Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Fusion of Flavors at Lu

Published in Appetite Magazine, August 2011 issue

     Lu.  One simple syllable cannot capture the gastronomical feast that awaits the unsuspecting customer.   To the observant eye and discerning taste bud, Lu offers a luscious surprise.

A world of flavors

            Kristine del Gallego, Lu’s owner, is a lovely surprise herself.  Chic and attractive in a simple apple green dress, her quiet sophistication gives way to animated pleasure when she talks about her business.  The pretty meztiza says that Lu’s menu can be described as nice, simple, and healthy.  The words are true, but are an understatement to the culinary delights showcased in Lu’s menu.

       Contrary to the popular impression of being a Mediterranean and Moroccan restaurant, Lu prides itself on offering a mix of different flavors.  It’s comfort food and a world of flavors with a twist, Kristine emphasizes.  Then she instantly coins a new term and gives in a little, you can call it Mediterrasian.  Kristine says that she would like to avoid Lu being “boxed in” to a certain theme.    

An interactive dining experience

As if to prove her point,   Kristine asks us to try the Steamed Buns with Pork Belly Confit (P380).  The dish sounds like an elaborate way of describing your usual cuapao, but is actually one of the best examples of what Kristine would call a fusion.  Each palm-sized steamed bun opens to reveal tender slices of slightly salted pork belly, crunchy pieces of chicharon, juicy slices of soft peach and thin strips of fresh cucumber.   The coriander provided the twist, giving a slight flavor that explodes in the mouth. 

Kristine finds it enjoyable when customers deconstruct the appetizer, tasting the ingredients one by one before taking a complete bite.  I could understand their curiosity; pork and peaches are not your usual combination, but with this dish, the differing flavors and textures were a great mix.

            The steamed buns exemplify Lu’s aim – to make every meal an interactive dining experience.  Kristine explains that each bite is like a party in one’s mouth.  Lu is not the place to eat and run. The ambience here invites customers to linger and to talk, not just about any experience, but about the one most interesting thing at the moment – food!

It’s all in the lemon

            The twist in most of Lu’s dishes can be attributed to the ordinary lemon.  One would think that the lemon slices were just there to provide a dash of color; who would have thought that squeezing a small amount of citrus juice could immediately transform a dish?  One of our favorites was the Queso Fundido con Chorizo (P325) served with miniature pita bread.  Lu gets their cheese from the famous Malagos Farmhouse in Davao, so you can enjoy the fact that you're eating local, artisanal cheese. The torched gooey cheese has to be eaten hot, unless you wanted to spread waxy cheese on your pita.  We did not acknowledge the lemon’s presence, until Kristine told us to squeeze its juice on top of the cheese.  After doing this, I piled in all the cheese that my tiny pita could handle.  The tang of the lemon toned down the saltiness of the cheese.  Lu surprised us once again.

Other lemon-hinted recipes are the newest items on the menu. For starters, try the Cashew Crusted New Zealand Mussel and Prawns on Citrus Greens(P395).  The thin slices of fried wanton go very well with the juicy tenderness of fresh seafood and the zing of lemon and cilantro mixed with the greens.

 This lemon twist surprise was duplicated in the Turmeric Chicken with Pomelo-Cucumber Achara (P395). The chicken was grilled to perfection and served with sweet chilli sauce.  For another lemon-tinted dish, you could try Lu’s Gambas al Ajillo Angel Hair Pasta (P385).  The distinct smell and flavor of truffle oil blend well with this slightly spicy dish.  Or if you prefer something more luxurious to the taste, you could try my personal favorite – the Herb-crusted Lamb Spare Ribs with Bejewelled Couscous (P595).  This meal was the biggest surprise of all.  The lamb itself was subtly seasoned, while its crust was salty with herbs. The saltiness plus the lemon’s and couscous’ sour taste combined for an astonishing blend of flavors.

Happy endings

            I could say that we were served our just desserts by a talented crew of chefs.   I was undoubtedly full, but the head of the kitchen, 26-year old Enrique Moreno, was not done yet.  This young and innovative chef who assisted in the whole photo shoot still had time to whip up the impeccable end to a full-course meal.     Delightfully sweet, and slightly salty and bitter, the Cerveza Negra Butterscotch Red Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream (P350) was the perfect finale to Lu’s menu of surprises.

            There are still a lot of dishes to sample in Lu’s menu, like the Minted Pea Soup with Sundried Tomato Pesto (P315).  The creamy subtleness of the soup went nicely with the toasted Jamon Serrano crisp, which tasted like salty bacon.  But I’m going to ramble on again. Go check out Lu yourself for more tasty surprises.

Lu is located at G/F Joya Bldg., Joya Drive, Rockwell, Makati City, Metro Manila
For information and reservations, phone 02-4033991

You might still be able to grab back issues of Appetite August 2011 in some stores.  

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