An epic dinner... HAYOP!
Pepita's Kitchen is known for its private lechon degustation dinners. They have these 12- or 14-course meals that include about two to four types of stuffed lechon. I was thrilled to finally get the chance to experience this wonderful feast that highlights Dedet de la Fuente - Santos'---a.k.a The Lechon Diva---creative genius in bringing out the best in roasted pigs.
A menu of our degustation dinner was set before us atop plates, a table napkin, and a sampaguita necklace. Perusing through it, one wonders what Pepita's Magic Drink is or what the Pinoy Henyo dish is all about. With more intriguing names such as Lucky You and Lambada, the guests are left to use the waiting period to engage in little guessing games.
The dinner started with an interesting apéritif. A tuft of pink cotton candy rests in a martini glass, served with a separate shot glass of pineapple juice imbued with lambanog. Pour the juice on top of the cotton candy and watch as it melds into a dark pink puddle of sweet alcoholic concoction. Don't drink? Not a problem, you can request a glass of pineapple juice sans the coconut wine.
It was quite unusual to see tendons in chicharon form, slightly tougher than its usual pork counterpart, but crunchy just the same. Smear it with an acidulous Sinigang na Gabi dip, and pucker up to savor that familiar tangy broth flavor.
Hiplog, a portmanteau of hipon and itlog na maalat, is an elegant explosion of flavors as you bite into the succulent shrimp soaked in a sauce of salted egg.
The first star of the night was finally brought out, a young roasted pig that spoke of dreamy porcine promises. With its skin glinting off under the warm lights, everyone gathered around to see the treasure trapped inside. Vietnamese garlic noodles tumbled out along with copious pieces of crab meat. Very distinct is the crisp skin which almost has no fat attached. The lechon meat itself was tender and flavorful enough on its own, but you can't deny the added oomph the noodles and the crab meat bring. Whatever you do, don't forget the garlic butter sauce; it would be a mortal sin not to effuse this.
This delight of a salad has an interesting mix of elements -- arugula and micro greens, cashew butter, herbed yogurt cheese, and get this... watermelon-flavored pop rocks! Looking at it individually, you wouldn't expect them to work together, but oh how they did. And exceptionally at that! Gentle popping ensues as you take a bite followed by the pastiness of the cashew, mixed with the creamy herbed cheese before a nice crunch from the greens. As with the three dishes that preceded it, I wanted more.
Chicharon bits partly ensconced in a decorative shell replaces the familiar sea salt; scatter on top of the bone marrow and indulge. Warning: this dish may induce whispered words of profanity. Gone are the usual toasted breads that accompany a roasted bone marrow, in their stead is a glass of oxtail marmalade. Sweet and simultaneously savory, it serves to cleanse your palate after every sebaceous bite.
Of the two palate cleansers handed out that evening, my vote goes to the Sampaloc Sorbet as opposed to the Red Wine Reduction. While I usually like red wine, the latter is a bit reminiscent of medicine and left an unpleasant taste in the mouth. The tamarind variant, on the other hand, provided a refreshing taste that daintily danced on a delicate line of sour and sweet.
I had an inkling that it would be ox brain or some other animal's cerebral innards based on this dish's title, and I was right. I was actually excited to try it once confirmed; it had this soft texture redolent of tofu that contrasted well with the sweet and crisp camote chip. Surprisingly, it was quite nice, albeit most of the diners were wary of having it so it didn't make it to the final menu.
By this time, I was starting to get worried of all the cholesterol entering my body so I had to limit my intake of this crab claw cooked in crab fat. The robust taba ng talangka flavor just punches your senses as its unctuous trait slowly spreads throughout the plate which, by the way, fittingly displays a blue crab design.
A little on the oleaginous side, this bowl of cold Japchae noodles impregnated with basil left not much of an impression.
The Lambada is lamb kaldereta that's tender on the teeth but a kicker on the tongue. The heat will compel you to eat more of the rice wrapped in banana leaf... and even more of this addicting spicy stew!
Also known as the Christmas Lechon, this one is stuffed with ham making it a bit redundant, but still a hit with the porcine lovers. Pour a little of the ham and pineapple glaze on the side, careful not to drench it as it can be quite saccharine if done so. Personally, I'd rather have another round of the Than Long de Leche.
Oatmeal cooked in Ghirardelli white chocolate, this sweeper is a rich, creamy creation devoid of any cloying taste. If oatmeal in my house tasted this good, I would've eaten this stuff every day.
With satisfied palates and sated stomachs, we couldn't for the life of us, take another bite. Hence, the Super Suman dessert was sadly left untouched. It's a melange of different Filipino delicacies---yema, pastillas, mango, ube, pili nuts, chocnut, etc.---served with melted muscovado sugar on the side.
It was definitely a memorable dinner, one that would leave a mark on the mind for months to come. You can book a private dinner or order some of their dishes and lechon de leches which you can enjoy at your own venue. See details below:
Spot: Magallanes Village, Makati
Contact Nos.: 425.4605 or 0917.866.0662
Since we had Chef Cyrille and Anna Soenen of Brasserie CiÇou fame with us that night, we were treated to their famous Kouign Amann (pronounced as "queen a-mahn"), in original and chocolate variants. The elevated version of the currently popular cronuts, this pastry hails from Brittany, France. It is a round dessert with layer after layer of buttery, flaky pastry on the inside, and a caramelized crust on the outside. Basically, it's flour, butter, sugar, butter, sugar, butter... you get the picture. The chocolate kouign amann is topped with chocolate ice cream, while the original (and my personal choice) is topped with salted caramel ice cream.
Spot: 57 Annapolis St. Greenhills, San Juan
Contact No.: 661.9200 or 0917.885.8841