A taste of France at The Peninsula Manila

By Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jun 27 2012 02:41 PM | Updated as of Jun 28 2012 09:52 PM

Chef Patrice Martineau is in Manila for the French festival of The Peninsula Manila. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA, Philippines – French chef Patrice Martineau is in town to give patrons of The Peninsula Manila a taste of what he calls “French contemporary” cuisine, which veers away from its butter-loving classical counterpart.

Martineau is currently part of the “Les Saveurs de France” (The Flavors of France) food festival at The Pen’s European fine dining restaurant, Old Manila. The event is a precursor to the opening of a Peninsula hotel in Paris slated for next year.

For the French food festival, Martineau will hold a six-course degustation dinner paired with Chateau Pontet-Canet wines on Thursday and a cooking class on Saturday, June 30.

Early this week, the 37-year-old chef prepared a special five-course menu to selected members of the media.

“Gaze,” The Pen’s public relations director, Mariano Garchitorena, jokingly told us. “Easy on the eyes, isn’t he?”

Lean and unmistakeably French, Martineau then shyly introduced himself and said that this is his first visit to the Philippines.

“I arrived here on Thursday night,” he said. “It’s my first time here.”

Asked to describe what he prepared for us, Martineau said: “It’s a very personal style, very modern. The food is very light, not too much butter and cream. But it’s still tasty.”

And tasty, it is.

The meal

Martineau started with a tomato degustation, expressing his culinary ideas in small bites. Each item on the plate let the sweetness of the tomatoes shine.

The humble tomato is presented in three ways in Martineau's first dish. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

After that came the marinated scallops with mango-passionfruit chutney, which the chef served with a broth flavored with watermelon juice and wasabi.

Simple and light, the dish highlighted the freshness and original flavors of the ingredients.

Martineau poured a spiced watermelon broth into this bowl of marinated scallops. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

Martineau then served a confit of salmon with a caramelized fig, a deep-fried potato slice and a smoked salmon salad. It was a medley of flavors and textures, from the sweet fig to the silky and creamy salmon.

“I used sage in this dish, and salmon from Australia,” he explained.

Salmon is presented in two ways in Martineau's third dish. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

Probably the highlight of the meal is what came next, a champagne-poached chicken served with celery and mushrooms. What made the dish out of the ordinary is not the taste, but the type of chicken used.

Martineau said he used “French heritage red label” chicken, which can only be found in southwest of France. He compared it to the Wagyu of beef and the Kurobuta of pork.

“It can only eat certain kinds of food,” he said of the chicken.

The dish was simple but divine, with the chicken being amazingly soft and juicy.

Martineau the chicken he used in this dish can be compared to the Wagyu of beef and the Kurobuta of pork. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com 

For dessert, Martineau presented an apple-citrus vacherin, or meringue filled with whipped cream and fruit. It was accompanied by an apple gelee (French jelly) and a cider reduction.

The dish was sweet but not cloying, making it a good way to end a meal.

“This is a great way to end a lunch meal instead of a chocolate dessert,” said Martineau, who started out as a pastry chef.

Instead of chocolate, Martineau opted to use apple for dessert in his five-course menu. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com

By integrating Japanese techniques to his French background, Martineau wanted to show that there is more to his cuisine than butter, cream and the delectable foie gras.

He hopes that Filipino diners will continue to explore the different cuisines of France even when he returns to Japan, where he currently works at The Peninsula Tokyo’s Peter Restaurant.

For more information about Les Saveurs de France, call (02) 887-2888, e-mail [email protected] or visit peninsula.com.