In the thick of editing, or rather emptying my closet for the chance of a lifetime move to Los Angeles, where my parents, siblings and a daughter reside, an invitation to Kitchen Lab arrives. Before I embark to another world, I left Monday open for the opening and VIP degustacion of 15 signature dishes. Perhaps, my last big meal that will be one of the things reminding me of home. A part of my heart says just a vacation, but my head says live another dream (we’ll go back to the move some other time).
Kitchen Lab at The White House breaks out of the box. Speaking as a local, customarily, Eating Out in Laoag is revisiting favorite kitchens. It maybe the scruffy Dawang’s or mousy Tayamen’s or a friend’s home. But on “mucho” days, it’s something like driving out to Fort Ilocandia’s Red 8 or Bergblick in Pagudpud. Because I will eat anything, I was more eager to see what Irwin Pascual, one of the brains behind the modernist fine dining restaurant, would come up with. The only son of a Chinese couple (Pablo and Vicky) who are great cooks, he is an ardent epicure, born that way I think. He says, he is stimulated by nostalgia — like the scent of burning grass hovering around the neighborhood while growing up. A diploma in culinary arts just might injure the raw juice running in his veins. Making it more interesting, his business partner, Dr. Jonathan Noble, is also self-taught. The younger members of the creative team, however, Chef Abbygail Siy and Chef Miko Quimora, are diplomaed from De La Salle-College of St. Benilde.
Kitchen Lab is the entire second floor of The White House, a head turner after all these years. There were about 30 of us at the opening. I shared a table with (Laoag Councilor) Jeff Fariñas and Charisma Urcia and photographer/blogger Marianne Pasion, who can be the best eating companions/food critics because there was never a dull moment even if the tasting got protracted.
The food: Chorizo pepper jack roll with Burgos gamet butter, uni on a cookie, grape with blue cheese, sous vide egg with jamon Iberico, crispy and flaky indigenous mushroom with pickled salad in buttermilk, smoked Pasuquin tuna tartare in ginger and yogurt emulsion, scallop in hay aroma, two-way prawn with milk foam and tukmem (tulya) inspired by the Ilocos Norte coastline and the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, roasted pork in uni dashi with squid inked dehydrated onion chips, charcoal crust Wagyu beef in beet elements, and three desserts, namely spiced lemon sorbet, malt ice cream with toasted quinoa and goat cheese ganache and chamomile ice cream on
blueberry bugnay gelee are part of the dishes they’ve created which will be available for a year. Degustacion is by appointment only, but I heard steaks, etc. is available everyday. Fresh ingredients are locally sourced while special elements are sourced abroad. Quality is never sacrificed it seems, so for a multi-sensorial food experience, the price is not ordinary. I sense a slight OC-ness in a charming, passionate kind of way.
The selection is impressive. The presentation may not be traditional, but details of home float to a degree. Take out the aesthetics, the flavors will take you to different places. I pictured California with the piece of grape with blue cheese, I was in China after that first bite of roast pork, I was reminded of childhood sick days by the perfect “malasado” egg, the juvenile cookie smeared with familiar slimy sea urchin evoke contrasting decades, the malted milkshake parallel, fleeting moments, one after the other — it is what degustacion is all about.
To me, the Wagyu “butcher shop mess” brought me to orgasmic proportions following the sensory buildup. A little scorcher, the fried prawns were a bit overdone, and the cookie could have been less sweet if it were to be paired with uni for more contrast. What else? Well, the tuna tartare and 62°C egg were bitin, and I wish the lemon sorbet and the ice cream were made available everyday of the week.
To the one person very close to my heart during my Flickr and blogging years (and always), you make me feel ageless, hahah, fearless, and I hope to still have that photo exhibit with you one day. Love you, Marianne Gaces Pasion!
Photos of and with author by Marianne Pasion
Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2015