Brioche Croque Ma Duck?
Make it French ham for starters, then mix in some bechamel and gruyere-emmenthal gratin. White or wheat bread simply won't do; make it a brioche, please -- one that's pillow-soft and buttery. Lastly, top it with duck egg this time, and there you have a ham and cheese sandwich unlike any other. Oh, and don't forget to munch on those house made sweet potato chips, too.
And for the highlight of the night, the star of the show, the one that will fill your dreams in the nights that follow -- the utterly decadent Foie Gras Baguette Sandwich. What makes it so? Several pieces of pan-seared fatty duck liver nestle on a bed of baguette covered in greens, then lavished with raspberry-infused Port wine reduction.
The result? Rich bites of luscious foie with a lovely respite of sweetness from the thickened sauce mixture. Enough to make your heart sing, and your soul travel to heaven and back.
Croissant + doughnuts or cronuts or croughnuts, whatever you want to call them, are currently all the rage. Mesclun has their own version, albeit slightly deviated from the normal round form of these popular pastries. Croclair---a portmanteau of croissant and eclair---takes the form of a perfectly flaky croissant with a mantle of chocolate. Fork through it, and you would find a treasure of custard cream reminiscent of Bavarian cream.
Down a delightful dinner with this atypical iced tea flavor. The first time I've tried Tamarind Iced Tea was in P.F. Chang's. This has a bold flavor that maintained a tamarind taste sans the sourness. Great to end every few bites with.
Needless to say, I fell in love with Mesclun Bistro. Already it's on my list of favorite and memorable places. I can't wait to go back and try more of their fare.
What makes Mesclun Bistro such? It's a mix of everything -- great place, great ambiance, great service, and really great food. It's certainly a stage for Chef Kuhn-Alcantara's culinary prowess, and I was lucky enough to get a front row seat.
Spot: G/F Serendra Place, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Contact No.: 954-2100