One of my bestest friends became a licensed Landscape Architect last Monday. She is the 252nd L.A. from Manila. She can now proudly write on her facebook profile information labeled, “Occupation,” the double noun “LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT!” In turn, she can now find her place in her current firm and own it, even set an asking price for it. Hehe. She can now find liberty in sketching/drafting because that’s what she’s “licensed to do.” There are so many benefits of this success that it deserves no less than a celebration! So when my good friend, Ana Mae Joy Barcelona from Loop Creative Dining invited me (+1) to a menu sampling activity, I knew I had to invite the new Landscape Architect, Alma Lapuebla!
Located at Buendia, Makati, Loop Creative Dining is the restaurant where student chefs from the Institute of Culinary Arts and Food Service (ICF)-FEU Makati get hands-on, non-classroom experience. It’s another effort of the Pancake House Group of Companies — an empire of food, as I’ve learned just tonight. It’s the same group that handles Pancake House (duh!), Singkit, Sizzling Pepper Steak, Dencios, and a couple more I forgot to note down. So they pretty much have all cuisines covered except the fine dining category and Loop addresses that lack.
Headed by Chef Joey Herrera, the son of Cook Magazine’s Nancy Reyes-Lumen (the Adobo Queen herself, no less!), Loop’s dining err… how do I put it… advocacy? drive? niche? … is to bring a new dining experience through creative and surprising dishes. And boy do they have the guns to play with on this one!
So chicks and dicks, allow me to share what is, by far, the most gluttonous degustation I’ve ever experienced — EVER! Forgive me for this entry might have a lot of exclamation points! I’m sure my new architect friend shares the same guilty feeling.
We entered the small, simple-looking restaurant. Immediately, we heard the sizzle of the pans and the smell of butter melting. Right there in front of us was an open kitchen where all activity’s visible for us, the diners to see. I guess this is just part of the experience of dining at Loop. Excitedly, we sat at the corner area where the food tasting just commenced. Each diner was given a sheet of paper and a pencil, which we filled out along the way. On it are 13 menu items that we graded according to the ff. criteria: 5 being the highest and 1 being the lowest.
– Visual Appeal
We were also asked to comment and suggest price points.
Sitting down, Chef Joey put a small unassuming piece of friend chicken on my plate. It came with a warning, “I suggest you take it slow,” he addressed the group. “It’s going to be a long meal.”
“Yeah, right,” I said in my head. Looking at the small 1.5-inch friend chicken on my plate, I thought, “With servings as small as this, I don’t think I’ll leave this place full.” (Boy, was I wrong!)
Chef Joey told us that what we have was “Sinigang Chicken.” Oh okay, doesn’t look special. I took a small bite and immediately my saliva gets all happy. IT IS SINIGANG CHICKEN in its purest and awesomenest virgin birth! It’s fried chicken that gives you that sour, salty and tangy medley found in Sinigang. I immediately fell in love. As early as the first dish, I already had a favorite!
Quickly after, we’re served with Buffalo Wings that are really spicy but not unusual. It’s not the best wings I’ve tasted nor is it the most unique. Let’s leave it at that.
Joy asked me to look forward to the bloody sausages a.k.a. dinuguan longanisa ! It’s definitely a 5 for creativity but I like my dinuguan bloody saucy and this was a bit too dry for my taste. Alma said it was too fat — literally, the sausage we had had chunks of fat in the middle.
It was a pretty good start. We had time to mellow down and chat when Ms. Alice de Guzman, ICF-FEU’s School Director, joins our table just in time for the next item: Loop Thinizza.
Have you ever eaten Yellow Cab’s “Dear Darla” pizza? This is similar to that. A thin crust pizza that you top with arugula and fennel, roll to pack the ingredients together and eat like a cylindrical mini sandwich. Not an original execution but the flavors are unique with Lukban longanisa and kesong puti to rule the flavor palette. Although, I personally think the chorizo should stand out more. Nevertheless, I think I finished 3 rolls of this earlier.
After the thinizza, we have two special items. Special because they’re not written on the sheet of paper, kinda like as if the chefs had a last minute change of mind. Oh well. That’s how they are, I guess.
The first “special” menu item is the Tequila-drunken clams. These were a bit salty, which Chef Joey explains to be caused by the fact that the clams were delivered to them submerged in salt water. I think the tequila in this got me a little bit “disoriented” earlier. Haha!
Another “special” item was the truffle pasta. I didn’t get the truffle at first. I thought it was just some sort of mushroom. It initially struck me as a hesitant-flavored dish — but when Chef Joey mentioned that it was truffle, I began to taste it in a new light, probably because I know how expensive truffle is! OMG.
Onion Soup-flay came at an interesting time. Soup! IN the middle of the meal. Quite right for it had simple flavors. I just wished the onions’ sweetness stood out more.
Next up, the Japanicoise. This is my second most favorite! With a cute presentation, it had the best salad dressing with perfectly cooked eggs and seared tuna.
By now, I’m so full to the neck that the pleasureable experience was borderline tormenting! NO MORE! But then we were served with Salmon Laksa and the world began fresh.
Then a watermelon gazpacho, to cleanse the palate. (Sorry, forgot to take a photo of this)
Followed by… RICE! Imagine the shock and awe us ladies got when we saw rice at around 9:30 PM! I was about to leap from my seat when the waiter said that it was for the raspberry pork — one of the dishes I was looking forward to last night. And it didn’t fail. Oh it was heavenly! Sweet and spicy with just the right crunch!
Finally, our group decided to go out and literally “walk some of the food down.” We make it just in time for DESSERT! AAAAAAY! What a perfect way to end it! And it had soooooo many surprises. I’ll spoil it na. Those circular things… they’re not sago. They’re waaay better than sago. A perfect compliment to the banana cake with green tea ice cream. After this, I forgot the busog pains in my tummy and wanted to get another serving! Definitely coming back for this.
The Bible says that God created man in their own image. Meaning, God intended man to reflect His character. One of the characteristics of God that I absolutely admire is His creativity. Look around you and notice how nature is designed with a perfect synchrony that extracts nothing but sheer amazement! And I think that this is one of God’s greatest gifts to man — creativity. With it, we can create items of beauty — images, music, structures, poetry, even food! And tonight, I celebrated this gift with old friends and new found acquaintances.