A lobster masala. A next-level Arroz caldo you’d have to scoop out of a puff pastry. A dessert savory enough to deserve a place in the middle of a meal. These and other gorgeous palate surprises greeted media and various guests at the exclusive launch of Gastronomic Indulgence. The event was a never-before-staged coming together of five internationally renowned chefs, each with at least one Michelin star to his name—a casting coup orchestrated by Solaire Resort and Entertainment to mark its 10th anniversary.
The chefs were Enrico Bartolini, Tohru Nakamura, René Frank, Alvin Leung, and Rui Silvestre. Bartolini is said to be the most decorated chef in Italy, with three Michelin stars earned for his namesake restaurant. Now in his mid-40s, he got his first star at the young age of 29. “Like a contemporary craftsman,” wrote Celebre Magazine about the chef, “he pursues an almost maniacal aesthetic perfection in every dish to give his guests an unforgettable gastronomic experience made of flavors, colors and scents that remain impressed in their memory.”
Each chef was assigned to take over a Solaire restaurant for four days, and Bartolini and his team (each chef is said to have brought with them a team of at least eight) were given the reins at Finestra. At the press event, he opened lunch with a ravioli filled with oil and lime, octopus and cacciucco sauce—which he said is a traditional dish from his native Tuscany.
Tohru Nakamura, who is half-Japanese, half-German, is known to bring together “European culinary hallmarks with purposeful Japanese principles” in his food at Munich’s Tohru in der Schreiberei. “This chef has his own unique style, which is expressed not least in his skilful use of Japanese seasonings and flavours,” says the Michelin Guide about Nakamura. His wagyu dish at the Solaire lunch was packed with surprises, a treat that involved a lightly grilled tartare, Sturia caviar, roasted konbu ponzu, a mizunasu and a delightful chawanmushi.
Nakamura said it’s his first time to visit an Asian country outside of Japan, and to get to know the local food, he and his team ventured out of their hotel rooms and discovered a delicious dark-colored beef stew, which is likely ‘pares,’ and got to taste a Philippine green mango freshly plucked from a tree. Based on his response during the press conference Wednesday, he enjoyed both experiences.
For René Frank, desserts are, as that old song goes, not necessarily sweet. The guy, who has always dreamed of becoming a chef since his younger days in Southern Germany, is known as one of the best pastry chefs in the world—well, he was voted by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants as the best pastry chef of 2022.
Frank believes desserts shouldn’t be relegated to just the end of the meal. (Trivia: he loved our champorado, which he had with its traditional partner, dried fish.) In fact, in chef René’s hands, a multi-course meal can be just desserts. At his CODA Dessert Dining in Berlin, the concentration is on “patisserie techniques, using them to prepare innovative dishes, complete with umami flavours!” For Solaire’s Gastronomic Indulgence, Frank treated diners of Oasis to this winning, innovative concept of progressive dessert dining, introducing desserts that forego the use of sugar and instead rely on the natural sweetness and other inherent flavors of his chosen ingredients.
Meanwhile, seafood and fish are the expertise of Rui Silvestre who’s lived in Portugal’s beach-dotted region Algarve since he was a young boy of 10. He was trained in various European kitchens and got his first Michelin star at 29 while at the fine dining restaurant Bon Bon, also in Algarve. His food at Vistas Rui Silvestre in Portugal is described by the Michelin guide as “always excellent, delicate and supremely well balanced,” with his two tasting menus being “high on technique” and possessing a “modern touch and sublime ingredients.”
The UK-born Alvin Leung knows how to immediately please an audience, which is probably why he’s the most recognizable of the chefs in the Gastronomic Indulgence lineup. He knows how to bring in the razzle dazzle: In his Bo Innovation in Hong Kong, he pays tribute to the locale by “creating a unique ambiance with a typhoon shelter-inspired kitchen, a quirky mural and memorabilia like local comic figures, vinyl records and movie ticket stubs,” says the Michelin Guide. “Each vibrant, imaginative dish comes with its own story and blends strong Chinese techniques with subtle French touches.”
The TV personality (he’s judged “Master Chef Canada” and appeared in his own special in the series “Around the World in 80 Plates”) who famously calls himself The Demon Chef is the culprit behind the heavenly Arroz caldo at the Solaire lunch, easily pulling the Pinoy crowd to his side. Not that he’s creating competition among the chefs—it seems all five are just happy to finally be working alongside each other for the first time. They are, after all, among equals, and being Michelin-starred chefs, the best of the very best. But it is hard not to notice Leung with his bold answers and an attitude that may appear brash to some.
Still, he is easily the crowd favorite. When all five chefs were asked what keeps them going back to the kitchen day in and day out, his reply sounded the most daring. Bartolini said he is proud to be part of the Italian tradition of studying one’s territory and creating a unique menu from there, never wanting to copy what’s already been done. For Frank it’s the constant challenge of having to be different and making familiar ideas one’s own. For Silvestre, it’s creative self-expression. For Nakamura, it’s leaving an imprint in his diner’s mind and maybe even heart. “At the end of the day, it’s important that you have a memorable experience, that you remember the emotions you had at our restaurant.”
Finally, for Leung: “My inspiration, what drives me to do it over and over again, is success. If you’re successful at what you do, you’ll be happy. And it’s even better if you enjoy what you do. That will help you go to work.”