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Spanish Degustation

CEBU, Philippines — There is a new restaurant in town, Enye Restaurant that offers traditional and contemporary Spanish cuisine prepared by renowned Chef Jose Luis “Chele” Gonzalez. It’s Enye at Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan.

We were recently invited to sample the fare at the new restaurant. My drive from Cebu City to Mactan at the time was surprisingly quick, taking less than 40 minutes.

Upon arrival, guests were met by top officers of Crimson Resort led by GM Didier Belmonte, executive assistant manager Christoph Kuch, director of sales and marketing Jo Ann Castillo and PR manager Mia Mae Sy.

Enye has a wine cellar, a charcuterie room and a show kitchen where diners can view their food being prepared.

Pintxos were served – Croquetas de Chorizo and Fried Gambas. I earlier chanced upon Chef Chele Gonzalez, who was using a gadget with a needle-like probe to check the interior temperature of the croquetas. I knew that it was cooking with military precision and was excited to taste all the rest of the Chef’s signature dishes.

In cooking a croquet, only a digital thermometer can confirm if the right heat has been applied.

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The first course was Carpaccio de Wagyu with Parmesan Ice Cream and Pine Nuts. Wow, this was an amalgamation of sliced raw beef, cheese and nuts! The choice of the first dish is a bold statement that the chef had the expertise in unifying diverse elements. All my dinner mates agreed in unison that it was so delicious.

The second course had three dishes – Lechon Cebu Tacos with Mango Salsa Jalapeño Frijoles Mousse & Sour Cream, Txangurro or Roasted Crab Mousse in Shell & Toasted Bread, and the Gambas al Ajillo or Shrimp Sautéed in Olive Oil with Garlic & Chili. One modern and two traditional dishes. I stared at the tapas and opted for the one with some lechon skin, and to my pleasant surprise the lechon skin was still crispy. Whoever cooked the lechon must be a master lechonero.

One of my favorite dishes is crab relleno and I do appreciate the tedious job of boiling the crab and removing the meat from the shell before stuffing it back and cooking it.  I love the Txangurro or Roasted version because it’s a savory mousse made light and airy (by egg whites and gelatin?) and roasting is a better method of cooking compared to frying where excess oil is trapped inside the shell.

The third course was the Arroz con Bogavante or Stewed Lobster Paella. The dish emitted a strong, delicious smell. The making of this classic Spanish dish begins with the choice of rice, La Bomba, which can absorb one and a half times more liquid without being mushy, and the spice, merely saffron, excuse me, one of the most expensive spices in the world. At this point, the dinner could have ended and I could have gone home a very happy man. But there was more.

The fourth course was the Solomillo a la Española, Tenderloin with Grilled Manchego Cheese, Rioja Wine Jus & Mushroom Mashed Potatoes.

All great dinners come to an end and Chef Chele closed the wonderful dinner with three desserts; Crema Catalana de Calabaza, Torrija (Milk-dipped Brioche & Anise Ice Cream), and the Texturas de Calamansi (Calamansi Cake, Mousse, Ice Cream & Biscuits). (FREEMAN)

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