Serious na si Food Reviews Manila and Chef Sharwin Tee
(Whenever someone rubs my belly, my right leg begins to shake)
Though my blog is already on it's third year, It wasn't until my second year of blogging that I decided to begin accepting invitations from establishments to sample what their dining experience had to offer. Since then, Rina and I have been fortunate enough to have taken part in many amazing dinners. There are a select few that stood out more than the others, and one of those dinners was my 14 Course Lechon Degustation by Pepita's Kitchen.
Did you ever watch the movie "Seven" by David Fincher, starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Gweneyth Paltrow? The scene where the obese man was being force fed with food as a punishment for his alleged, "Gluttony"? If you take away the psychopath pointing the gun to the man's head, that was sort of how I describe that evening.
No one was forcing anyone to eat, but all these mouthwatering dishes kept flying out of the kitchen, it would have been a crime in itself to NOT eat them.. Stomach lining be damned.
Even though I only actually knew a handful of people there, Rina and I had such a wonderful time. So, when given the opportunity to go back, how on Earth do you say no to that?
Easy. You don't.
This is our HAYOP NA DEGUSTATION EXPERIENCE at Pepita's Kitchen.
Just like our previous visit, we were given a menu with the items to be served all laid out for us, except there wasn't really a description of what you'll be eating.. Leaving you eagerly anticipating every dish that is about to arrive.
HAYOP NA DEGUSTATION
The night began with "Pepita's Magic Drink". This was another concoction of "Curly Pepita", the amazing young lady that brought us a darn good replication of "Butterbeer" a year ago.
This Magic drink is composed of two parts. The first being cotton candy in a cocktail glass.
And the second part is a shot glass of Lambanog infused Pineapple juice. You pour the shot into the cocktail glass, and viola!
Watch as the cotton candy melts into pineapple juice, creating a deliciously sweet, yet refreshing drink!
Anyone who knows Tales From The Tummy can imagine him saying, "Nauto nanaman ako ni Richie!" right after this photo was taken.
The next item on the menu was the Tendon Chips with Dip. This was a tendon that was deep fried until the consistency resembled that of a chicharon, to the point that, they could have used chicharon and I would not have known the difference. The "Chips" came with a thicker version of Sinigang na Gabi dip, giving the chips a nice tartness to go with it.
As soon as they placed the Hiplog in front of me, Rina's eyes lit up. Usually when there is a shrimp dish, it has become S.O.P. that I hand it over to her. I was a little bit surprised when she declined after I offered it to her. Though she hadn't tried it yet, she said she was worried about getting too full before the lechons were brought out.
The dish consists of a huge, plump shrimp, bathed in a butter sauce mixed with salted egg. I cut a small piece off the shrimp, and gave it a taste. though I thought it was all right, I really don't like shrimp so I was about to hand it over to my friend, Hefty Foodie, who was sitting right beside Rina.
Unfortunately for my friend, the Hiplog never reached him.
I must say, this was a huge hit with practically everyone. I'm a picky eater, sorry. hehe
Things got real when they carted out Lechon #1. Its identity was a mystery to us all, until our host, Ms. Dedet, finally revealed to us what it was:
Than Long De Leche.
Her answer left us just as confused as we were before, because no one knew what the heck Than Long was.. But we would find out soon enough, because they cracked open the lechon to reveal..
A Lechon stuffed with garlic noodles mixed with crab meat, with a garlic butter sauce on the side. I need you all to understand just how good this is. I DO NOT eat crab meat. Off the top of my head, there are only around two crab dishes that I am willing to eat, and even then it's still not something I would order. But this was absolutely phenomenal.
The lechon itself, especially the skin was glorious. Though it lacked the punch of flavor of the Southern counterparts, such as Diplahan and Zubuchon, it still could hold its own, flavorwise. But the innovation of infusing garlic noodles with crab meat into the lechon was a genius move of Albert Einstein proportions.
The reason why I was ok with the crab meat, is because it pretty much soaked in the flavor of the noodles and the lechon, so the taste was quite faint, but just enough for you to know that it was there somewhere.
And the butter sauce.. my gawd.. the butter sauce...
And because the evening didn't have enough cholesterol, the Pepita's Kitchen whipped out the "Bone Marrow Surprise". Truthfully, I was a little bit disappointed with the part that I got, because it was overdone, so it ended up looking a bit like clay. But it was a good thing that I swapped Hiplogs with Rina, so she was willing to give me her Bone Marrow.
This time it was cooked perfectly, with the marrow itself still soft, and cooked to a gorgeous amber hue. I must warn you though.. This dish is delicious but proceed with caution, because it is an assault on your arteries.
You see, not only do you take a scoop of the bone marrow, but you sprinkle some chicharon bits on top of it, followed by a dollop of Oxtail Marmalade.
Oxtail Marmalade sounds a little strange, I know, but it was a great mix of sweet and savory!
You are looking at a very rare sight. Yes, this is a salad that I actually enjoyed. Let me rephrase.. A salad that I enjoyed A LOT.
The Pop Salad It had the right amount of Arugula, a delicious herb cheese, a stunning Cashew "Paste", and.. get this.. Pop Rocks! Yes, you read that right.. Pop Rocks.. the candy that pops in your mouth!
You mix everything together and you've got yourself a party rocking in your mouth!
After the workout our taste buds got with the first half of the dishes, it was a good time to cleanse our palate with a sampaloc sorbet that Pepita's Kitchen named, "Cheers". It was refreshing and lightly tart, washing out the flavors from the previous dishes, giving your taste buds a fresh start.
This is also available in a red wine reduction variant, but I chose to stick to the sampaloc. (Healthy living.. O di ba?)
Being a Picky Eater, I have the tendency to judge dishes based on sight. If it doesn't look nice, chances are, I'm not going to eat it. That's exactly how I felt when they put down the "Pinoy Henyo Para Di Mangamote" dish in front of me. I just had an uneasy feeling about it.
I was initially told that it was made of "Mock Tofu" that is paired with a sweet potato chip, and was just an experimental dish. Since we were the guinea pigs of the evening, our hostess wanted to know what we thought of it.
I took a small, nearly microscopic piece, and put it on the tip of my tongue, and that's when the Picky Eater in me kicked in full throttle. I just couldn't sorry. The texture was a little off and sometimes for me, that's enough.
After everyone had a few bites and kept guessing what it was made of, that's when Dedet announced that it was made with Ox Brain. As in, you know.. that thing inside the SKULL OF AN OX. No wonder it got my Picky Eater Sense tingling! Hell, I was wary about it when I thought it was mock tofu! A part of me was looking for that Cheers Palate cleanser again hehe..
Truthfully, it wasn't awful tasting, and I am fully aware that Ox Brain is a delicacy in some countries, but this dish was just a bit too exotic for me and my Picky Ways.
It is no longer part of the Hayop Degustation Menu
Learning from the Hiplog incident, Rina called dibs on my Sipit Sarap, as soon as she saw it placed in front of me. This was a crab claw smothered in a crab fat sauce for a double whammy.
I was a bit surprised to see an Asian noodle dish aka "Lucky You" to be part of the Hayop Degustation menu. Though I believe there was bit of chicken or something as the protein, the star of the dish was were the springy glass noodles that had an herb flavoring to it. Good, but definitely the least memorable dish we were served that evening.
The next dish was playfully called "Lambada", and it was actually a Lamb Caldereta, served with a rice wrapped into a triangle with a banana leaf. This was amazing. The lamb was tender, and the gaminess of the meat worked beautifully with the Caldereta sauce. The sauce had a kick of heat to it, which is precisely why the rice was essential.. because it went together perfectly, tempering the spiciness.
Being a food blogger, to me, its the Chefs and restaurant owners that are my Rock Stars. It was an overwhelming feeling to watch the intricate knife skills of a world class French Chef, namely Chef Cyrille Soenen of Brasserie Cicou carve up the Lechon for us, "French Style".
But what kind of Lechon was it?
Here's a clue. Right beside it, was a bowl of Sweet Pineapple Sauce.
If you guessed Christmas Ham, then you're right on the money. Others may think that stuffing Ham into Lechon is redundant, but not me. I absolutely LOVE Christmas Ham, and I love Lechon, so to me, the mind blowing Christmas Ham Lechon was a fusion dance that would put Goten and Trunks to shame.
My only comment is, don't go nuts with the pineapple sauce, because I did at first, and it came out too sweet. Keep it on the side instead of drowning your ham and lechon in it (My bad). The second batch on my plate was just right though hehe..
After the pork within a pork dish (Porkception, if you will), we were served the "Cholesterol Sweeper". This was white Ghirardelli chocolate, mixed with oatmeal. I loved it. It was rich, and creamy, and a nice way to follow up a sinful dish.
The very last item whipped out by Pepita's Kitchen was the Super Suman, which was made with a medley of Yemas, Mangoes, Pastillas, Ube, Pili Nuts, and the kitchen sink.
(Whenever someone rubs my belly, my right leg begins to shake)
By the end of the night, I was so stuffed, I felt like I was ready for roasting myself.
My second visit to Pepita's Kitchen was just as memorable as the first, but what made the second visit even more special was that I was no longer in a table full of strangers (albeit very nice ones, but strangers nonetheless). I was now with my foodie friends, in fact, some of the country's finest food bloggers, with whom I've gotten to know over the past year *tear*.
For more updates on Pepita's Kitchen, like their facebook page:
Hayop na Degustacion at Pepita's Kitchen is available for private bookings
at their Makati Location. Call the numbers below for more information: