December 13, 2006
For those people who are adventurous and likes different kind of dining experience, you should try Joan Manalang who brands herself as the Artist Chef. She is an art director for a local advertising company and she still finds time to paint. She loves to cook and concoct different dishes which became the menu line up for her Artist Chef business. She has been cooking since her childhood days. She will only get better over time after going into formal culinary studies in the future.
The Artist Chef is located in a studio condo unit in Makati. It is quite small, but cozy place. If you are the claustrophobic type, I don't suggest that you try this because you might be uneasy throughout the entire experience. That is one of the reason why you won't be finding Aidan in any of the pictures. This set-up is romantic one in a sense that this is an exclusive date with your own personal chef for the night. The motif is all white so you would have white roses (by the way, the I heart you was shaped by my wife), white table, white cutlery, and white plates. You can talk to Joan beforehand if you would want a different setup or you have a personal vision on how the place should look like.
Beforehand, Joan will provide you a list of meals she offers and from there you would choose the dishes you would like to have. Or maybe you can request a dish you would like to be served. I'm sure Joan would be able to do something about it. The meals we had were generous and deliciously home cooked. She made sure that the food is cooked once you finish the dish so expect a slight delay but the idea here is to just enjoy each other's company while you wait for the food to be served. The kitchen is separated only by a roman shade so you can peek how the food is being prepared. Don't worry about Joan eavesdropping on your conversation because she will be busy cooking your food. Also, you will here a romantic jazz music playing to add to the clutter sounds of the dishes and sizzling sound of the food being cooked.
At some point, it would be inevitable that you'll find yourself asking Joan a lot of questions about her art, her passions, and of course, about her food discoveries. You will be able to get to know her better through this experience and she definitely loves meeting people. She is just starting out with this business and we are the third couple that she hosted. She has a lovely, warm and down-to-earth personality.
Just to be transparent and objective about the entire experience, I felt that the place is cramped. Don't be surprise to find a computer, a TV, and a sofa bed as part of the ambiance. It would be a lot better if there was a better condo venue or maybe a roof top setting with live violin serenading the couple. Since it is a condo setting and living in a condo myself, there were friendly creatures walking around so say hi when you see them. Lastly, most of the food although delicious, were heavy. She cooks most of them with butter which as you all know makes the food flavorful BUT you would feel 2 lbs heavier after finishing the entire meal.
Overall, it was a quite unique experience for P1,500 for two persons (only). My wife felt that it was on the high side, but I think it is worth it for all her effort. It could be better justified if there are more healthy food options in the menu :) No butter cooking please.
This is the setting -- Candlelight dinner with white as the motif for the dinner setting.
The Art of Joan Manalang. She loves to paint these women of fantasy like this mermaid.
The Artist Chef Menu
Here are the menu choices if you decide to have an exclusive dinner in the Artist chef:
Mango and Shrimp Medley (salad). There is something in the sauce that makes this very good. What we like about Joan is that when we asked her about her recipe she gladly shared it with us. I also noticed that the presentation can be improved.
Hot and Spicy Wansoy Squid. I loved this dish. The squid was perfectly cooked and the chili peppers tasted well with the wansoy. My wife didn't like wansoy at all, so I should have chosen a different menu item.
Chicken Satay with Bernaise Peanut Sauce and Ham and Mild Jabanero Fried Rice. I like the fried rice while the chicken satay is decent. My wife says that is just OK because she is not fond of "dry" dishes. The herbed chicken satay was cooked well retaining the right flavor because of the overnight marination done.
Btw, at this point, after serving the Malt and Green Tea Float, we were starting to get full. The float was definitely heavy with ice cream and cream in it. We liked the float but it was too much for us. It would have been better if there are healthier and lighter drinks that accompany the meal instead.
Fresh Strawberries on Vanilla Almond Ice Cream and Choco-Batirol Fondue.
This actually looks very good and I would give it a high score on presentation. Too bad the strawberries don't taste as sweet as it looked. The barbecue strawberries were served with a chocolate dip and ice cream for an ultimate heavy dessert experience. Fondue set would be more lovelier =)
Overall, we liked it and thanks to Joan Manalang for the lovely evening!! We definitely had a nice time chatting with you.
The Artish Chef
Unit 331 Star Centrum Condo, Sen. Gil Puyat St. cor
Malugay Ext. St. Brgy. Bel-Air, Makati City
Tel# +63917 5373078
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