Monday, April 28, 2008

C's Birthday Dinner Date at Aubergine

The first time I heard that ISCAHM was opening a fine-dining restaurant, I remember feeling ecstatic with the idea! I got step-by-step progress report from one of my best friends, D, who works as Chef Ernie's (Babaran) assistant; an enviable job, I know, and I do constantly tell her that-- to work with one of the country's finest pastry chef, learn first hand how he sculpts sugar and make the fanciest desserts was definitely worth the long hours she sometimes whines about. And now, I'm happy to say that she is one of the chefs handling the dessert section in Aubergine Restaurant Patisserie and still maintains her role as Chef Ernie's assistant at school.

I remember when I first enrolled myself in the Fundamentals in Bread Making course (and later Fundamentals in Pastry Arts) in ISCAHM, there were only 14 of us in the class. The class was pretty relaxed and whenever it's time to share the products we baked, we simply grabbed our own share-- there was always so much for everyone. But now, I heard that classes are always full and students have to line up first to ensure a fair share.

I've heard mixed reviews about Aubergine that spiked my interest more, if that was even possible as I've become impervious to comments or critics, if you may. I chose the perfect night to have dinner in Aubergine and it was on the night before C's birthday. (and also after spending long nights watching reruns of Hell's Kitchen, I'm determined to go eat some fine risotto; they always serve risotto, yes?)

Ensconced at the 2nd floor of the 32nd and 5th Building at The Fort, Aubergine (which translates to eggplant) sits on an impressive space. Its floor-to-ceiling glass wall gives a glimpse of a well-interiored restaurant. Rows and rows of fine wine greets you as you enter, followed by a chiller full of artistically designed cakes and colorful macarons.
Wild Mushroom Soup

C got the Sea Bass and I ordered the Grilled Chicken with Foie Gras on top of the Wild Mushroom Soup and Sauteed Scallops & Prawns we ordered for our appetizer. As the waiter brought us the bread basket, I can see Chef Hans (Schallenberg; director of ISCAHM and Aubergine) roaming around, checking on each table-- talk about quality control up close and personal. It's a good thing, of course, as any new restaurant as upscale as Aubergine needs a personal touch of some sort.

Sauteed Scallops and Prawns

Our Wild Mushroom Soup with Truffle Foam (P260) arrested my sense of being. I love mushrooms and I HEART truffle oil. It was smooth... and rich... but not cloyingly. There was the essence of mushroom that I can just imagine took some real good time to capture. C loved it, too, and it was especially good with chunks of bread as C and I are wont to do every time we order soup. Next came the tower of Sauteed Scallops and Prawns (P680). It has a mild curry flavor that I didn't expect would go so well with the scallops. There were sesame brittles and melon balls that offered sweetness to balance off the citrus dressing of the fresh greens. The art of piling all the flavors in one bite added excitement and a fun side to the eating experience.

Grilled Chilean Sea Bass

Soon our main entree came along with "pepper, sir?" and it was impressively done so with a lighted automatic pepper grinder, cute! C's sea bass had a tomato fondue bouillabaise froth and it clearly complimented the grilled sea bass with its slightly salted, succulent flesh. I also appreciate how it was not too greasy as some bouillabaise can be.
Oven Roasted Chicken Breast with Seared Foie Gras

My grilled chicken was tender with just the right touch of bite to it. I liked how it was not dry, even on the breast part. At first glance, it seemed like an upgraded Cordon Bleu. While at some aspect they may be similar, this one doesn't have the ham to spoil it. The mildness of the ricotta cheese and even its grittiness on the palate gives a creamy taste that's direct and a comfort to eat, while the accompanying balsamic reduction gave a mildly sour undertone that added dimension to the taste. And my vegetables were perfect; they were crunchy, sweet and fresh. The rice was a bit on the undercooked side, though, but I've always loved a little bite to everything I eat. They can probably cook it longer if you find it not to your liking.

As we were both too stuffed to even consider ordering desserts, we nibbled on complimentary macarons. They were delish! I love macarons, but sometimes I find them too sweet. Aubergine's macarons differ from other macarons in that they contain more nuts, so it kind of takes your mind off the sweet part.

C is now 26 years old, hurrah!

Aubergine Restaurant

32nd and 5th Building
5th Avenue cor. 32nd Street
Fort Bonifacio 1634 Taguig
Tel. # : (632) 856-9888

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