Another memorable dining experience at Manila's gastronomic gallery.
A meal at Lolo Dad's is always an experience. There's a certain confidence that every dish is well executed, and that each dessert is a work of art. 13 years of making a statement, and it has continually churned out unforgettable dishes guaranteed to be---at the very least---one of your best.
I was thrilled to finally meet the man behind the legendary name, Chef Ariel Manuel. Very humble (as noted by many including myself) and meticulous, he makes sure that every dish is perfect before it makes its way out of the kitchen.
For those who have long been dreaming of dining at Lolo Dad's, but are intimidated by the prices, fret not. This esteemed fine dining restaurant offers modest portions for almost all their profferings, which cuts the price by about 40%. The regular portions are whittled down to about two thirds the size for the modest portions, which in my opinion, can already get you sated. This then enables diners to order more courses and/or sample more of Lolo Dad's excellent viands.
Now we begin our tour of the gustatory art exhibit...
Warm bread rolls are laid on the table together with a round butter plate containing garlic butter. From my previous meal, I've learned to control the urge to consume more than one, thus successfully saving enough space for the ambrosial dishes to come.
You can never go wrong with any of Lolo Dad's appetizers, so if you're having a hard time deciding what to get, you can go for "All from the Above", which is a tasting portion of all the starter items...
Romaine Caesar Salad with Grilled Chorizo, Crispy Pancetta, and Eight Minute Boiled Egg (P465 regular portion; P279 modest portion)
Not your ordinary Caesar salad with its large pieces of pancetta giving it a salty kick, and taming everything with the glorious egg that shines radiantly.
Cioppino with Fish and Shellfish Stew (P355 regular portion served with Herb Bread)
This fish stew has a highly seasoned bisque-like taste. Though good, this is overshadowed by the other marvelous hors d'oeuvres that surround it.
Seared Duck Liver on Pear Confit (together with Pate de Foie Gras and Mesclun Salad P1,320 regular portion; P795 modest portion)
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Lolo Dad's makes one of the best foie gras dishes in Manila. Perfectly seared and truly opulent, each bite is a foreplay on the tongue and sends one into a state of nirvana. The pear confit injects a bit of sweetness to this delicate foie.
Ahi Tuna Loin and Marinated Salmon on Grilled Watermelon with Soy Vinaigrette and Aioli (P440 regular portion; P264 modest portion)
A couple slices of tuna loin partly conceals the thin marinated salmon, though they can't hide the taste. Fresh and marked with a little zest, the celebration of the two flavors is interrupted by a burst of juice from the grilled watermelon underneath. Seemingly simple yet so good.
Grilled Jumbo Scallop topped with Tiger Prawn
The huge scallop has this meaty quality that's light at the same time, and the prawn is just spot on.
Gourmet Salad: Prawns, Mushrooms, Feta Cheese, and Kalamata Olives in Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette tossed Salad Leaves (P540 regular portion; P325 modest portion)
A mesclun salad with a nice acidulous vinaigrette and an interesting coalescence of ingredients that's quite refreshing.
Pate de Foie Gras on Cranberry Compote (together with Seared Duck Liver and Mesclun Salad P1,320 regular portion; P795 modest portion)
More buttery in consistency than its seared counterpart, this terrine sits on a cranberry compote that adds a tart dimension to this rich foie.
Soft Shell Crab Fritters with Gribiche, Dungeness Crab, Mango and Cucumber Salad (P630 regular portion; P378 modest portion)
I am not one to say no to soft shell crabs, and this one does not disappoint as it melds really well with the supplementary mango and cucumber salad.
Two mushroom soups come to mind when asked what are my favorites. One is the Adobo Mushroom Puree from Bistro Filipino by Chef Laudico, and the other one is the Hearty Mushroom Soup from Designer Blooms Café. This Cream of Mushroom completes my trio, and may very well be on the top of that list. This soup can make my eyes roll back and put me in a state of temporary bliss while the soothing, warm liquid caresses my throat. While the Adobo Mushroom Puree has a savory and meaty flavor, and the Hearty Mushroom Soup is more earthy, this Cream of Mushroom combines what the two offer. It has this intense taste that will compel you to lick the demitasse clean.
The Tomato Soup is not to be snubbed, for it, too, comes with a bold taste of tomato embraced with a touch of comfort, and is quite addicting in its own right. Shame is the only thing stopping me from ordering another round of this delicious duo.
Before the mains are served, out comes this palate cleanser, which is sorbet (usually calamansi) sitting on an inverted tea pot cover. Underneath is dry ice that emits wisps of smoke, creating a dramatic effect that earns admiration and awe from this gastronomic gallery's participating audience.
This was my favorite entrée the last time I was here. The sea bass was cooked well, the mushroom filled with smoked salmon was admirable, and the blue crab infused potatoes doused with the oyster cream sauce was simply heavenly. I'd be a happy camper if they offered an entremet of those potatoes with that oyster cream sauce on the menu.
Confit is meat---in this case, duck---that is cooked and preserved in its own fat, giving it much more flavor than you would have otherwise. The end result is a very tender meat bursting with so much sapidity, and a crisp duck skin that would put memorable chicken skins or even pork rinds to shame.
One of Lolo Dad's signature dishes, this Rack of Lamb is by far the best I've had. This thick, gorgeous meat encrusted with herbs and spices is good enough even without the pool of sauce beneath it. With all the food I've consumed up to this point, and all the food that I am still expecting to eat after this particular main course, I still managed to clean my plate.
And I haven't even mentioned the risotto yet. Oh, the risotto! Scrumptious in every way, and how could it not be, with three gorgeous kinds of cheese cooked in it. So rich and utterly sublime, the fullness and heaviness can't keep me from finishing this off.
MAGNUM OPUS! I am hooked, smitten, in love, addicted, simply obsessed with this! I wish, hope and pray that they don't take this out from the menu. Chef Ariel Manuel, if in the slightest chance, you are reading this, if only you had to read one paragraph in this entire post, please let this be it, and hear my plea.
Lobster pieces with a sporadic subtle crisp surface tease the tongue, and what better to pair them with than mushrooms. Mopping both with the mustard sauce and a small piece of mashed potatoes sends me into a zen-like state. No words are enough to convey what I was feeling at that moment. The dish has a certain allure, and I'm not strong enough to resist. I am aware that there is a conversation going on around me, albeit I don't think I could tell you whatever it is about. I just sit there transfixed, in awe, and yearning for my next visit, as I surreptitiously put another forkful into my anticipating mouth.
This was my most memorable dessert of 2012. The only thing different now is the ice cream, and I have to say I prefer the Vanilla Almond flavor over this Very Berry one. Still, a great dessert nonetheless. And it just dawned on me that the aforementioned Vanilla Almond is the flavor that Chef Ariel Manuel created for Selecta. How the heck did I miss that? I must have been so intent on always getting my favorite Coffee Crumble that I fail to notice other good flavors when perusing the freezers in supermarkets. Tsk tsk!
A remarkable dish composed of sweetness from the terrine, a pop of creamy filling from each bite of the beignet, and a subtle cheesy goodness from the ice cream. A mix of coldness, creaminess and crunchiness comes into play; another testament of how much thought is put into every dish.
Creamy panna cotta with a silky texture and a smattering of vanilla beans on top nuzzles the tongue, and a bit of granite provides the texture I'm looking for. The passionfruit soup enhances the flavor with its tartness, and a couple of seconds later, everything fades away like a sweet distant memory. I take another spoonful in earnest, hoping to recapture that seductive feeling and etch it into my mind.
It hurts to make a mess of this edible architecture. The globe of berry ice cream initially catches my eye as it sits on top of a sponge cake. A White Chocolate Brûlée sans the mold is right across from it, with a fence-like candy art sticking out on top, while two layers of butter cake sits in a corner. Striped chocolate swirls are the strips that bind and marry everything together.
But my favorites would have to be the Dark Chocolate Terrine, a toblerone-looking marvel sitting in the upper right corner of the plate (see photo below), and the Chocolate Flan that rests at the far opposite. Pure, rich chocolate that I otherwise detest, now captures me, and makes me wish that I could have a couple of pieces more---of each---all to myself.
I couldn't think of anything else I'd rather end this meal with. The only thing that would make this dish even more splendid (read: indulgent) is if they replaced the little pastries with more of those chocolate terrine and chocolate flan. Though admittedly, that would defeat the purpose of this being a sampler. A whole separate dish full of just the terrine and the flan, then! And maybe a little quenelle of ice cream on the side.
The tour now comes to an end; a definite feast for the eyes and the palate. Indeed, without question, Lolo Dad's remains to be an exquisite gallery of gastronomic delights.