By Michael Karlo Lim
Photos: MKL & PR
WE BEGIN at the end of Acqua at the Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa’s dining series, The Many Lives of Chef Andrea: Uno, Nessuno e Centomila, where vignettes of Chef Andrea Burzio’s many lives were transcribed through his dishes. Inspired by the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Luigi Pirandello’s novel, Burzio mirrors the author’s signature narrative style in the progressions and, at the same time, effectively tackles Pirandello’s obsession with authenticity and identity in these showcases of his truest own.
“Capitolo V: Il Mio Percorso (My Journey) presents fresh, contemporary French and Italian flavors fused with distinctive Asian influences to represent Chef Andrea’s curious personality and his continuing travels through Europe and Asia.”
The antipasto of Som Tam Caprese is where the Chao Phraya meets the Po River. The bold flavors of Thai cuisine meet the classical Italian in the Caprese. Burzia tells of his Thai sous chef’s adulteration of mozzarella with local condiments to birth this beautiful love child. Sweet palm sugar, sour lime, salty fish sauce and spicy chili make a savory, crisp and crunchy green papaya salad that counterpoints the soft and chewy texture of the cheese without masking any of its rich, milky flavor.
A fan of Kare-Kare, the chef admittedly leaves the actual oxtail prep to his Pinoy counterparts for validity. His roots come into play with its packing into rustic Piedmontese Plin Agnolotti. The traditionally thick peanut sauce of the Filipino recipe is thinned out to a light peanut-butter sauce, a glaze even, so as not to detract from the more delicate flavor of the pasta pockets. Gritty gratings of aged Parmesan bring in delightful pops of sharp, nutty and savory cheese flavor.
Imported Californian pigeon proved the most tedious to prepare in yet another 24-hour journey from the freezer to our plates. Legs were served en ballotine and breasts were roasted to a succulent medium well to allow full appreciation of the lean, rich and dark meat and the silky texture hinting only at a mildly gamey taste. Tanginess is rendered smoky-sweet in the roasted Granny Smiths but retains enough tang to cut through the richness. The fruity element is played up by a drizzle of a sauce reduced from the apple brandy, Calvados. Aix marks this spot in this nod to the flavors from the lavender fields of that region.
Burzia’s memories of sailing past castles along the Rhine on his stint aboard a river cruise ship gave rise to a sculptural deconstruction of the classic German Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte. This Italian take on the Black Forrest is a dense, moist chocolate cake resting on thick whipped cream with a heady macerated cherry held in place on a generous dollop of sweet coulis. A tall chocolate sail makes an impressive feature softened by chocolate curls where it meets the plate surface.
A cat has nine lives, and this gatto may have more than just that as he brings his story to date to a full circle in this installment. One, no one and one hundred thousand. Like his favorite novel’s protagonist, he is no longer in himself but in everything that defines him — his food.