A gastronomic return to Provence

Danee Samonte - The Philippine Star
A gastronomic return to Provence
That’s me with my wife Mady enjoying a breathtaking view of Provence. Right: With Raffles sales and marketing director Eugene Tamesis

MANILA, Philippines - The wide smile from Raffles/Fairmont Hotel’s director of sales and marketing Eugene Tamesis was suddenly wiped as he stared at my open-toed Crocs as I alighted from my vehicle. Stupid me, I didn’t inquire about the dress code of the fine dining restaurant so I had to apologize three times.

One of my favorite food destinations is the Provence area of France because the cuisine is so diverse. There’s lovely seafood from Marseilles and the Cote d’Azure, a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables from the French Alps, excellent wines from the Avignon region, etc. You name it, you will find it in Provence. There are thousands of landmark restaurants and close to 200 are Michelin rated. Now, I need not fly to France to enjoy Provencal cuisine because a fine dining restaurant that specializes in that cuisine recently opened its doors at the Fairmont/Raffles Hotel in Makati. 

Strategically nestled at the ninth floor of the hotel right across the Raffles pool is Mireio. A long hallway to the main dining area evokes tasteful but subtle French decor. As you emerge from the hallway, a spacious, airy and well-lit restaurant dazzles the eye. A centrally located open kitchen gives the diner a visual experience of how the food is prepared. 

As we got seated at the corner table with a breathtaking view of the Makati, a variety of hot, freshly-baked breads and unsalted French butter were offered by our attentive waitress who seemed to have all the pertinent info on the lunch menu (they have an expanded dinner menu). The bread was great but I had to eat just two lest I get filled up. My appetizer of choice was the Tomato Tart while Eugene ordered the Octopus Tartare and my wife the Green Lentil Soup with Chunks of Foie Gras. I was a bit apprehensive at first about the Tomato Tart but once I had my first bite, I had nothing but praises. Fresh rocket lettuce lightly seasoned in vinaigrette dressing with tomato then topped with whole escargot, clams and shaved parmesan. There was an explosion of flavors in my mouth that prepped my taste buds for the first main dish of the lunch, Chef’s Bouillabaisse, which arrived in a shiny mini brass pot reminiscent of the way it is served Marseilles where it originated from. Croutons, shaved cheese and aioli were served on the side. The fish base was not too heavy with just the right froth with chunks of fish, prawns and I suspect a lobster puree reduction. It tasted liked the ones I’ve had in the south of France. I could have had a second serving but had to restrain myself again because there was more to come. Presented in another brass pot was slow-cooked Oxtail Parmentier. Parmentier, named after the popular potato advocate of the 17th century Antoine-Agustin Parmentier, is the style the tender oxtail is served wrapped in velvety mashed potatoes like English Shepherd’s Pie with subtle hints of black truffle. There were layers of salty, creamy and savory flavors. Although the dish was very filling, we dug deep into the brass pot for last morsels of the tender oxtail. While downing our last bites, Eugene educated us on the origin of the restaurant’s name Mireio. I thought it was named after a painter like Miro but I was wrong. Mireio is a female character in the French writer’s poem Occitan, which is about a forbidden love. Well, if I didn’t forbid Eugene from ordering more from the entree menu they would have to literally carry me down the stairs. We all decided to conclude the parade of food with Tart Tatin for dessert and a cheese platter with nuts on the side. The tart was composed of thin slices of apple swimming in a caramel glaze topped with Vanilla ice cream. I also loved the cheese platter because it featured soft French cheeses. The over two-hour lunch was concluded with heaping cups of cappuccino and espresso. The best part of this new fine dining restaurant is it only looks expensive but the food and drinks are not.

As Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “I’ll be back.”


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